The Nova Notebook, by director of media relations Mike Sheridan, profiles Ryan Arcidiacono, who spent part of the summer as a member of an Italian National Team that toured China.
That his last name has been known to vex a few play-by-play broadcasters and arena public address announcers has never been an issue for Ryan Arcidiacono. He'll politely offer the proper pronunciation when asked - it is "Archie-dee-ack-ah-no" - and smiles good naturedly when friends or family members mention a particularly egregious effort they have heard, understanding that it can be a mouthful when spoken rapidly during live game action.
This summer, though, his last name was less tongue twister than it was door opener.
Arcidiacono spent about 30 days in June and July playing for an Italian National Team that traveled to the southern part of China for a series of events. The trip offered him his first extended experience abroad and included a stretch in Rome.
As it turns out, the initial overture was owed to his name.
"We were approached about it because of our last name," says Arcidiacono. "They wondered if I could potentially play for the team. It ended up that I could and it was a great experience. Italy was awesome - the food and people were great. We got to see a lot of the country and it is beautiful."
Arcidiacono's family traces its roots to the region near Sicily but the native of Langhorne, Pa., had never been to Europe before this. In fact, his only previous visit outside the continental United States came last Thanksgiving when the Wildcats claimed the Battle 4 Atlantis championship in the Bahamas.
"My Italian needs a lot of work," he states with a laugh. "Fortunately, a lot of people there speak English."
The man from America was the youngest member of a unit that consisted of athletes born from 1990-93 competing against mostly U-25 players during the events in China. The group began its training camp in the northern mountains of Italy before heading south to Rome. It then played in three tournaments in China.
While most of his teammates were fluent in Italian, Arcidiacono picked up enough of the language to communicate on the court. One word proved particularly valuable: "cambio", which signaled for a teammate to switch on defense.
"It was probably harder for my teammates who were yelling things out to me in English than it was for me," says Arcidiacono, who tallied 14 points in one of the tournament games in China and eight points in another.
More important in the long view than statistics from games in distant lands is how the adventure informed Arcidiacono's game as he looks ahead to his junior season at Villanova in 2014-15.
"It gave me a different view of my game and the way I play," Arcidiacono stated. "I learned how I fit in with the European style and different ways to attack. It was a little bit different from what we do here at `Nova but it was generally the same thing. I just learned a lot playing for different coaches and with different players."
"I thought I played well."
In his role as a point guard, Arcidiacono has always gone to great lengths to be sure he is on the same wavelength as his coach. It has been his way in two years playing for Jay Wright at Villanova but this summer's experience required an adjustment owed to the language barrier.
"Coach Wright could tell you - any time I play for him or anyone really, I want to know what that coach wants exactly," he notes. "I'm constantly asking questions. That was the tough part over there - you couldn't really do that. I would ask a question and a lot of times the answer would be something similar but not exactly what I was looking for. It took me some time to get used to that."
When it came time for Arcidiacono to return to the United States after 30 days he was eager to do so.
"It was good to get away but I was definitely ready to be back here," states Arcdiacono. "The last week in China I was ready to get back here with the guys, work out with them and be with the coaches. Just being on the same sleep schedule and eating the foods I like is good."
Since his return to the United States, Arcidiacono has been sharpening the tools that have served him well in his first two campaigns as a Wildcat. He has been a bellwether at the guard spot for the `Cats averaging 10.9 points and 3.5 assists per game in his career. As a sophomore, he cut his turnovers in half from the 96 he committed as a rookie in '12-13 to last season's count of 48.
"I'm working on being a better leader and taking better shots," says the man who earned captain's honors midway through his freshman year and has held them firmly since.
As a team captain - alongside the graduated James Bell - he helped steer VU to a 29-5 finish that included the program's first outright BIG EAST regular season title since 1982.
"I thought it was an amazing year," he states. "We accomplished many things. It may have ended a little early, but I still think we had one of the best years in college and maybe one of the best years in school history. Twenty nine wins is a great feat.
"I'm just looking forward to this year. In our (summer) workouts, we all know what Coach Wright wants and expects. Now it's just us competing rather than him teaching concepts or stressing that we have to play hard. Everyone knows the details of how we want to play."
For his part, Arcidiacono returns with a perspective enhanced by his month abroad. And if he does not yet boast the linguistic chops of a native son, there is time for that. A door opened last spring by an inquisitive Italian team representative opened a new vista for the Villanova guard known by most in the Nova Nation as "Arch".
It may be ciao for now for Arcidiacono and Italy. But the lessons learned don't figure to evaporate any time soon.