A-Ray surges in Argentina

Courtney Scrib

From classrooms to chat rooms to Instant Messenger profiles, it is obvious that ‘Nova Nation has one thing on its mind: men’s basketball.

Even though the season does not officially start until October, sports experts and analysts are already keeping their eye on and expecting big things from the 2005-06 Villanova men’s basketball team. In several national preseason polls, the Wildcats have been ranked as high as number three.

However, Coach Jay Wright and the players choose to remain indifferent to the hype.

“There is no way we are going to let this team think that it is bigger and better than anyone else. We are going to continue to work hard and stay humble,” senior Curtis Sumpter told Media Relation’s Mike Sheridan. “There’s no need to get cocky now […] There is no room for that on this team right now.”

Although the ‘Cats may not be cocky, they do enter the season with confidence, in large part to the impressive summer performances of seniors Randy Foye and Allan Ray.

Foye, along with Coach Wright and the other members of the United States team, returned home from the World University Game in Turkey as gold-medal winners. Meanwhile, Ray was selected as one of 12 college all-stars to represent the United States at the 21-and-Under World Championships in Argentina.

Last season Ray emerged as Villanova’s top scorer with 16.2 ppg and earned second team All-Big East and first team All-Philadelphia Big Five honors. In addition to his personal accomplishments, the 6-2 guard also had reason to celebrate as the Wildcats finished the season with a 24-8 record and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 17 years.

Then in June the Bronx native was invited to the USA Basketball 21 and Under Team Trials in Dallas, TX. Although the competition was intense, by the end of the week, Ray was chosen to represent his country in Argentina, along with eleven other college basketball stars, like Duke’s J.J. Redick and Wake Forest’s Justin Gray. Above anything else, Ray credits his success at the USA Basketball Trials to Coach Wright and the lessons instilled into him at Villanova.

“I think a big reason I made the team is not because of my scoring but all of the little things I’ve done since we got here . . . That’s the way we play at Villanova. I’m used to playing hard and concentrating on doing the little things that help you win. I think that attitude helped me here.”

Throughout the tournament, Ray continuously proved himself a threat both offensively and defensively. In the USA’s preliminary round 94-79 defeat of Puerto Rico, the Bronx native connected on all five of his three-point attempts and scored a team-high 20 points. Two days later on August 10, Ray had another dominating performance with 12 points (5-of-9 from the floor) and five steals to help United States triumph over Slovenia, 82-79 and improve to a perfect 5-0 record heading into the quarterfinal round.

In a match that USA and Saint Joseph’s University head coach Phil Martelli described as “a matter of maximum effort against sporadic effort,” the United States spent most of the quarterfinal game fighting from behind and ultimately was edged out by Canada, 93-90, in overtime. Once again Ray finished the game as the team’s leading scorer with 16 points.

Despite being disappointed about missing out on the gold medal, Ray and the other members of team were determined to show how much pride they have in USA Basketball by coming back with a vengeance and winning the next two games.

After defeating Puerto Rico, 99-79, the United States demolished Argentina, 111-85, to secure a fifth place finish.

“It was important to us to at least finish with the best record at 7-1,” Ray, who scored a combined 25 points in the two victories, said. By the end of the tournament, he had averaged 12.3 points in eight games and was U.S. team’s leading scorer.

“One of the main reasons I did this is that I wanted to prove myself to the basketball world,” Ray said. “If I could play well against some of the best players in the country, it would do a lot for me personally and our team at Villanova.”

Even after a summer that featured gold medals and leading scorers, Ray and his teammates still refuse to call themselves the best. Instead they’ll let their actions do all of the talking.