Grant Aqui, a prospect research associate for Babcock Hoops, took a deep dive into learning about 2020 NBA draft prospect Saddiq Bey from the Villanova Wildcats. He shares Saddiq’s unique story of being a 5’9” freshman in high school to emerging into a valued commodity among some of the best college basketball programs in the country, and ultimately developing into a likely first-round draft pick.
The son of a former collegiate basketball player at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Saddiq Bey’s journey to being a first-round prospect was a surprising, if not unlikely, one. Saddiq was raised by his mother, Dr. Drewana Bey, whom he looks up to greatly. He credits his work ethic both in the classroom and on the court coming from seeing his mother balance work life and family life. “She’d put in the work every day and then she’d come home as a mom and support her kids. So I just looked up to it. I just got to think how much she grinds each and every day and I try to take that with me. I think, ‘Am I really too tired to do certain things?’ No, I’m not, because if she can do it, then I can do it.” A human being with a quiet demeanor, Saddiq wears number #41 to emulate his mom, the number she wore while playing in Charlotte. Saddiq grew up in Largo, Maryland in Prince George’s County, which has produced 1st round picks including Kevin Durant, Ty Lawson, Markelle Fultz, and Jeff Green. Despite coming from a hotbed for basketball talent, Saddiq’s place in the county’s lineage was far from a sure thing. Standing as a 5’9'' freshman at national powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School, he was buried on a depth chart that featured future #1 pick Markelle Fultz, Georgetown guard Terrell Allen, and Wake Forest forward DJ Mitchell. Bey and his diminutive frame failed to crack the varsity roster as a freshman. With a lack of opportunity presenting itself at DeMatha, Saddiq sought out to transfer to a better situation following his freshman year. Upon leaving DeMatha, Saddiq opted to further his basketball career in the rapidly growing Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (a 7 team league based in the DMV area known more for its educational prowess than athletics, yet has produced Luka Garza, Justin Robinson, and Josh Hart in recent years) with D.C’s exclusive Sidwell Friends School. His mother encouraged the choice to go to such an academically rigorous program as she herself, a superintendent of Washington D.C. secondary schools and former high school principal, is an educator.
During his time at the school, Bey would have a steady growth spurt, shedding his sub 6’0” height and beginning to gradually grow closer to his current 6’8” height. Saddiq spent his time on the grassroots scene competing on the Under Armour Association circuit with the DC Premier. Saddiq led DC Premier to a 12-5 record with a roster bereft of high-end talent (Notre Dame’s Prentiss Hubb being the only other high major player on the team). His improved frame drew interest from a cast of schools that included Florida, NC State, Georgetown, Connecticut, Xavier, and on a lesser level, Villanova. Sidwell Friends proved to be an excellent choice on multiple fronts, as academically Saddiq carried over a 3.0 GPA and drew attention from Harvard, Princeton, and Vanderbilt as well. As a junior at Sidwell, Bey helped lead the Quakers to a Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference title. His senior season was plagued with an ankle injury that kept The Sidwell Friends School from repeating as champions.
Bey ending up at Villanova was the culmination of a perfect set of circumstances. After taking his official visits to Xavier, Miami, Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh, and NC State, Saddiq committed to NC State on November 2nd, 2017. Saddiq would never attend a class at NC State, as he sought a full release from his letter of intent following the FBI investigation into college basketball and NC State. Bey was released from his commitment to NC State in May of 2018 but was denied a waiver to play at another ACC school, which functionally removed Miami, Pittsburgh, and Boston College from his destination list. During this same time, Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman, rotation players on their national championship team, shockingly opted to remain in the draft and head to the NBA. Their defections to the pros opened up two scholarships that Coach Jay Wright originally didn’t plan on having to fill.
Sidwell Friends, though unheralded nationally, already had a direct pipeline to Villanova in the form of national champion and New Orleans Pelican Josh Hart. Coach Wright’s relationship formed with Sidwell Friends Coach Eric Singletary during the recruitment process helped make the fit with Villanova a natural one. Bey committed to Villanova in June of 2018. Though Bey was the highest unsigned recruit in the country at the time of his commitment, he was the least heralded in a 2018 Villanova class headlined by Jahvon Quinerly. As is the theme in Saddiq’s career, he quickly outplayed the level of hype surrounding him. His emergence began as he played his way onto the court as a wing defender in Villanova’s 2018 Thanksgiving tournament in Orlando, where he averaged 30.7mpg, 10.3ppg, and 6.7rpg (side note: I was in attendance for the entirety of the tournament and Bey did an incredible job bringing a steadying presence in what was a very volatile 3 games for Eric Paschall). Bey would finish the 2018-2019 season as the only freshman Wildcat to break into the rotation and quickly usurped the minutes that once belonged to Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. Bey was also the first true freshman at Villanova to average 25+ minutes per game since Ryan Arcidiacono in 2012-2013. For his efforts, Bey was named to the Big East All-Freshman Team.
Bey’s sophomore year saw him enter as the unquestioned best player on the team and leader of an unusually young Villanova team alongside Collin Gillespie. Saddiq was tasked night in and night out with guarding the best scorer on the other team; seeing the likes of Robert Woodard, Jared Butler, Udoka Azubuike, and Devon Dotson, as well as Big East staples like Myles Powell, Markus Howard, and Kamar Baldwin. Offensively he was a sniper from 3-point range once again, converting at a 45% clip on 5.8 attempts per game. His sophomore season he showed once again that he is one of only a handful of actual 3-and-D wings in this draft and not just a theoretical 1-way player who needs to round out his game. His lack of elite athleticism and non-existent ball skills will undoubtedly cap his upside, but his floor should remain high with the massive demand for what he brings to the table. Every team is looking for another 6’5"-6’9” wing who can defend and shoot to add to their rotation regardless of the team’s competitive timeline. Coach Wright lauds Saddiq as someone who picks up on things quickly and puts the time in to improve his game. Saddiq also adds value in being a guy that teams aren’t going to have to worry about; he has his head on straight and has a strong support system around him. With the NBA’s positional economy of supply and demand working in his favor, coupled with stellar intangibles and a clear cut NBA role, look for Saddiq Bey to be comfortably drafted in the mid-first round.