The Villanova Men’s Basketball team has made it to the Final Four, and everyone on and around campus is quite excited, including the local media.
There have been several great human interest type stories in the past few days about the team, and I thought I would just curate all of those stories here.
Felicia Jenkins, mother of junior Kris Jenkins, made the single toughest decision of her life, which put Jenkins on a different path that now includes a second family, all listed in the personal section for Kris in Villanova’s media guide: “Parents are Felicia Jenkins and Kelvin Jenkins. Guardians are Nate and Melody Britt. Siblings include Kaiya and Kelci Jenkins along with Nate Britt Jr. and Natalya Britt.”
These days, he’s universally known around his alma mater as Father Rob. And as coach Jay Wright might be the first to tell you, he’s as essential to everything that goes on with the basketball program as Jay Wright. OK, almost. But you get the point. His official title is associate athletic director. His most visible role is chaplain for the men’s hoops and football teams. You will see him sitting at the end of the bench this weekend in Houston, cheering on his guys during pregame and timeouts when they play Oklahoma in one of the national semifinals. In short, he’s there for whoever needs him, for whatever the need.
Villanova, one of the prominent Philadelphia-area college basketball teams collectively known as the Big 5, has a roster composed almost exclusively of players from the Mid-Atlantic: Washington and its suburbs, Philadelphia and its suburbs, and New York City and its suburbs. The only exception, hailing from the suburbs of Chicago, is the freshman guard Jalen Brunson, but even he is not an outlier. Brunson — whose father played at another Big 5 school, Temple — spent part of his youth living in New Jersey. Villanova’s roster, then, is something of a throwback.
It’s almost assumed that Ryan Arcidiacono committed to Villanova when he was still in grade school. The reality is, the player who has come to represent everything coach Jay Wright wants his basketball program to be almost didn’t commit at all. In October 2010, just before his junior season at Neshaminy High, the 6-3 guard thought he was headed to Florida. A visit to Gainesville can have that kind of impact on a teenager’s thought process, even if both his parents happen to be Villanova grads.
Coach Jay Wright demanded that his kids perform as well off the court – both in the classroom and in demonstrating their character – as they did on the court in passing and shooting. That’s not easy. College kids can be limitlessly malleable and vulnerable, wanderers at times in need of an anchor – a role model – to instill in them the importance, indeed, the priority of academics, responsibility, and character, qualities that succor accountable adult lives. If that anchor is a coach, so be it. In the long-range vision of what’s important for the overwhelming majority of student-athletes, winning in the sports world on the court won’t mean as much as winning in the real world beyond the court. To his credit, Wright has used both a hammer and a hug to minister and mentor.
The Villanova Wildcats have been all about five, a group full of fairly anonymous players who have finally shed the underachiever label and led the program to its first Final Four trip since 2009. This is a true team. One moment, Josh Hart looks like the Wildcats’ best player. On the next possession, it’s Ryan Arcidiacono. Shoot, some announcers can’t correctly pronounce Arcidiacono –- and many writers can’t spell it.
Villanova coach Jay Wright has become a bit of a style icon. He’ll have on a perfectly tailored suit for the Wildcats’ Final Four match-up against the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday.It’s all thanks to Gabriele D’Annunzio, a master tailor from Newtown Square.
Jay Wright can’t spell Ryan Arcidiacono’s last name
And last, but not least, here is a post I wrote last year about Jay Wright.
… but the thing I’ll always remember about Jay, and the reason why I have so much respect for Jay, was a little incident that I was likely the only person to witness. read more