Photo courtesy of USA Today.
By David Cordova
When going up against the likes of Eric Paschall, no matter the venue, one needs to be afraid. See, he’s not like most big men who are over 7-feet and above. At 6-foot-9, he is the anchor in the low post for the Villanova Wildcats and can post up anyone taller or smaller than him and wreak havoc, whether on offense, or defense.
“You know what, I’m never surprised by Eric’s dunks, but what I love about Eric is that he’s tough defensively and chases guys down and, I want him to rebound a little bit better, but he’s just tough defensively, he can guard anyone on the floor from 1-5. That’s really the best the best thing he’s done for us. He can [also] get buckets, I’m never surprised at that.” says Villanova head coach, Jay Wright.
In regards to offense, Paschall can step out and shoot jumpers from 10 to 15 feet, but is known for his powerful dunks in the lane.
Paschall hails from Dobbs Ferry, New York, a town in Westchester County, just outside of New York City. When asked about his town, he replied, “It’s a very small town. You don’t really get noticed. You’ve got to work hard. When I was younger, I wouldn’t just go play in the park by myself, just work on my game, but you don’t really get noticed [in Dobbs Ferry], so you just have to work hard. It’s very different, being outside the city and the city getting so much pub, but I definitely liked it, it was a great place to get raised.”
Paschall first started out high school at Dobbs Ferry High, where he made his mark early. As a sophomore, he averaged 20 points and nine rebounds per game. Then as a junior, he doubled that performance and averaged 26 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game for the Eagles as he led them to the Section One finals.
He also earned Class B Player of the Year honors and won the Section 1 Mr. Basketball Award, becoming the fourth junior to win that honor. The other three were Jabarie Hinds from Mount Vernon, who played collegiate basketball at West Virginia and UMass and also two former NBA players in Elton Brand of Peekskill and Ben Gordon of Mount Vernon.
Paschall would then transfer to St. Thomas More School, a prep school in Oakdale, Connecticut in search of more exposure for his senior year. When asked about the prep school experience, he replied, “Can’t even lie, it was very hard. It was hard, man. The Wi-Fi shut off at like 8:30, 9 o’clock, no phone service up there. It was rough, but it was good for me, just nothing but books and ball. It made me a lot better, prepared me for college.”
As a result of that hard work, he won the NEPSAC Class AAA Player of the Year award and made the All-First Team, while also leading the Chancellors to the National Prep Championship final.
After high school was done, he decided to attend Fordham University, which was located in The Bronx, which was 25 minutes away from his home in Dobbs Ferry. In his one and only season with the Rams, he averaged 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, which earned him the 2014-15 Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year award.
When asked about his lone season at Fordham, Paschall replied, “I had a good year, I feel like we should have won more. I mean, I played well personally, but after transferring here [Villanova], I definitely knew that getting my numbers isn’t everything. Just do all the little things on the court that make the team win, and I think that I’m trying to do a great job here.”
Unfortunately, during Paschall’s one season at Fordham, the Rams finished 10-21, in last place in the Atlantic-10. Soon after, head coach Tom Pecora was fired, and after that Paschall decided to make a move. After being released from his scholarship at Fordham, many teams contacted him. But when all was said and done, he decided on Villanova University.
When asked what made him choose the Wildcats, he replied, “What made me come here, just the atmosphere, it’s a family. Everybody cares about you. I’m cool with so many alumni that came through here. Everybody comes back. And I just wanted to get a lot better, I wanted to play on a top team, and I’m getting that opportunity.”
On playing for head coach Jay Wright, “Playing for Coach Wright is great, he’s a very defensive-minded guy, he’s definitely helped my defense. I wasn’t the greatest defender coming in. He’s really helped me on the defensive end a lot. His philosophy helped me, helped my game.”
Due to NCAA transfer rules, Paschall would have to sit out the 2015-16 season. During that time, the Wildcats went 35-5 and won the NCAA national championship. When asked what it was like sitting on the bench during that year, he replied, “It was a little rough. I definitely got better. I would work out every day, I definitely made sure that I stayed in shape. Just Coach Shack (John Shackleton, the strength coach), I give a lot [of credit] to him. I went from 16% body fat to 5%, so he did a great job with me in the weight room and with my health. So that redshirt year was a big thing.”
The following season, Paschall was finally able to play and averaged 7.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 36 games, while leading the Wildcats to a 32-4 record, a Big East championship and a second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
This season, Paschall has doubled his average to 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 33 games so far, as the Wildcats are now 31-4 on the season and have won a second straight Big East championship. Most of the season, Villanova was rated the No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll.
When asked about how being a part of the No. 1 team in the nation has been, Paschall replied, “Honestly, we don’t even think about it that much, we just try to play our next game and get better every game. That’s the only thing we think about.”
One of the places that has breeded Paschall’s toughness is the famed Dyckman Tournament in the Inwood section of Manhattan, New York, where he plays for Dominican Power every summer. When asked about how he likes playing on those hallowed street ball grounds, he replied, “It’s always great to come play. It’s always different than playing here. We [Villanova] do a lot of fundamental stuff. But it’s great, it’s a great atmosphere, I love playing there, it’s like a second home to me.”
Tomorrow, Paschall and the Wildcats will get ready for their second-round matchup in the NCAA Tournament against Alabama in Pittsburgh, after defeating Radford in the previous round, 87-61.
For now, the goal for the Wildcats is simple, “Get better every day. We don’t set goals for a national championship or a Big East championship, we just try to get better every day.”
As for him? “Just keep getting better. And see where that takes me.”
Highlights of Eric Paschall:
Courtesy of Ballas TV.
Courtesy of FriarTV2011.
Courtesy of Nova Athletics.
Courtesy of Nova Athletics.