Villanova Wildcats star Saddiq Bey was one of the best shooters in college basketball last season and has all the makings of a future pro.
Golden State Warriors forward Eric Paschall, who played alongside the prospect on the Wildcats in 2018-19, told HoopsHype that Bey is “next up” in the lineage of players from Villanova who will have success in the NBA. Not only is Bey a fantastic shooter (45.1 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore) but during our recent interview, he was also willing to break down Ancient Greek philosophy with HoopsHype.
Please note that this interview transcription was very minorly edited for clarity.
What have the last few months looked like for you? How have you improved the most during the offseason?
Saddiq Bey: I mostly just work out, every day. I don’t really do too much else. Besides that: eat, sleep and besides that I get to relax and chill a little bit. But, yeah, I try to work on every part of my game every summer. I have never had an offseason where I focus on one thing and nothing else. I want to be the most prepared I can be. The NBA game is a lot more ball-screen than iso so I’m working on expanding on that end, being able to be a playmaker on the perimeter and just try and contribute at all three levels. I’m staying in shape. I’m staying in the weight room and I’m working on my body.
When you talk to NBA teams, what do you tell them about your game and how you can contribute?
SB: I just talk about the versatility in my game, being able to the complete package and be versatile on both ends. I can play every position on defense. That’s what I’m able to hang my hat on. I can be versatile on offense, too, being able to help as a playmaker and scorer at all three levels. I can make an impact right away. The reason why I work on every part of my game each summer is for a team to think that whatever they need, they would be comfortable with me doing it. I’ll always and purposely work on everything so whatever the team needs me to do, whatever role I need to play, I’ll be ready for it. Whatever the coach and the organization needs me to do, I’ll be ready for it.
You are one of the best shooters in this class. What is the history of your jump shot?
SB: My whole life, I’ve tried to take pride in shooting the ball. I’m always working on my jump shot. It’s just the repetition; I had more opportunities in college to get in the gym, I had access and could be in there as late or as early as I needed. It was always open for me. That helped me get more control. I stayed in the gym and worked on it as much as possible.
You improved your draft stock so much from your freshman season to your sophomore season. What do you credit the jump?
SB: I wanted to make it clear that I don’t have a low ceiling. I kept proving I still have a lot more potential. Also, I was able to show that I can play and guard multiple positions. Coming in, I was focusing on defensive rebounding and being able to defend guards and wings and big men. On the other end, I wanted to be a threat on every end. Our head coach Jay Wright gave me the opportunity to play on the ball a lot. I played some point guard. I played in the low post. I played in the mid-post. I played at all three levels. That helped my team win. It was also a credit to the guys around me who helped me a part of that amazing culture at Villanova. That paid dividends too.
You mentioned Jay Wright, who is one of the most respected college coaches in the country. What do you think he did to help make you NBA-ready?
SB: He really emphasizes skill development and being a complete player, from our point guards to our big men. He has our point guards going into the paint and the post and back their men down. He has our big men play off the dribble. He taught everybody to not be type-casted by our position. He has been great at that. He stresses playing hard, too, and being coachable and also be the best man you can be off the court. That is what he does really well. He focuses on the details. It was an honor and a blessing to be able to play for him.
I think you see the swiss-army knife in your game most in your ability as a pick-and-roll ballhandler. I think people would be surprised to know that, even at 6-foot-8, you finished more than 20 percent of your possessions on that play type. How were you able to adjust to playing on-ball so often?
SB: That is also a testament to how I grew up. I was small at a young age. Even in high school, I was about 5-foot-8. I was playing the point guard and the two most of my career. So being able to get bigger over the years helped me play different positions. My teammates and my coaches trusted me to work on my game and my craft. That all played a part.
On a short shot clock, with less than four seconds left, you were 14-for-25 (56.0 percent) with seven three-pointers. Among the 400 D-I players who recorded at least 400 possessions in this play type, no one was more efficient than you were. Do you feel you thrive when the pressure is on?
SB: Those numbers are a credit to working on my craft and my team, too. I love this game. I can’t imagine life without it. The opportunity to play is a blessing and I want to take every opportunity I have to help my team win. That’s all that matter to me, not the individual stuff. I want to have the team in mind and the goal is winning the game.
At 6-foot-8, you have good positional size. How is that going to help you as a defender coming into the next level? What role do you see yourself having on defense?
