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Villanova product Eric Paschall embracing change on NBA journey

08/17/2022, 8:00am EDT
By Rich Flanagan

Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)

Eric Paschall has never had an issue with change. To be more concise, he has never had a problem with a change of scenery.

Since being selected in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors, the 25-year-old forward and former Villanova product has traveled from the Main Line to San Francisco to Salt Lake City in his first three seasons.

Soon, he will be endeavoring to Minneapolis to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves as his next destination, but the constant movement has only amplified a quality he has possessed from a young age: adaptability.

“It’s been good,” Paschall said. “Obviously, sticking in the NBA is a big thing and I’m just trying to get better each year. I’m making the most of my situation regardless of where I’m at.”

Paschall made a return to the area in the 17th annual Danny Rumph Classic at La Salle University earlier this month where he scored 25 points, including 14 in the second half, playing for CTC alongside former Wildcats in Jermaine Samuels, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and James Bell as well as former Penn guard Ryan Betley and former Imhotep Charter and Maryland guard Fatts Russell against an FOE team with twin brothers, Marcus and Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson.

The maturation in his frame and athleticism was evident from the one-handed, windmill slam during warm-ups to the quick smooth release on his outside jumper that only leaves his hands when his legs are at their highest release point.

Villanova product Eric Paschall plays at the Rumph Classic on Aug. 6. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Paschall came into the Villanova program as a rugged forward who had developed throughout high school as a taller guard. His all-around versatility was not only on display but also a large reason that has allowed him to find a role regardless of which NBA team he has found himself on.

Being seen in the Rumph Classic was the next example of change and adaptability.

“This was my first time playing in this event and it was a good experience, especially since the crowd loves it,” Paschall said.

Paschall signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves in July and when he takes the floor once the new season tips off in October, that will be his third team and city in four years. The Timberwolves, a team that won 46 games a season ago and hung with the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening round on the NBA Playoffs, brought in Paschall and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert this offseason to a lineup that already boasted Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell.

For Paschall, this is just the next stage in a basketball career that has flourished with each new change, and he expects much of the same in Minnesota.

“I feel like their front office believes in me and is going to give me an opportunity to go out there and showcase myself,” Paschall said. “They want me to do what I do best.”

All Paschall has done is make the most of change in his career. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound big man was named to the 2019-20 NBA All-Rookie First Team along with Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, among others, after he avg. 14.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists, and shot 49.7% from the floor for a Warriors team that saw its streak of five consecutive NBA Finals appearances come to an end. Paschall excelled as Golden State’s key players (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green) missed most, if not all, of the season.

Stepping in and making the most of a situation has been a facet of Paschall’s skillset since high school. During his junior season at Dobbs Ferry (N.Y.), he averaged 26.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game on his way to 2013 New York State Sportswriters Association Class B Player of the Year. He was also named Section 1 Mr. Basketball, joining the likes of Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Elton Brand and former Chicago Bulls standout Ben Gordon to claim the award as juniors.

He decided to make the move to St. Thomas More School (Conn.), where he led the program to the National Prep School Championship Game and claimed New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Class 3A Player of the Year.

He returned to New York and committed to Fordham University, where he was named 2015 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year after avg. 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 48.8% from the field. He opened his career by setting a Fordham record for most points (31) by a freshman in his debut against New York Institute of Technology.

Following his successful first collegiate season, Paschall opted to transfer and found his spot with the Wildcats. He had to sit out due to transfer rules during a season that culminated with Kris Jenkins’s iconic buzzer-beater and a national championship.

He played in 36 games and avg. 7.2 ppg as the Wildcats went 32-4 overall and fell to Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Mike Nardi was the video coordinator during Paschall’s sophomore season and knew the potential was there.

Nardi, previously an assistant under Jay Wright and now under Kyle Neptune, witnessed the next phase in Paschall’s evolution over the course of his junior season and felt everything was in place for the big man’s career to take shape.

“The key to Eric’s success is his versatility,” Nardi said. “That has always been one of his strengths. He can guard and play on the perimeter offensively and defensively, he's so strong around the rim where he can block shots and rebound against bigger guys.”

Now up to 255 pounds after weighing 205 during his lone season at Fordham, Paschall was outmuscling defenders on the block while continually taking them off the dribble on the perimeter. He avg. 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in leading Villanova to its second national title in three seasons. He shot 10-for-11, including going 4-for-5 from behind the arc, on his way to 24 points in a Final Four rout of Kansas then tallied six points and eight boards in a 79-62 victory over Michigan in the final.

He started all 74 games over his final two seasons with Villanova and avg. career bests with 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds as a senior and team captain. He scored 1,257 points in three seasons with the Wildcats.

Paschall has seen his former program go through its own share of change recently after Wright retired in April and handed the reins over to Neptune. After being part of so much success in his time under Wright, the announcement shocked Paschall as he found out while playing video games.

“I was surprised. I was actually playing Call of Duty and I saw a news alert about Coach Wright stepping down,” Paschall said. “I was pretty caught off guard. I thought he had some more years but honestly, I’m happy for him to retire early and enjoy himself.”

His former teammates like Jalen Brunson, Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo have all experienced their own share of change since entering the league but have made the most of their opportunities. Brunson signed a four-year, $104M deal with the New York Knicks this offseason following a spectacular season with the Dallas Mavericks where he helped them reach the Western Conference Finals.

Spellman was taken in the first round of the 2019 draft by the Atlanta Hawks and spent time with Paschall and the Warriors in 2020. He now plays for Anyang KGC in the Korean Basketball League. DiVincenzo won the 2021 NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks and signed a two-year contract with the Sacramento Kings this offseason.

This past season, Paschall avg. 5.8 ppg in 58 games with the Utah Jazz. He avg. 14.4 ppg during a five-game stretch in January that saw him showcase that scoring knack with a 29-point outburst versus the Toronto Raptors. Nardi, who moved from heralded player into the coaching ranks, has seen Paschall adapt to a new role before and believes remaining in the league requires changes, which the young forward has seen and done plenty of.

“In the NBA, you want to put yourself where you’re going to be with a team for a long time but with the way things are going now and with the money out there, you have to be able to adapt and move around a little bit, which is what he has done,” Nardi said. “Change doesn’t really bother him. He’s a great guy that can fit in anywhere he goes and that’s a great benefit that helped him here at Villanova where he came right in and got along with the guys.”

Nardi notes that Paschall “has seen the tradition pass down and it’s really good for our guys to be around them so they can see, ‘Hey, if I want to be at that next level, this is who I want to be.’” Paschall has come back to Villanova every summer since leaving campus to practice and stay in touch with the new group of players while reminiscing with former teammates and longtime friends. Naturally, playing in an event like the Rumph Classic with them was a no-brainer. 

He hasn’t had much contact with Minnesota as of yet but he’s looking forward to the beginning of training camp and preparing for the next change in his career.

“[I’m focused on] getting in the best condition possible and finding different ways to stay active,” Paschall said. “I’m trying to get in shape and be ready.”

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