New Leadership and New Faces



Caroline Foley

Caroline Foley/The Villanovan

Six months ago the Wildcats capped off with one of the most impressive March Madness runs in NCAA History. 

Walking around campus, the celebrations continue with students adorned in championship gear gleefully high-fiving Kris Jenkins on their way to class. On social media, students relive the last 4.7 seconds of the game by posting pictures and video from Houston to celebrate “the six-month championship anniversary.” 

The Cinderella-like story marked the end of the Ryan Arcidiacono-Daniel Ochefu era, along with the effervescent presence of the Bench Mob. With team leaders Arcidiacono with the San Antonio Spurs and Ochefu with the Wizards, fans are eager to know who will step up this season.

Seniors Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds will need to lead the team. Last season, Hart averaged 31 minutes per game, 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and a shot percentage of 51.3 percent. Jenkins’ contributions don’t stop at his game-winning three pointer of the final game—he’s also contributed an average of 28.4 minutes per game, 13.6 points and a free throw average of 84.5 percent. 

While we only saw Reynolds in the final championship game for 10 minutes, his contributions through last year’s season still caught fans’ eyes. He contributed 19 minutes and 10 rebounds to the eight-point victory over No. 11 Providence.

Reynolds certainly has room to hone his skills and increase time on the court, but Coach Jay Wright made it clear Reynolds will play a leading role in practice and games. 

“Darryl has good athleticism,” Wright explained. “He can block shots like Daniel. He can rebound like Daniel.” 

While seniors Jenkins and Hart have logged in more court time with the program, Wright noted Reynolds has stepped up in practice to demonstrate his leadership role for the team. 

“Not even any guards are going to be able to take over Daniel’s intelligence and impact defensively,” Wright told “We’re going to have to do that as a team. You knew Darryl would be playing a lot and there was a good chance Darryl could start. He was always going to be a big part of what we would do.”

Reynolds is going to be a key player for the Wildcats this season. He’ll have more responsibility, but he acknowledged this pressure saying, “Me, Kris and Josh are not Daniel and Arch . . . It’s just different, different people. This program is the same, what we do is the same. At the same time, we’re not them.”

Former Villanova, 76ers and New York Nets player Bill Melchionni echoed the importance of shared leadership. 

“Some of the players are going to need to step up without Archie and Daniel,” Melchionni told The Villanovan at the basketball team’s first official practice of the season. “Kris and Hart and Reynolds are going to have to step up here. They’ve got a lot of talent. The only thing is that next year they are coming from everyone’s ‘big game,’ so they should be ready for it.”


The returning upperclassmen aren’t the only roster members with a couple years of practice experience under their belts. Senior Denny Grace, Junior Matt Kennedy and Junior Tom Leibig have also joined the team this season.

Grace’s long presence with the team is due in part to his older brother’s history with the basketball program. Tommy Grace started playing for the Wildcats in 2001 as a walk-on. 

“I remember back then, telling Denny, ‘You know, you’re going to be part of this program,’” Wright recalled. “So Denny’s been in our program as a practice player. He’s worked as hard as anybody to earn this spot. So we’re counting on great leadership from him this year.” 

Grace perhaps sacrificed the most for three years, because the program had three senior walk-ons: the infamous Bench Mob players Henry Lowe, Patrick Farrell and Kevin Rafferty.

New junior roster players Leibig and Kennedy have been practice players for two years. 

“We have practice players, guys will come to practice who aren’t on the roster and then after their freshmen sophomore junior year, they earn a spot on the roster,” Wright said. “These guys really earned their spot, and their experience is going to be really valuable to us.”

Coming off an incredible season last year, this team has a collection of experienced new faces, from its starters to the end of the bench. They might have stood in the shadows of Arcidiacono and Ochefu  in years past, but these ‘Cats are ready to make their mark—don’t count them out.