Sielski: Arcidiacono has that 4.7 seconds for life

SIELSKI08-Arcidiacono
Villanova celebrated its national championship season with its awards dinner and banquet at the Pavilion on April 20, 2016. (Left to right) Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, and Phil Booth celebrate as a replay is shown of Kris Jenkins game-winning shot at the end of the national championship game.

Ryan Arcidiacono cleaned out his lockers the other day. It was weird, he said, to think that another Villanova basketball player, maybe a freshman he hasn't met yet or doesn't know well, will move into those lockers next year, but he didn't get emotional about the whole thing. He didn't cry. He and his parents attended Mass at Villanova's chapel then made stops at the Pavilion and the Davis Center. He took down his nameplates and gave them to his mother to save.

It was all pretty quick. Arcidiacono already had removed most of his gear days before. Besides, the three of them were going to dinner, he said, "and I was just hungry. I wanted to go get some food."

The transition from life during college to life after college is often abrupt for any undergrad. Despite the forever moment that he and Kris Jenkins and the rest of the Wildcats created on that early April night in Houston - when they beat North Carolina, 77-74, on Jenkins' buzzer-beating three-pointer to win the NCAA national championship - Arcidiacono's experience hasn't been much different. On Monday morning, he finished off his final classes at 'Nova. On Monday afternoon, he moved to College Park, Md., into an apartment with one bathroom, one bedroom, and a closet-sized kitchen. "It does its job," he said. His agent, Joel Bell, is based in nearby Gaithersburg, and the proximity allows Arcidiacono to better prepare himself for the succession of workouts he hopes to have with NBA teams ahead of the draft on June 23.

Fifteen teams, including the 76ers, have contacted Arcidiacono to express interest in working him out, he confirmed. So he puts himself through two hours of basketball drills each morning and two hours of weight training each afternoon, understanding that if he's to have an NBA career, it will likely be as a backup guard, someone who can run a team from the point position and spot up for an open jump shot. At 6-foot-3 and 191 pounds, he sees Matthew Dellavedova of the Cleveland Cavaliers as a template for the player he can be, if he can show himself capable of defending the speed and length of the average NBA guard.

"College fulfilled itself so perfectly that I'm in a really good spot," Arcidiacono said in a recent phone interview. "If I make the NBA, if I go overseas, I'll be doing something I love every single day: playing basketball and getting paid to do it. I'm going to shoot for the stars and try to make the NBA. It only takes one person to like you. Twenty nine teams might not like me, but one team might."

The month since the national title game has been what his father, Joe, called "a whirlwind tour of honor and happiness." There were appearances at Phillies, Flyers, Sixers, and Union games, with a standing ovation at each. There was the day that he and his teammates rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. There was the visit they made to the home of a 4-year-old Havertown boy who has cancer. There have been too many handshakes and hugs and back pats to count.

"Every week it's died down a little," Arcidiacono said. "People still ask for pictures, and they're still asking about the national championship, but the further you go along in time, everything just dies down a little bit. But it's been great. It was so unexpected to win the national championship and to experience all the stuff that could come from it. You can't really put it into words. You go anywhere, and you're talking to people who are congratulating you. You're saying, 'Thank you,' probably a hundred times a day."

If anything, the manner in which Villanova won made it easier for Arcidiacono to move on to the next phase of his life in basketball. He left nothing unfinished, nothing to regret. "It's like, 'OK, it's not even sad that his career ended,' " Joe Arcidiacono said.

No one at Villanova has played more games than his 144, and he won 117 of them. No other Villanova player has surpassed 1,500 points and 500 assists in his career, as Arcidiacono did. He was the Final Four's most outstanding player. His last act as a Villanova basketball player was to make the unforgettable possible.

On Thursday afternoon, after lifting weights at a Gold's Gym, he noticed that someone had posted a video of the national championship game's closing sequence - Jenkins' inbounds pass, Arcidiacono's six dribbles and underhand-flip pass back to Jenkins, the shot and the bedlam and the joy, all in 4.7 seconds - on his Twitter feed, and Arcidiacono lost himself for 15 minutes, watching the play again from every angle.

"That'll always be there," he said. So he will participate in Villanova's commencement ceremonies this Friday and Saturday, and he will drive back down I-95 to that tiny apartment in Maryland, for his next dream to chase, for the next stage. "But that last 4.7 seconds . . . " Ryan Arcidiacono said. "I'll have it for life."

msielski@phillynews.com

@MikeSielski