VILLANOVA -- JayVaughn Pinkston hadnt practiced with his Villanova teammates since December, when he was suspended from school after being charged with assault following an off-campus fight.
After seven months barred from setting foot on campus, seven months working in a King of Prussia warehouse, seven months dealing with his legal trouble, the powerfully built 6-foot-7 Pinkston quietly returned to the team Wednesday, when Villanova ran the first of 10 summer practices that the NCAA allows because the Wildcats are playing a series of exhibition games in Europe next month.
How did he look?
Coach Jay Wright smiles and shakes his head.
He didnt play in any leagues or anything, Wright said Thursday. He would go over to Competitive Edge (gym) and shoot around sometimes, but he hasnt played at all. But were watching him yesterday, and, man, it doesnt seem like hes lost much at all.
Pinkston, a McDonalds All-American at Brooklyns fabled Bishop Loughlin High School and one of the most bally-hooed recruits in Villanova history, missed the entire 2010-11 season as he served his university suspension.
Other than seven minutes in an early December scrimmage before his suspensionHe picked up three quick fouls, Wright saidPinkston hasnt suited up for a basketball game since the McDonalds All-America game in Columbus, Ohio, back in March of 2010.
Pinkstons exile finally ends next month, when hell be part of Villanovas trip to France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands for five exhibition games.
Villanova hasnt made Pinkston available for interviews yet, but on Thursday, Wright and teammate Taj Bell spoke about getting the talented 19-year-old back.
Ive known JayVaughn since I was 13, Bell said. Losing him last year was big, but hes excited to be back. Hes doing the right thing, his head is in the right place, hes doing everything hes supposed to and more, and just having him around is great. ... He knows he never wants to go through anything like that again.
How talented is Pinkston?
I know one thing, Bell said. I would hate to play against him.
Pinkston has four years of eligibility remaining, so hes technically a red-shirt freshman.
Villanovas 2011-12 schedule wont be out until September, but the regular season will begin in early November.
It just makes you feel good to see him out there and realize that hes learned a great lesson and hes come out the other end better for it, Wright said. Its just nice to see it.
Wed see him in the spring, you could see a guy that was struggling. Hes going to work every day, hes working in a warehouse, he cant play, he cant come on campus, so you could see a guy that was struggling. Now you see him walking on the court, hes so happy.
Pinkston is probably the most versatile player Wright has recruited in his 11 years on the Main Line. Hes quick and nimble enough to play guard, powerful and physical enough to play in the post.
His versatility is amazing, Wright said. As a coach, you have a guy like that -- he can literally play from the one to the five spot, and were going to use him at the one some this summer, because (freshman) Tyrone Johnson, our backup point guard, broke his foot, so hes going to be able to come on the trip but he cant play.
So were going to give JayVaughan some time at the point, because after Darrun Hillard, hes our next-best ball handler. His versatility is invaluable. Hes going to be a big part of what we do.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com