Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
Before his senior season at Roman Catholic, Hakim Hart thought he was going to be playing his college hoops close to home.
Originally a St. Joe's commit, a coaching change opened up his recruitment and landed him in College Park, Maryland for the first four years of his college career.
There was always an allure to playing in the city he grew up in, however, and when the former Maryland standout entered the transfer portal last month, that’s what ultimately led to his decision.
Hart announced his commitment to Villanova on Friday, adding another impact transfer for the Wildcats next season.
“Just the overall aspect of having the opportunity to play at home in front of more family and friends and have an opportunity to win championships for my hometown,” Hart said of what drew him to the Main Line.
Former Roman Catholic standout Hakim Hart announced he is transferring to Villanova on Friday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)
Hart is a 6-8 guard who improved statistically each season for the Terps. He saw limited action in 18 games as a freshman before starting 19 games and averaging 7.1 ppg and 3.5 rpg as a sophomore. By junior year, Hart started 31 of the 32 games he played in, averaging 9.9 ppg and 3.6 rpg.
The Philadelphia native was an All-Big 10 honorable mention selection as a senior this past season, averaging career-high in points (11.4 ppg), rebounds (4.1 rpg) and assists (2.6 apg) as the Terps advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a great fanbase and community here and they definitely treated me well,” Hart said. “I just feel like my time was up at Maryland. I had three different coaches here at Maryland.”
Hart went to the NCAA Tournament twice at Maryland, both times advancing to the Round of 32. He joins a Villanova program that missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011-12 under first-year coach Kyle Neptune last season but is just one year removed from a Final Four.
He declared for the draft and entered his name into the transfer portal on March 23 and had a plethora of teams interested. It came down to Kansas, Gonzaga and Miami along with Villanova in his top four.
“At first it was a lot because there were a lot of schools that were on my radar," Hart said. "Everyone was just calling. It was just trying to find who was the best fit for me. It was pretty hard.”
Kansas won a national title in 2022, Gonzaga was the runner-up in 2021 and Miami was a Final Four team this past season. It’s clear he wants to win and found a place close to home to do so.
“It’s definitely just to win championships in the Big East and the NCAA Tournament,” Hart said of his goal with the Wildcats.
Hart said he knows several members of the current Wildcats group. He played AAU at Philly Pride with senior guard Chris Arcidiacono and played against redshirt-junior forward Eric Dixon, an Abington product who played his grassroots hoops with WeR1.
Dixon averaged 15.4 ppg and 6.6 rpg for second team All-Big East honors and will be back again leading the charge. The Wildcats will also return senior guard Justin Moore, an all-conference guard who averaged 13.5 ppg in 13 games after returning from an Achilles injury. Hart said he spoke with Moore before his commitment as well.
“Just like me, he’s an overall a player who can shoot post up and defend, so I feel like that’s going to be nice,” Hart said.
Villanova is expecting leaps from freshman guard Mark Armstrong and sophomore guard Jordan Longino next season. Washington State transfer T.J. Bamba, who averaged 15.8 ppg with the Cougars last season, adds another piece in the backcourt.
The Wildcats will miss the size of freshman forward Cam Whitmore and redshirt-senior wing Brandon Slater (6-8), so Hart’s height and versatility will certainly be welcomed.
“Just being a talented piece because they’re lacking in height a little bit, and just coming in as a tall guard who’s versatile and can guard 1 through 4 and can play 1 through 4,” Hart said of what the Wildcats’ staff expects him to bring.”
Villanova brought home a pair of national titles to the Main Line when Hart was growing up. They’ve been the standard in the Big 5 in recent history and a national power for the last decade-plus as well.
Hart hopes he can add to the Wildcats’ trophy case as he concludes his college career.
“In high school, this was definitely a place I wanted to play at,” Hart said.
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