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Albany transfer Joe Cremo picks Villanova from finalist group that included Gonzaga

UPDATED: Tue., May 8, 2018, 6:41 p.m.

Albany guard Joe Cremo attempts a layup against Louisville’s Ray Spalding  and Anas Mahmoud, right, in a December game. (TIMOTHY D. EASLEY / AP)
Albany guard Joe Cremo attempts a layup against Louisville’s Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud, right, in a December game. (TIMOTHY D. EASLEY / AP)

Albany graduate transfer Joe Cremo, who listed Gonzaga among his five finalists, committed to defending national champion Villanova.

Cremo’s decision comes three days after point guard Brandon Williams picked Arizona over Gonzaga and Oregon.

The Zags would have been thrilled to add Williams or Cremo. Instead, they’ll continue searching for a point or combo guard to join a talented 2019 roster that is thin on ball handlers beyond rising senior Josh Perkins.

Cremo, a versatile, 6-foot-4 shooting guard, announced his commitment Tuesday morning in a Twitter post.

“Time for a new chapter and I’m very excited to be a part of #NovaNation,” Cremo wrote.

Cremo earned first-team All-America East Conference honors after averaging 17.8 points and 3.8 assists, and connecting on 46 percent of his 3-point attempts last season. The Scotia, New York, native averaged 15.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists as a sophomore.

Villanova entered the picture fairly late on Cremo, but the Wildcats boast a guard-friendly system and a pair of national titles in the past three years. Villanova, located about 250 miles from Scotia, could lose as many as three key guards/wings from last year’s squad.

Perkins had surgery on his right (shooting) shoulder last month, but expects to be ready for his senior season. Gonzaga could turn to shooting guard Zach Norvell Jr., rising sophomore Jesse Wade, 2018 redshirt Joel Ayayi or incoming freshman Greg Foster Jr. for spot minutes at point guard.

The Zags, considered a preseason top 10 team, aren’t necessarily hanging out a help-wanted sign, but they’re certainly hoping to add another guard. The most likely option would involve a graduate transfer, since it’s late in the recruiting game for available Class of 2018 prospects or international players.

Timing probably has been a factor for the Zags, who have just one open scholarship and have been in a holding pattern until Williams made his final decision. Cremo visited all of his finalists – Villanova, Kansas, Texas and Creighton – except Gonzaga.

Former Washington State point guard Malachi Flynn on Monday committed to San Diego State. Flynn, who had Gonzaga on his list initially before interest cooled on both sides, could have been a solution at point guard in 2020 after sitting out next season.