Scottie Reynolds stepped onto the court and immediately flashed a smile that couldn't be erased. The looseness he played with during his four years at Villanova was evident once again. Before the game started, he swayed to the warm-up music at Philadelphia University's Gallagher Athletic Center.
Slipped inside his bright neon blue sneakers, he pointed to the crowd when he was introduced by the public address announcer. As he dribbled the ball up court, he held up hand signals, yelled, "Hey! Hey!" and his teammates listened.
As his team took a nine-point first-half lead, he belted "Let's go!" while coming off the court for a timeout. In the huddle, he was the one doing the talking.
If only for an evening, this was Scottie Reynolds in his comfort zone.
Reynolds teamed up with a group consisting mostly of former Villanova players in The Basketball Tournament last weekend. Despite losing in the first round, he enjoyed his time back in Philadelphia. He always does. Reynolds led the Wildcats to their fourth Final Four in program history in 2009 with his iconic buzzer-beater in the Elite Eight. He finished his career as the school's second-leading scorer.
But life after Villanova hasn't quite been as glamorous. He's the only first-team Associated Press all-American since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976 not to be selected in the NBA draft and he's never played in an NBA game.
It used to weigh on him. He used to ask himself, "Why? Why? Why?" He used to feel like he let people down.
But Reynolds has since come to grips with what has become of his career.
"This whole idea about the NBA, and NBA this and NBA that, that will always be a goal," Reynolds said. "But if it happens, great, and if not, I'll try and be the best basketball player I can be."
In the last seven years, Reynolds has played for 10 different teams in seven different countries and is currently a free agent. He played with the Phoenix Suns' summer league team in 2010. He was signed by the Utah Jazz in December 2011, but never played before being waived. In between, he spent time in Italy and the NBA Development League.
To continue his career long term, it had to be outside the United States and Reynolds was frustrated by the new environments.
Playing on his first overseas team in Italy, Reynolds once messed up the wattage conversion on his clippers. They smoked up and died, just like his Xbox eventually did. Eating was no simpler task, as he recalled buying pancake syrup that tasted like cough medicine.
"I know [the transition] kind of messed him up a little," said Villanova teammate Reggie Redding, who has stayed in touch with Reynolds.
But acclimating to a foreign lifestyle was the only way Reynolds could push his career forward. He honed in on his passing ability and physicality - two lacking traits that kept him out of the NBA - and stopped worrying about what could have been.
During recent workouts near his home in Virginia, Reynolds said words in other languages after missing shots - a sign to offseason training partner Errol Robinson that he's fully immersed himself in the European game.
"There's a tendency to always look back at the United States and home and always reminisce about home, those types of things," Reynolds said, "instead of really diving into your teammates, really diving into the club, and really diving into the culture."
Reynolds' evolution didn't happen overnight. It took time and is still occurring. His mind, Reynolds said, is constantly being opened up to new experiences. Ones he used to dread are now enjoyable.
This past year, Reynolds averaged 9.1 points and 4.3 assists in 28.4 minutes in 16 games for Italy's Enel Brindisi as well as 18.0 points and 6.0 assists in seven games for Israel's Hapoel Holon.
"He feels more comfortable with it now, which definitely affects his play," Errol Robinson said. "When he's more comfortable, he plays a lot better."
Antywane Robinson, a teammate with Reynolds on Enel Brindisi in 2012, said Reynolds is never tense on the court. Chris Lofton, a teammate with Reynolds on Turkey's Besiktas JK in 2015, said the game comes easy for Reynolds.
The 28-year-old Reynolds wants to play at least until he's 35. He thinks he still has "four or five good years left."
Reynolds has shifted his outlook toward the long term. He has a 5-year-old daughter and knows he has a limited window to provide as much as he can for her. When he can't see her in person, they "FaceTime all the time."
Reynolds wants to be respected by his peers. Someone telling him "he was a killer when he was on the court" is one of the highest compliments he can receive, regardless of where he plays.
"You're just as influential, just as respected as when you're in the NBA," Reynolds said. "I never would have thought that coming out of college."
Last weekend at Gallagher Athletic Center, Reynolds began to put on the show he wanted to. He scored 19 points and knocked down five three-pointers. One of his threes involved a step back off the dribble. Swish. Oohs and ahhs followed from the crowd.
"He has a killer instinct in him," Redding said. ". . . He lives for the moment."
On the next possession, though, Reynolds suffered a dislocated right shoulder. He ran off the court screaming and wincing in pain. He was forced to watch the final 15 minutes from the sideline. An X-ray later revealed no structural damage.
Now Reynolds waits. He has some overseas offers for the season but is figuring out which would be the best fit for him. The NBA is still a goal, but the older he gets, the less and less likely it is that he'll make it.
That, he said, no longer matters to him. He's hopeful he'll find a good spot and he'll be able to adjust to the culture and the team without a problem. A few years ago, this wasn't the case.