Jay Wright: Good players must have a clear mind

April 3, 2018 / Winning Hoops
Having a big game requires a clear mind. That’s partly how Villanova coach Jay Wright explained Donte DiVincenzo’s breakout performance in Monday’s national championship win over Michigan.

Photo: Keith Lovett

After the game, Wright was asked what allows someone like DiVincenzo — a bench player who only averaged about a dozen points per game — to score 31 points and earn Most Outstanding Player honors.

Wright said it comes from a mindset the Villanova coaching staff instills in every player.

“We want our players to all have a clear mind,” Wright said. “We want them to be able to go out there and play and not worry about if they’re coming off the bench, or not getting enough shots, or they’re going to leave early, or the NBA guys are watching. We really feel like to be a good basketball player you have to have a clear mind, and that’s something we work on all the time and talk to them all the time about it.

“Dante competed for a starting position this year. He worked really hard and wanted to start. He was initially a little upset that he wasn’t starting, not bad, but we spent a lot of time talking with him — not to appease him — but to make sure his mind was clear, to make sure he understood what he was doing. Tonight was the greatest example.

“He couldn’t have done it if he didn’t have a clear mind.”

Wright’s comments are a good reminder of what most coaches already know: A player’s mental state makes a big impact on performance.

Some coaches we speak with ask players to write down their biggest concerns on a slip of paper before each game or practice (relationship troubles, academic issues, etc.) and keep those concerns out of their minds until they’re off the court. When it comes to bench players, most coaches like to sit down with each reserve player and discuss their role on the team and how they can continue to contribute. It’s all about making players comfortable, and helping them to understand and accept what they do. It’s about having a clear mind.

Do you have your own unique strategies to mentally prepare your players? Let us know at [email protected].