SB: I’m able to use my length and quickness to defend guards and size to guard bigger players. I’m able to hang my hat on that and come in with that mentality of being able to play on the defensive end. If a team needs me on the perimeter and make it tough for them, I’ll be comfortable. If they need someone to bang down low, I’ll be comfortable in that area.
If you were asked about “why” you play the game, what are some of the things you would say?
SB: For me, it’s about the competitiveness of the game. I love the game so much and no matter what comes along with it, whether that is money or notoriety, I love the game itself. I want to be the best player I can possibly be. I love this game, I think about it each and every day, all day. My mom is also one of the biggest influences and role models in my life, for sure. She’s been there for me every time I needed her and has done everything for me, filled every void in my life, no matter what. I definitely do it for her. I want to see the excitement on her face after games, after the season. I do it for her and I do it for my family.
Speaking about your mom, I know she is the superintendent of a school district. I’d love to hear more about the value that education has played in your life.
SB: Education has always been important in my family. Growing up, there was always the dream of me playing basketball at the highest level. But education has played a big role. I definitely wanted to be able to play in college and not have my mom worry about paying for that. There are lot of things outside of basketball, off the court, that interest me. There are social issues and political issues that are going on that makes education very important for everyone so we can be the best humans we can possibly be.
Are there any particular topics from your studies that stood out to you and interested you?
SB: That’s a great topic. We learned [about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave] in philosophy at Villanova. It’s just about man’s reality and what we see and the sun is supposed to represent knowledge and stuff like that. But in the caves, there were cave dwellers that were chained and they were facing toward a wall so they couldn’t see behind them. All they could see what was in front of them. So it kind of symbolizes what their perspective was in life: whatever was in front of them was all they could see. All they could see was shadows behind, they couldn’t see what was outside the cave, which was enlightenment. The people that were able to get out of the cave, they were able to see the full enlightenment, basically, God. So it kind of ties into life, man, because everybody has a different perception of reality. I think about it whenever life feels stressful or something about the game feels stressful. I look back and think: how big really is your problem, you know, in the grand scheme of things? It kind of helps to relax you. It helps you center back in about different things.
I think, just thinking about the game, just doing what I love, it shouldn’t be any pressure or stress. Because you’re doing something that you love every day and that you want to be the best at. For me, I think a lesson I’ve learned in life, not trying to compare myself to anybody else. You just compare and just see: can you be the best each and every day and can you be better than you were yesterday? I think once you do that, then you can reach your full potential in anything you want to do. I think once you start comparing yourself to others, that’s not your reality, that’s somebody else’s and they go through what they go through every day. You can only do your best you can be every day. We think about our thoughts so much. We just have to kind of think about the bigger picture. I think that helps you do what you love. I think once you figure out what you want to do in life, do what you love, I think you should. I think we all try to get closer to the truth each and every day. But yeah, that’s just some of the philosophy, man, that I love. [Laughs] I was not expecting to talk about that.
How do these things, which help shape your worldview, apply to your daily life?
SB: I’m continuing to learn. I’m always studying from different philosophies. I’m trying to be the best human I can be. I’m always trying to learn. I remember hearing a quote [from Lucius Annaeus Seneca] saying that we suffer more in imagination than we do in reality. I truly believe that. I’m really spiritual. I’m a firm believer in God. I love the study of the mind. I’m always trying to learn and apply things to my life to help me be the best I can be.
I love all of that. Thank you so much for sharing! Transitioning a bit, what kind of music do you like? What do you listen to before games?
SB: That’s a really good question because I literally listen to everything. Hip-hop and rap are my favorite. But I actually used to listen to “The Joker” soundtrack. It’s crazy to say but I did. He is my favorite character in the Batman universe. If you listen to it when you watch the movie, you’ll hear little things that capture the moment. That helps set the mood for how I’m going to play on the court. I can’t explain it because it’s just so personal to me.
Well, it worked because you played great. What are some of the other things that you like to do when you’re not playing?
SB: I kind of revolve my life around basketball. It’s hard for me to find anything else specifically. I usually just relax and chill and watch movies back in my room. I don’t really do too much extra. When I was younger, I used to go bowling and I used to play minigolf. But other than that: I’m really just at home eating, sleeping and playing.
Are there any goals that you have, on the court or off the court, that you’d like to share?
SB: I just want to inspire others as much as I can. I want to play the game as long as I can. However I can help and inspire those around me, that’s a goal that I have and I want to do that. I want to be the best player I can be every day.