Villanova’s Reynolds eyes big finish to special career

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Scottie Reynolds is down to his own Final Four.

He has four more notable accomplishments he hopes to add to his expansive bio as his Villanova career winds down: win a national championship, earn All-American honors, set the school’s career scoring record and hear his name called in the NBA draft.

Reynolds has already guaranteed his name will be among Villanova’s all-time greats. His No. 1 jersey will one day hang from the Pavilion rafters.

And that shot! His frantic full-court dash and buzzer beater, a play that catapulted the Wildcats past Pitt and into the Final Four last season, skyrocketing Reynolds’ popularity on a campus where he often wished he was as anonymous as the student manager.

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“He’s become the face of Villanova basketball, which is what I always wanted,” coach Jay Wright said. “I don’t know if he always wanted that.”

It was not something Reynolds sought when a fortuitous series of events led him to the Wildcats.

Before he became comfortable as the guy on the cover of national magazines and the subject of TV features, Reynolds wanted out at the suburban Philadelphia campus. He was homesick and not feeling at peace at Villanova when he went to Wright after his sophomore year and told his coach he was seriously considering a transfer. He pondered seeking a school closer to his home in Herndon, Va., where he could hang with his old friends and see his tight-knit family.

But leave the Wildcats, where he already won Big East rookie of the year? He scored 40 points in a game and was a second-team All Big East pick as a sophomore. Such unhappiness seemed hard to understand coming from a Big East star.

Not to Wright.

His coach saw a young adult who hadn’t develop much of a personal connection with his teammates because of a late commitment his senior year in high school. Reynolds’ laid back personality conflicted with his role as an instant sensation. And Reynolds still hadn’t entirely warmed up to his college coach.

“I was putting a lot of pressure on him because we needed him to come in and make an impact right away,” Wright said.

“He was a star on the court, but he didn’t like being a star off the court and everyone around here treats you like a star.”

Reynolds’ heart was still with Oklahoma, where he committed before coach Kelvin Sampson resigned and bolted for Indiana. Feeling betrayed by Sampson, Reynolds quickly made his way to Villanova.

He had been to Villanova twice — for a summer tournament and an official visit.

“It’s always been about ball for me,” Reynolds said. “Getting the college experience and all that stuff, that never applied to me. I just wanted to come here and try and be the best player I could be. And the only way I knew I could do that was to come here. I knew I couldn’t get into trouble unless I went looking for it.”

After a short period of contemplation, Reynolds decided to stay, telling Wright he was “all in.” As a recruit, he’d been impressed by Villanova’s unconventional four-guard offense led by Allan Ray, Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry — who all played in the NBA — and knew that he was a perfect fit. He had all the gaudy personal stats and postseason success a sophomore could enjoy.

“If those things are in place, what are you crying about?” said Reynolds, a 6-foot-2 guard. “Once I remembered why I came here, it was an easy decision.”

Two years later he’s hustling down the stretch of one of the most decorated careers in team history. He led the Wildcats (24-7) to a 20-1 start and the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. The lone unanimous selection to the All-Big East first team, his 2,194 career points have him 50 away from breaking Kerry Kittles’ school record. He’s on target to graduate in May and he’s improved on his NBA draft prospects.

“The NBA will be a challenge for him because he’s just not a real big player,” Kittles said. “But there’s other guys his size in the NBA. He makes shots, he creates space, he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’ll play professionally somewhere. I’m sure he’s faced other challenges before.”

His most personal one comes after graduation. Reynolds was adopted and has been on a search for his biological mother. He hired a private investigator to find her and has her phone number tucked away. He has not called her yet.

“When I got the number, I was planning on going down, I was planning on going there,” he said. “She had a situation, so I didn’t want to be a burden on what she was going through. There’s other things that have gone on with her that I know about.”

He was born in Alabama and was the first of three adopted children for Rick and Pam Reynolds (who also had three biological children). They raised him in Illinois and Virginia and have been supportive of his pursuit. His biological mother was 18 when she had Reynolds — a year younger than Reynolds was when he discovered her identity. Now 22, Reynolds is waiting for the perfect time to meet her.

“I will do it,” he said. “I have a feeling I know when. So many things could happen. I had a feeling I was going to go down there and see her, but things happen. I have a pretty good idea, but you never know.”

Reynolds once talked of a day when both of his mothers would sit in the stands and watch him play. The clock has expired for that to happen at Villanova.

It’s down to the final ticks for him to win a national championship. The Wildcats’ sizzling start that elevated them to No. 2 in The AP Top 25 fizzled at the end when they dropped five of their last seven.

The slump didn’t bother the NCAA selection committee. Villanova got a No. 2 seed in the South Regional and will play No. 15 Robert Morris on Thursday.

The player who once wanted nothing to do with being the face of a program has compiled a body of work that stands alone in 90 years of Villanova basketball.

“I’m very happy that I stayed, I’m happy about my senior year,” he said, “And I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

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