- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2007

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Scottie Reynolds winces, takes a deep breath and searches for the right words to describe the year of his discontent.

Twelve months ago, Reynolds was one of the Beltway’s top recruits, a McDonald’s All-American and Oklahoma commitment preparing to lead Herndon to Virginia’s group AAA title game. That seemingly carefree kid now is hard to find in the features of a man who sighs visibly inside a Villanova gym on Philadelphia’s Main Line.

“I can’t lie. It’s been a pretty tough year, a pretty rough transition from high school to college,” said Reynolds, who as a freshman has started every game this season for Villanova, which plays host to Georgetown tomorrow. “But I’m finally starting to feel comfortable, finally starting to feel like I belong to this basketball family.”

Unlike many college players and virtually all freshmen, Reynolds rarely reaches for dependable cliches during interviews. But describing him simply as thoughtful doesn’t do justice to the depth and maturity of his demeanor, which occasionally borders on brooding. Both his words and their delivery appear to come from a 40-year-old sage, not a 19-year-old student.

Perhaps his philosophical personality was inevitable.

Reynolds was given up for adoption in Huntsville, Ala., at birth by a mother he has never met. As a black child adopted and raised by white parents, Reynolds grew up facing society’s combination of strange looks and awkward questions — something perhaps guaranteed to intrude further upon a child’s innocence.

“I want to thank her for giving me a chance to have a life — a real life,” said Reynolds, referring to his biological mother, then poor and single. “But my parents are Pam and Rick Reynolds. I owe them everything.”

His background helped make Reynolds more prepared than most to undergo months of emotional uncertainty last year, when former Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson abruptly left for Indiana last March.

“After we lost the state championship game, everybody said, ‘Look to your next step.’ That was Coach Sampson and Oklahoma,” Reynolds said. “But then he left, and so did the entire coaching staff. My first thoughts were, ‘Who am I supposed to trust? What do I do now?’ For a year and a half, I was one of five guys headed to Oklahoma because that’s the school I fell in love with and those were my guys. We talked all the time. Everything was set. And then it all disappeared in a day.”

Reynolds could have stayed with Oklahoma, but fellow star recruits Damion James (Texas) and Jeremy Mayfield (Alabama-Birmingham) immediately received releases from their letters of intent and headed elsewhere, scrambling to secure scholarships at a time when most schools had long finished filling their rosters.

Reynolds could have gone to Indiana, following the coach who was the cornerstone of his commitment to the Sooners. Not only was he disillusioned by Sampson’s betrayal, but Reynolds had lived years with his family in Chicago — not necessarily a strong area for the rival Hoosiers.

“Illinois and Indiana are like oil and water. You just don’t see Illinois kids go to Bloomington that often,” Reynolds said. “It was time for a fresh start anyway.”

Many expected that start to come at Georgetown. Reynolds’ AAU teammate and “super-close friend” Vernon Macklin had committed to Georgetown, and the Hoyas had one area of weakness — its thin backcourt — an otherwise loaded squad.

There was just one problem: Georgetown didn’t have a scholarship available. John Thompson III and his staff already had promised places to high school juniors Austin Freeman (DeMatha) and Chris Wright (St. John’s). And Josh Thornton and Marc Egerson, two players who left Georgetown this season, were still taking up slots. So Thompson and the Hoyas told a McDonald’s All-American at a needed position there was no room.

“It just didn’t work out,” said Reynolds, a grimace returning to his face. “I wouldn’t sit here and say that I cried that I couldn’t go there, but it was a little tough to swallow at first. Situations happen where things don’t work out the way you want, and you’ve just got to live with it. Coach Thompson told me it wasn’t because I wasn’t good enough. The timing just wasn’t right. They were out of spots. It would have been a good situation if it had worked out because I’ve played with Vernon and Chris [Wright] and against Jeremiah [Rivers], so I knew all those guys.”

Instead, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Reynolds signed with one of the Hoyas’ most heated rivals, filling a hole in Villanova’s backcourt left by the departures of Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye and Allan Ray.

“It was very awkward at first because I didn’t know anyone and I was very hesitant to trust anyone because of all that had happened,” Reynolds said. “I didn’t know the coaches or the other players. I didn’t know the freshmen coming in with me. I didn’t know anybody on the campus. Nobody.”

It didn’t take long for Reynolds’ game to make the necessary introductions. After a slow start in which he was overly deferential to the team’s starting senior trio of Curtis Sumpter, Will Sheridan and Mike Nardi, Reynolds has become invaluable to Jay Wright’s guard-centric system. He’s averaging 15.0 points in Big East games, second among league freshmen behind Seton Hall’s Eugene Harvey (15.7 points).

On Jan. 17, he recorded a career-high 27 points in a victory over Notre Dame. Three days later, he outplayed freshman sensation and likely national player of the year Kevin Durant (26 points to Durant’s 12) in a win over Texas. But perhaps sweetest for the Wildcats’ freshman, Reynolds led his team with 16 points and had four steals in Villanova’s 56-52 upset of the Hoyas on Jan. 8.

Said Thompson: “Scottie Reynolds is terrific, absolutely terrific. I know he’s going to score 50 points every time he plays us.”

The 14th-ranked Hoyas (19-5, 9-2) have won eight straight entering tomorrow’s matchup at Wachovia Center. Perhaps it would be fitting for Reynolds to play the key role in ending that streak.

“Coach Thompson is a good dude, and there’s no hard feelings between us,” said Reynolds, a gleam in his eyes shouting his thoughts. “But I think everybody knows when we step on the floor, it’s 40 minutes of everything for your teammates, coaches and family.”

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