Arcidiacono Eager to Make Up For Lost Time
This edition of the Nova Notebook, by director of media relations Mike Sheridan, features a look at one of Villanova Basketball's incoming freshmen, guard Ryan Arcidiacono.
First, to the matter at hand.
"I haven't felt a pain since I woke up from surgery," said Arcidiacono of a procedure from Dec. 21, 2011 that allowed doctors to remove a herniated fragment in his back. "I feel great."
That is, of course, the best kind of news for those who have paid close attention to the rise of a local basketball standout whose family roots extend back a generation to his parents, Joe and Patti, both Villanova graduates. Joe Arcidiacono was an exceptional athlete in his own right, a former Wildcat football captain (1980).
So the fact the younger Arcidiacono was on the court this summer moving as he had before the injury is clearly a step forward.
The tale of the setback that cost Arcidiacono his final season of basketball begins not long after the conclusion of a stellar junior season at Neshaminy High School in March 2011 when he began feel soreness in his back. Over the course of the subsequent months and treatment, the pain lingered before the decision was made in November of that year to pursue surgery. The rehabilitation from that procedure sidelined him for the balance of Neshaminy's 2011-12 campaign.
"It was tough to watch," stated Arcidiacono of 2011-12. "We didn't have the kind of year we wanted and I felt like if I had played, I could have helped my guys out. It was the first time I had ever missed a game. (Before) when I had an injury, I was able to play through it."
News of Arcidiacono's setback did not escape the notice of the Nova Nation. His signing to a national letter of intent had been viewed as a significant coup for a guard included on most lists of the nation's top 50 seniors. Suddenly there was a dose of uncertainty introduced into a recipe that a few months earlier looked like the classic local boy makes good storyline.
While we are still two months away from Arcidiacono's anticipated debut in a Villanova uniform, the months since the surgery have seen the new arrival make steady progress in his return to health. A gradual progression saw Arcidiacono resume full basketball activities in the spring and he was cleared in time to try out for the USA U18 team in early June (he was not selected to the squad).
"There were times when I felt like I wanted to quit," he stated, "but I just knew that I was getting better. The frustrating part was that there were times I felt like I could go faster because I thought it would be easy. But I learned to be patient with it and gradually I was able to do more. First I could shoot and then I could dribble and then we moved on to being able to take jump shots.
"It was a process and it just feels great to be back now."
If others fretted about the injury and what it might portend, Arcidiacono did not once the source of his discomfort was identified. In large part that was because Arcidiacono and his parents consulted with specialists and understood the scope of the injury in a way the public could not. Arcidiacono studied other athletes who had suffered the same injury and saw nothing that would prohibit him from returning to top form.
"I looked up some people who had the injury and felt good about the recovery I could make," he said. "My back feels great, my body feels great and I am almost back to 100 percent with my speed and quickness. I'm 100 percent (healthy), I just need to sharpen the speed and quickness, which takes time after you are out as long as I was."
The Villanova coaching staff, which this summer was permitted to work with its student-athletes under new NCAA legislation, has seen the strides Arcidiacono has made.
"Just in the short time we've been able to work with him, I've seen him get stronger and grow more confident," stated associate head coach Billy Lange. "He's really taken to the weightlifting regimen we have here and is better conditioned now than he was when we started, which is what you would expect coming off not playing last season. In every workout we have, we see the things he can bring to this program."
"We're excited about Arch's progress," added head coach Jay Wright. "He's done a great job of listening to the doctors and our trainer, Jeff Pierce, and our focus now is on teaching him what it takes to be a true Villanova guard."
So then, what of the rest of the Arcidiacono story? The broad strokes may be familiar to you. Joe and Patti Arcidiacono have raised a family of five children that also includes Sabrina (26), Nicole (25), Michael (21), Christopher and Courtney (12) in Bucks County, Pa.
Villanova was certainly a familiar presence in the family's life.
As a youngster, Ryan sampled most of the major sports. He excelled in baseball and yes, football, before deciding in junior high school that perhaps basketball was the one which meant the most to him.
"I was scared to tell my Dad I wanted to quit football because he loved football the most," Arcidiacono said of his decision made in the eighth grade. "Once I told him, though, he was really happy. He said, `all right, now we are going to focus on you being really good in basketball.'"
It became so quickly. Arcidiacono's blend of tenacity, smarts, and shooting touch helped establish him as one of the premier prospects in the Delaware Valley. Following his sophomore year, a showcase event held on the campus of the University of North Carolina elevated his standing. After hearing from a number of top shelf programs, Arcidiacono selected Villanova over Florida.
Arcidiacono went on to enjoy a superb junior campaign, averaging better than 22 points and seven assists per outing while scoring his 1,000th career point at Neshaminy before his injury flared in late March.
The freshman spent much of this past summer on his new campus following high school graduation. He resumed full-court activity in April and in June traveled to Colorado Springs in a bid to qualify for the USA U18 squad. The long layoff from organized competition no doubt hindered him in that quest, but Arcidiacono found a silver lining when he failed to gain one of the coveted 12 berths on the final roster - he was able to spend the first summer session on campus, absorbing all that he could from his coaches and new teammates.
Now, he is looking straight ahead, toward a college career he has long envisioned.
"I think I bring toughness every day in practice," he stated. "I'm not too selfish - I'm going to pass it, look for threes here and there. I like to pass it and get my teammates involved. I want to be a tough Villanova guard."
"The obvious thing `Arch' adds is shooting," noted Lange. "He has the ability to make big shots. Beyond that, though, I think he brings an attitude and work ethic where you know he wants to get better every day. It's infectious and it's the same kind of thirst for improvement that Mike Nardi brought here when he was a freshman."
Following a challenging season when a chipped fragment in his back allowed him to get no closer than the sideline, Arcidiacono relishes the chance to be at the center of the battle once again.
The matter at hand, you see, has come around quite nicely.
The hope in the Nova Nation is that some day, perhaps soon, it will cease to be a matter worth mentioning at all.