Villanova's Reynolds: From short-timer to all-timer

Scottie Reynolds has taken leadership "to a level that none of us could have imagined," coach Jay Wright says.
Scottie Reynolds has taken leadership "to a level that none of us could have imagined," coach Jay Wright says.
Posted: March 11, 2010

The best estimate is that Scottie Reynolds needs four more games to become Villanova's career scoring leader. Reynolds likes that plan only because it would mean the Wildcats were advancing in the postseason, not because he could reach a special milestone.

For those who have followed his four years on the Main Line, Reynolds doesn't need to pass Kerry Kittles and reach the top of the points chart to lead the "greatest Wildcat of all time" argument. He has been outstanding on the court, with incredible talent, leadership, and will that have made him a key figure in the 98 wins posted by his teams heading into the Big East tournament today.

But what impresses coaches, teammates, faculty, alumni, students, and young kids who wear Reynolds' No. 1 jersey at the Pavilion, the Wachovia Center, and even opposing arenas is the way he has handled the spotlight. He will leave a legacy as an outstanding ambassador for Villanova, and not just the basketball program.

"You would not believe how many e-mails I have from Coach Wright and others there about what Scott has meant to that school," said Rick Reynolds, his father. "I even got an e-mail from an alum who drove a long way for Senior Night just to thank him for what he did for the university.

"He gets national recognition for his basketball ability. But what I cherish, and I know Scott feels the same way, is the kind of recognition he gets from students and teachers for how he handles himself. That means so much more."

Coach Jay Wright has been the face of Villanova basketball, with commentators (many of them former head coaches) always commenting on his looks, his attire, and his success with the Wildcats. But he realizes Reynolds' impact may have surpassed his.

"When he came here, I remember saying, 'I want you to be the face of Villanova basketball,' " Wright said. "I've wanted that from every guy that was a point guard here, going back to Randy Foye and Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry. But I think he's taken it to a level that none of us could have imagined.

"I could be anywhere in the country and have something Villanova on. People will see me and yell, 'Hey, Villanova - Scottie Reynolds.' They yell it everywhere. I have parents tell me their little girls have crushes on him, that their grandmothers love him.

"I had some students tell me his class had a field trip and he had to miss it because we had a game, and he e-mailed everybody to apologize and said he'd make it up to them."

And to think that if it hadn't been for a short chain of events, Scottie Reynolds would never have set foot on Lancaster Avenue.

The story is familiar by now: Reynolds had committed to Oklahoma the summer before his senior year of high school but reversed his decision the next spring after head coach Kelvin Sampson announced he was leaving for Indiana.

Reynolds' coach at Herndon (Va.) High School, Gary Hall, liked watching Villanova play on television, so he called Wright and told him that his player, a McDonald's all-American, was available. Wright grabbed him immediately, but the link was not without complications.

"After the situation at Oklahoma, Scottie came to see me and was down on coaches," said Hall, who has known Reynolds since he coached him as a 10-year-old in Amateur Athletic Union ball. "He said, 'They all lie. None of them tell the truth. Pick a school for me, and I'll play basketball.' Scottie needed to know that [Wright] believed in him, and that took time."

It was tough for Reynolds. His relationship with Sampson had grown during the long recruiting process. He had to develop a relationship with Wright on the run, and the connection almost didn't happen.

"There was a point at the end of my sophomore year where I was really debating what I was going to do," Reynolds said. "I didn't know if I was going to stay here. He gave me a deadline and told me, 'You've got to make your decision by such-and-such a date because you're holding up certain people.'

"So I eventually told Coach, 'I'm going to come back. I want you to push me. I'm going to put everything into your hands and try to be the best basketball player I can be.' It probably took me a year as a player to come full circle into the kind of player I wanted to be and that he wanted me to be."

As Wright figured out, trust was important to Reynolds because the player had been adopted just days after being born to a teenage single mother in Huntsville, Ala. Reynolds' parents, who have six children, three of them adopted, sent Wright e-mails helping him navigate the daunting challenge.

"They helped me understand that it's hard for him to trust people in general," Wright said, "and then go through what he did with Oklahoma and with his birth mother. So it made it even more difficult. I think maybe at the end of last year, he really got to the point where both of us have great trust in each other. But it did take time, and I understand that."

During Villanova's run to the Final Four last season, Reynolds dealt with every question about his adoption with poise and grace. He has embraced being a role model for other adopted children and young adults, hundreds of whom have contacted him in one form or another.

"I look at it as an opportunity to touch another kid's life," he said. "If it's just one person, I would feel good about that. If I would hold everything in and not share my experience with an adopted kid, or a mother or a father, I feel that's being selfish. If I can reach someone, if it makes somebody's day just by sharing my story, then that's good for me."

By doing that, Reynolds subjected himself to boorish taunts from mean-spirited people on the road. In a game two years ago at Pittsburgh, some fans yelled "things I had never heard before," he said, but he didn't want to react and affect the team in the game.

Reynolds has spoken in the last year of having found his birth mother. He has said he is waiting for what he feels is the right time to contact her.

Reynolds likes to talk about coming full circle with the team. He recently came full circle in another area, seeing Sampson - now an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks - after the January game at Marquette, the first time they had spoken since Sampson bolted Oklahoma.

"He had sent some cards to me, things like that," Reynolds said, "but that's the first encounter that we had. I felt good about seeing him. As an 18-year-old, all you do is think about yourself and what's best for you and your future, which is understandable. But he made a family decision to leave, and I respect that. There's no reason for me to be mad at that."

Reynolds, the only unanimous selection on this year's all-Big East team, will play his final game for Villanova at some point in the next three-plus weeks. Maybe he will get the 60 points he needs to replace Kittles (2,243) at the top of the scoring list.

But anyone who has come in contact with him in his four years feels he has meant more to the university than points, victories, and that mad dash from half-court with the seconds ticking down, ending with the short jumper to defeat Pittsburgh in last year's NCAA East Region final.

"I watched one of their preseason practices," Hall said, "and one of the best things Coach Wright told me was, 'Everything you told me about Scottie Reynolds is true. He's going to go down as the best leader in the history of Villanova basketball.' Villanova couldn't ask for a better ambassador. College basketball couldn't ask for a better ambassador.

"It's just who he is. People look for little cracks in his armor, but they won't find them. He's real. It's been a tremendous ride. And I still think there's a lot of basketball left to be played."


Watching Scottie Grow

Scottie Reynolds needs 60 points to pass Kerry Kittles as Villanova's all-time scoring leader. He has at least two more games in his career. Here are the top 10 scorers:

Name                Years Points

1. Kerry Kittles         1992-96 2,243

2. Scottie Reynolds      2006-present 2,184

3. Keith Herron         1974-78 2,170

4. Bob Schafer          1951-55 2,094

5. Doug West             1985-89 2,037

6. Howard Porter       1968-71 2,026

7. Allan Ray             2002-06 2,025

8. John Pinone          1979-83 2,024

9. Randy Foye          2002-06 1,966

10. Ed Pinckney          1981-85 1,865


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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