June 7, 2013
The Nova Notebook, by director of media relations Mike Sheridan, takes an off-season look at guard Ryan Arcidiacono as he prepares for a trip to Colorado Springs.
His trip next week to Colorado Springs for USA Basketball's U19 Training Camp is, for Ryan Arcidiacono, a return engagement of sorts. One year ago he was part of a group of athletes competing for a slot on the national team's U18 squad.
When he reaches USA Basketball's headquarters this time, though, Arcidiacono will have something going for him he did not possess last year: a season of competitive basketball to draw upon. It figures to put him much more in the flow than he was last year less than six months removed from back surgery.
"Having a college season under my belt is big," says Arcidiacono, who was named to the BIG EAST All-Rookie squad in a 2012-13 season in which he started all 34 games for a Villanova unit that earned an NCAA Tournament bid with a 20-14 record.
"Coming into last summer I was just trying to play my game and get back into shape somewhat. I didn't get into shape until October."
In the spring of 2012, Arcidiacono was in the midst of the slow road back from December 2011 surgery that had kept him sidelined from playing for Neshaminy High School as a senior. And though there were no physical setbacks or further pain after the surgery, there was the small matter of rust and game conditioning to address. It was a laborious process that was in its early stages when USA Basketball candidates assembled last June in Colorado Springs. Arcidiacono was not selected to the team at the training camp.
"Last year was a great experience for me because I was rusty," he recalls. "I really didn't play well the first three workouts we had out there. But after that I thought I played pretty well. It didn't work out for me then but it was an honor to be invited and it's an honor to be asked back this year."
Arcidiacono is one of 24 athletes who will vie for a spot on the 12-man roster for the USA team that will represent the country at the U19 World Championship in Prague. Training camp gets underway in Colorado Springs on June 14. The team will be coached by Florida's Billy Donovan.
As he awaits that opportunity, Arcidiacono is on campus at Villanova attending summer school and working out with his teammates. The 6-3 guard is one of two returning team captains - senior James Bell is the other - and expects to assume more of a leadership role following the graduation of forward Mouphtaou Yarou.
"One of the things that Coach has talked to me about working on this off-season is taking more of a leadership role," states Arcidiacono.
Yarou offered a glowing example of just how valuable an on-court leader can be to a young team.
"Mouph was just awesome last year," states Arcidiacono. "He's a great person and is always just really positive. No matter what happened, he always had a great attitude. We're going to miss him on the court with rebounding, defense and off the court as a great leader."
On a young roster with a vacancy at point guard, Arcidiacono was not afforded a soft landing at the college level. As the Wildcats' primary ball-handler, the product of Neshaminy High School was tested from the start and never cracked. He started all 34 games and logged the most minutes of any Wildcat - an average of 34.0 mpg. In addition, he was named BIG EAST Rookie of the Week on three different occasions and averaged 11.9 ppg.
Perhaps just as significant were the big baskets he made along the way. Among the more memorable of those came in wins over Marshall (25 points), St. John's (a season high 32 points) and in the upset triumph over No. 5 Syracuse on Jan. 26 - his corner 3-pointer after Yarou collected an offensive rebound that tied the game and forced overtime. The `Cats eventually prevailed 75-71.
Arcidiacono was less concerned with those kind of numbers than the simple fact that he carried a heavy load with no setbacks and was part of a team that returned to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
"I thought it was a good year," he says of '12-13. "For me, it was just good to get back on the court. That was what I was most excited about. I got the chance to play for a local school that I had always wanted to go to. It was a success to me because we made strides all year and made it to the (NCAA) Tournament. Towards the end we really came together and we finished strong, even though we had a couple of losses there at the end."
One of the more promising elements of the success is that it was accomplished by a group that returns largely intact in '13-14. Yarou is the only one of the top seven Wildcats in minutes played who has moved on and Villanova adds the services of Dylan Ennis, who redshirted after transferring from Rice, along with new arrivals Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds to the equation.
"We had to get back to what Villanova Basketball was a few years ago and I thought we did it towards the end of the season," Arcidiacono states. "Teams knew what they were playing against when they played us. That's what we need to do this year - set the tone defensively, play hard, and play off of our defense to get some easy buckets."
The 2013-14 season remains off in the distance but the activity level around the Davis Center remains high. The Wildcats have been toiling diligently in workouts, lifting sessions and other elements of the nitty-gritty that can sometimes mean the difference between a pulsating victory or an excruciatingly painful loss in January.
Arcidiacono is fine-tuning a bit of his footwork and shooting mechanics this summer. Tinkering with technical aspects represent a welcome change from last summer, when the focus was merely on getting acclimated to the speed of the college game while scraping off the residue of an idle senior season at the high school level in 2011-12.
In the meantime he is bonding with his new teammates and offering them any insight he can. He will be listed as only a sophomore next season but like Scottie Reynolds, Mike Nardi and Randy Foye before him, "Arch" benefitted from a unique freshman opportunity that introduced him to a range of on-court experiences.
In Colorado Springs he is likely to find another laboratory in which to hone his craft.
"The experience of being there last year does help," he says. "It also helps that I have a full season of college basketball under my belt. I'm just going to go out there to play Villanova Basketball and be the best player I can be."
One season is in the books at Villanova for Ryan Arcidiacono.
He plans to put the lessons learned from it to good use.