EVERY SUNDAY that the Wildcats are at home, guard Scottie Reynolds attends 10:30 a.m. services at the Church of Christ in nearby King of Prussia, Pa.—even on game days. Last Jan. 6, for example, he rushed back from church and arrived at The Pavilion just 40 minutes before the tip-off of 'Nova's Big East home opener against Pitt. Reynolds struggled to find his shot that day, scoring just four points, but he did find forward Dante Cunningham inside with a pass that led to the winning free throws and helped the Wildcats pull out a 64--63 win. "Scottie's calm, quiet faith always shows through in tough situations," says coach Jay Wright.
Reynolds, a McDonald's All-American from Huntsville, Ala., made an immediate impact when he arrived two seasons ago. Surrounded by three seniors and Cunningham, he averaged a team-high 18.4 points per game in Big East play on his way to being named the league's Rookie of the Year. After he moved to point guard with a younger cast last season, Villanova got off to a 13--3 start. But nagging hand and knee injuries slowed him, and the Wildcats lost five straight, bottoming out with a 22-point loss to Big Five rival St. Joseph's on Feb. 4. The slump forced Reynolds to modify his game—and his leadership style. Soft-spoken by nature, he became a lot more vocal. "I knew I had to lead by example and set a new tone," says Reynolds.
The Wildcats finished 6--3 and clawed their way into the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed, then surprised the field by making it to the Sweet 16. Wright points to an 84--72 win over Siena in the second round—when Reynolds bedeviled the Saints with 25 points, five assists and eight rebounds—as evidence of his star's evolution. "When Scottie's contributing in all facets, that's when we run at full throttle," he says. "He's got to do everything for us."
Sophomore guards Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes join Reynolds in the Wildcats' Lilliputian offense, which has been dubbed Guard U in recent years as Wright has often gone with an up-tempo four-guard, one-forward lineup.
The 6'8" Cunningham, 'Nova's best big man, will again be called upon for an outsized contribution. Usually matched up against centers, he led the Wildcats in rebounding with 6.5 per game, almost half of which came off the offensive glass. He'll have help from promising sophomore Antonio Pe√±a and senior Dwayne Anderson, though at 6'8" and 6'6", respectively, neither gives 'Nova an especially imposing look.
Reynolds, though, is keeping faith in his frontcourt. "The whole Guard U idea is an outsiders-looking-in thing," he says. "Guards alone can't take [us] everywhere."
Texas (in New York)
at La Salle
* Philly Hoop Group Classic (also Penn State, Rhode Island, NJIT, Hartford)
Two of the nation's best backcourts face off in a city known for great guard play as the Longhorns' A.J. Abrams and Justin Mason duel with Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher at Madison Square Garden.
Jay Wright (8th year)
Big East record
Wildcats coach Jay Wright is collecting a top recruiting class and putting the Big East on alert, writes Kevin Armstrong.
Passion Player Reynolds battled hand and knee injures but remained 'Nova's leading scorer.