Off Campus: Reynolds stepping into some big shoes

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Villanova Basketball practice with Darryl Reynolds on campus in Villanova, Friday, September 30, 2016.

Darryl Reynolds looked around the locker room in Houston. Right away, celebration in full swing, Reynolds thought about the guys who were leaving and how important they were to Villanova, and not just the obvious names. He also couldn't help thinking ahead, right in the room, seeing all the guys who would be back.

A natural last-game thought for any college team, with one obvious difference.

"It didn't end with a loss," Reynolds said Friday. "It ended with a win."

While there was the parade and the visit to the White House and all that comes after an NCAA title, their life-size likenesses on the side of the Pavilion, there to see every time they walk out of their practice gym, Reynolds said the returning guys had to quickly ask, "How do we get humble, get back to work?"

How they answered will be determined in the months ahead, but after Villanova finished its first day of formal preseason practice, Reynolds was asked about an important transfer of inside power, with Daniel Ochefu gone and the 6-foot-8 senior from Lower Merion High taking over the low post.

"We were confident in him before he went out and played like he did when Daniel went out," Villanova coach Jay Wright said Friday. "We weren't surprised. But I think all his teammates and everyone around the program got real confident in him and I think that helped him, after the Providence game and a lot of the games he had played."

With Ochefu out, Reynolds had 19 points and 10 rebounds at No. 11 Providence, a team that had legit big men. Wright said Reynolds comes into this season "very different than a normal backup, just because of the impact he had on last season."

All this is important from the start because I'd make the case for Ochefu as 2016 Philadelphia sports MVP (so far, pre-Carson Wentz). You could argue for Ryan Arcidiacono or Josh Hart or Kris Jenkins and have plenty of facts on your side, but I'd start that list with Ochefu.

"Not even any guards are going to be able to take over Daniel's intelligence and impact defensively," Wright said. "We're going to have to do that as a team. Darryl has good athleticism. He can block shots like Daniel. He can rebound like Daniel. Daniel's intelligence and level of communication was superior, even better than some guards. It was really rare. I really thought by the time we got to the NCAA department, if you looked at Daniel's growth and development, he was the best big man in the NCAA tournament. For those six games, whoever we played, he was the better player."

Villanova lost one low-post option when the NCAA ruled freshman Omari Spellman, a big-time recruit, would have to sit out a year then have four years of eligibility.

"Even if Omari was playing, he'd have a chance to start, but he's a freshman - you knew he'd get in foul trouble, you knew conditioning [would be an issue]," Wright said. "You knew Darryl would be playing a lot and there was a good chance Darryl could start. He was always going to be a big part of what we would do. Now I think the question is who else is going to play there."

Wright cites Reynolds as a guy with natural leadership skills. Reynolds said his role is "whatever Coach needs out of his leaders. I can't say it'll be everything Daniel or Arch was, because I'm not Daniel or Arch. Me, Kris, and Josh are not Daniel and Arch . . . It's just different, different people. This program is the same, what we do is the same. At the same time, we're not them. Just like they did, we have to find our way as leaders. I don't feel like I'm completely there yet and hopefully I don't get there until the last day of the season. That's the beauty of all this."

The fact he had some personal success, Reynolds said, "it's nice in it's own way. I miss my brother. Daniel taught me so much, not just on the basketball court, just being a good man, a human being. In other ways, it's a different season."

Beyond the White House and the rest, the championship really sank in, Reynolds said, when he heard his name had gone up on a board in an elementary school in North Philadelphia. The board was there to list "heroes." One of the teachers had been a friend of Reynolds' father. That was enough to be a connection to what Villanova accomplished last season.

"I've never attended this school, I've never walked into this school, I've never been past this school," Reynolds said. "I thought that was pretty cool. To be looked up to by kids, at a place I personally have no ties to."

He still hasn't been to that school. He's a little busy these days, but he should visit.

"I do, I do," Reynolds said. "Everything else was phenomenal, but that right there warmed my heart."

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus