Some memories will never be forgotten

Phil Consuegra

As someone who has covered Villanova basketball in various capacities since I arrived here in 2003, I want to preface this column by saying that this was, without a doubt, the hardest column I have ever had to write. No, I’m not going to focus on what happened that fateful night at the Metrodome. I had already written that one right after the game, but that’s not what I want to highlight. Instead, I want to focus on what really occurred this season. Now, on to the story.

I want everyone reading this, at the end of this column, to close your eyes and think back on your favorite memory this season. Think about that one moment that made you look at this team and realize that they are more than just a basketball team. Think about that special story that made you nod your head and simply say, “Incredible.”

But don’t do that yet. Let me remind you of some that have been forever etched in my own mind.

The limo at Hoops Mania: It began with a classy entrance, a classy entrance for a classy group of guys.

When Mike Nardi jumped around in joy giving us the “V” after beating Oklahoma. Dick Vitale’s wardrobe change because of the blue paint on his sleeve after visiting the ‘Nova Nation. Seeing the look on Kevin Bookout’s face after that game. He looked like he didn’t know what hit him.

When the guys toughed it out against Rutgers and left the RAC in silence. When the ‘Cats got out to a huge lead against Syracuse and hung on at the end. When Gerry McNamara was completely shut down by Mike Nardi at the Wachovia Center.

When Sheridan kicked it out to Ray to take the lead against Marquette with under two minutes left. When Dante got free against Cincinnati to win the game. When the shortest kid on the court, Kyle Lowry, tipped the ball in over the two tallest against Notre Dame. Mike Nardi’s birthday party against Lousiville, where he shot the lights out.

When St. Joe’s took a 12-point lead into halftime, only to come out and play a whole different Villanova team in the second half. It was like the ‘Cats spotted them the first half and 12 points. The four consecutive dunks were astonishing. The look on those St. Joe’s kids’ faces was priceless – oh wait, they ran out of the Palestra too quickly for us to see them. But I’m sure they were still pretty funny. When we chanted, “This is Penn’s house” to the St. Joe’s kids who mistakenly chanted “This is our house” at the Palestra.

How the story of Randy Foye became an inspiration to all of us. When his grandmother walked with him on the court during senior night. When the entire student section chanted, “Thank you seniors” at the end of the St. John’s game.

The UConn game: I can’t tell you how many amazing moments came out of that game. We could start with Will Sheridan’s career game, or with Mike Nardi’s trey to take the lead after the ‘Cats clawed back from a 13-point deficit early in the second half. How about Marcus Williams running into his own teammate at the end of the game, with Allan Ray sealing the deal at the free throw line?

The Sweet Sixteen game against Boston College: A game where every expert picked ‘Nova to lose, as they faced a bigger and nastier BC team. It took a lot out of them, but they beat the big men to advance. Down most of the game, they did it in familiar fashion: comeback style.

Jay’s suits: They just look so good all the time. In a wardrobe match between Jay and Rick Pitino, I’ll take Jay every single time.

Now for my personal number one: At the Big East tournament, when Allan Ray went down with the eye injury, it stopped being about basketball. It stopped being about championships. The team didn’t care about the game anymore, they cared about Allan Ray. We cared about Allan Ray. No focus on the court and all the focus on one of our own. Why is it my number one? Because there was a collective sigh of relief heard ’round Villanova when we knew he was going to be all right. Not because we wanted to win, but because we wanted him to be all right, because we care more about the people and the family than a win or a loss. He came back strong, with a 19-point performance against Monmouth.

Those are just a few of the memories I’ll take with me from this season. Sure, the loss to Florida stings. Sure, it’s tough to stomach. But this season has been, by far, one of the most magical seasons in our school’s history. What this team brought to the Villanova community will never be forgotten. The seniors – those whom we will never replace or forget – made me feel even more honored to be graduating with the class of ’06. Florida may have ended our season, but they could never take away our spirit or our heart. You’re reading an article right now from one proud member of the ‘Nova Nation. For life.

The moral of the story: Will Sheridan put it perfectly when he said these guys are more than just a basketball team. They are forever our team, forever our family. A family we all care about and will always remember as long as we’re Villanovans. A personal note to the team: thanks. Thanks for making this so special. Thanks for making our senior year even more unforgettable. It was one hell of a ride, and I’d take it again in a heartbeat, no question.

Now, close your eyes. Close your eyes and think of your moment. Make that one moment your own personal treasure. No matter which one you pick, thanks to this one special Villanova Wildcat family; it will always be there.