Villanova freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono was obviously disappointed not to play his high school senior season at Neshaminy following December back surgery, but instead of pouting, he used his down time to his advantage.
Arcidiacono attended Villanova’s games, a valuable lesson into what it takes to compete at the Big East level.
He says he has been pain-free since the surgery and even though he didn’t play as a high school senior, Arcidiacono has benefited from the mental edge he received while spending time with the team last year.
In his first two games he has scored 36 points for the 2-0 Wildcats, following a 25-point effort in Sunday’s 80-68 victory over Marshall, a team expected to contend in highly competitive Conference USA.
Marshall was athletic, big and fast, but none of it was too much for Arcidiacono, who scored 20 of his points in the first half.
“I wish I could have played (last season) but coming to all the games and seeing the intensity of every possession, and seeing that every practice you have to bring it,” said Arcidiacono, who also had six assists.
Arcidiacono’s time spent with the team was also invaluable to coach Jay Wright.
“He came in here from day one knowing exactly what we wanted to do,” Wright said. “And he has a very high basketball IQ and I think that adds to his talent.”
Arcidiacono returned to playing basketball in April but he admits it took some time to feeling totally comfortable on the court.
The summer sessions with his teammates proved invaluable.
“I think I got back to where I was junior year at the end of the summer sessions,” Arcidiacono said. “Every day going up against the guys.”
What it showed him was how much he needed to improve.
“I was a still a step slow and every day I would work on my foot work and shooting,” he said. “…We then had a couple of weeks off until we came back to school but by that time I was ready to go.”
Wright said he had high expectations for Arcidiacono, but admitted that after the back surgery he wasn’t sure.
“I expected to see what I am seeing after his junior year,” Wright said. “When he got hurt, honestly we went out and got two transfers because I didn’t know if he would play again and that is the honest answer.”
Arcidiacono says he does stretching work every day before practice or a game. He says that when school began he felt physically fine and when practice started he was prepared for the mental aspect .
That is why Wright isn’t surprised by Arcidiacono’s quick start, fully realizing that the freshman made the most of his down time a year ago to ease his transition into college basketball.