- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | It took Scottie Reynolds five seconds to rewrite his Villanova legacy.

Often roasted by media and fans for his shot-happy scorer’s mentality, the 6-foot-2 junior is now the toast of the Philadelphia area. His last-second floater against top-seeded Pittsburgh in Saturday’s East Region final sent the Wildcats to their first Final Four since 1985.

“My head is still spinning, man,” the Herndon native said. “It does feel good. I’m happy not just for me personally, but for all the guys before us and the entire Villanova family.”

Reynolds, who has spent his entire life feeling like a perimeter player on and off the court, is familiar with the concept of appreciating family.

“A lot of people have asked me about my story,” said Reynolds, whose Wildcats (30-7) face North Carolina (32-4), the No. 1 seed from the South Region, on Saturday. “It’s very emotional. Every time somebody asks that question, I just want to cry. It’s been a long road. It’s been a tough one. Not that anyone else’s isn’t. But it’s been a tough one.”

Born in Huntsville, Ala., to an impoverished single mother he never knew, Reynolds was adopted by Pam and Rick Reynolds, a couple who decided to raise a second family in Northern Virginia. He found his identity on the basketball court, becoming the leading scorer in Herndon High School history (2,033 points) and a 2006 McDonald’s All-American during his senior season.

As a high school junior, he signed a letter of intent to play for Oklahoma after forming a strong bond with four other coveted Sooners’ recruits and then-coach Kelvin Sampson and his wife… only to once again have the planks of his future ripped out from beneath him when Sampson left for Indiana in the spring of 2006.

Released from his commitment to Oklahoma after Sampson’s departure, Reynolds decided to attend college closer to home. His first choice was Georgetown.

“I always liked Georgetown coming up,” said Reynolds, who still plays pickup hoops with the Hoyas every summer at McDonough Gymnasium. “That was like my team, set in stone.”

But coach John Thompson III was out of scholarships. So Reynolds signed with Villanova practically sight unseen, largely because the Wildcats had just lost the bulk of their backcourt with the departures of Allan Ray, Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry.

“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.”

Despite the awkward transition Reynolds, a freshman All-American in 2007, averaged 14.8 points and led the Wildcats to an NCAA tournament berth. But veteran teammates like guard Mike Nardi considered Reynolds a selfish player who always looked for his own shot.

“Sure, I heard all the criticism,” Reynolds said. “At times I felt like an outsider on my own team.”

In the two seasons since, Reynolds has become less of the focal point of Villanova’s offense as the talent around him has matured. Silver Spring’s Dante Cunningham (16.2 points, 7.4 rebounds) leads the team in scoring and rebounding this season. And sophomore guard Corey Fisher emerged as a reliable playmaker.

But with 5.5 seconds left on the clock and Villanova’s season hanging in the balance against Pittsburgh, there was no question who was getting the ball.

“I love having him in that situation,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “There’s no doubt in our mind that guy’s going to make an aggressive play at the end of the game.”

When the play first began to unfold, Villanova fans might have felt a certain amount of ambivalence. After all, though Reynolds ranks 18th on the program’s all-time scoring list (1,603 points), he has also missed his share of big shots.

“I’d say I’ve made like three or four [game-winners at the buzzer],” Reynolds said. “I’ve had a lot of misses, a lot of misses. But that’s the way it goes. … You can’t be afraid to fail.”

No fear. A perfect tip pass from Cunningham off the inbounds. Four dribbles. A step-slide by Pittsburgh All-American DeJuan Blair at the foul line. Elevate into Pitt’s Gilbert Brown in the lane. Bang. Drop the biggest last-second bucket in Villanova history since Howard Porter’s jumper to force double overtime in the 1971 NCAA semis.

No matter what happens against North Carolina, Reynolds will always have March 28, 2009. That’s the night he earned a cherished place in Wildcats lore.

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