‘Cats return home



Rachel Bleier

The Villanova Wildcats have done what no other Philadelphia team has done since 2008. 

They brought home a championship, an achievement worth celebrating. 

Thousands of fans began lining the streets early Friday morning, turning the five blocks between 20th and Market Street into a sea of blue and white.  

Most people in attendance still could not wrap their minds around the fact that Villanova had won the National Championship, and with a buzzer beater three pointer at that. 

“It still felt surreal that we won,” senior Rosie Makoski said. “It was awesome to be in the front row, witnessing Villanova history. I loved the symbolism of not only throwing the streamers for the first shot of the season, but also for the last shot of the season. The shot that I will watch over and over again.”

For one loyal Villanova fan standing at 15th and Market, this parade was a dream come true. Jamie Yannacone of Media, PA, is a 1996 Villanova grad who set up numerous Wildcats game watches over the years. He was in Houston for the Final Four and was at the parade with his nieces and nephews. 

“Today was yet another surreal experience,” said Yannacone. “The past couple of weeks have seemed like one continuous dream. We had an absolute blast today. From the moment I stepped onto the train at Media/Elway station, I was amazed at how many people came out to honor the national champs.”

“Looking out at the sea of ‘Nova fans that seemed to flood Center City, I was struck by the vast amount of people this team has united,” senior Patrick Ciapciak said while at the parade. “This victory wasn’t just for ‘Nova Nation, it was for Philadelphia, a city that loves sports probably more than it should.”

Even the team and Coach Jay Wright were taken aback by Philadelphia’s massive display of love and support.

“Once we started moving [on the bus], I saw the size of the crowd and said ‘Wow,’” Ryan Arcidiacono said. “It just shows how much Philadelphia enjoys watching us.”

Coach Wright said, “When we pulled out and saw the size of that crowd, we were shocked.” 

Even Jenkins, the man who never showed nerves as he went up for the buzzer-beater to win it all against North Carolina, admitted to being surprised during the parade. 

“When I saw [the crowd], I was shocked,” Jenkins said. “This whole week has been crazy, joyful, humbling—we’re just giving back to the fans for what they did for us [this season].”

Unfortunately, fans were so eager to catch a glimpse of the team that they pushed past the barriers and spilled into the street causing a planned stop of the parade procession at 17th street for the team to get off and shake hands and sign autographs to be nixed. 

Once the fans were in the street, Philadelphia police had concerns about keeping the crowd in check. The buses still stopped, but the Wildcats had to show the crowd their appreciation from the safety of their double decker buses. 

After the team disembarked from the buses at City Hall, Mayor Jim Kenney made an official proclamation that April 8 is officially Villanova Wildcats NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Day. Once the Mayor had taken care of business, the team was introduced, to the screams and cheers of exuberant fans.

After Mayor Kenney spoke, both University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A. and Head Coach Jay Wright addressed the crowd. Donohue expressed his pride in the team and in the student body, while Coach Wright expressed his gratitude for the “best student section in college basketball.”

Despite blustery conditions, the crowd showed the Wildcats what the City of Brotherly Love is all about. 

As the players stepped up to the podium to speak, each was greeted with a roar from the city of Philadelphia.

For Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart, the crowd chanted “One more year!” letting both players know that Philadelphia would love to see them come back for their senior years at Villanova.

Coach Wright introduced Jenkins as the “man who hit the biggest shot in college basketball.” 

 “What we’ve won [the national championship] no one can ever take away from us,” Jenkins said at the podium. “And whenever you are teaching your kids to shoot, just tell them to one-two step and let it fly,” and the crowd roared.

Coach Wright then asked the crowd to take the blue and white streamers they were given and throw them in the air after Jenkins’ shot was shown on screens behind the podium. 

When the shot swished through the hoop, the sky was lined with Villanova blue and white in celebration of the last, and most important, shot of the season.

The parade and rally in front of City Hall marked Villanova Basketball’s return to the top. It also marked the close of two great careers, that of Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. 

In his farewell to the crowd, Arcidiacono said, “Thank you Philadelphia, thank you ‘Nova Nation. Your support throughout the year has been incredible. We’re going out as National Champions and we love you for everything. Go Cats!”

As the rally ended, and people made their way to the train station, the streets were littered with blue and white paraphernalia. Signs, streamers and confetti were all that was left of the physical mark Villanova Basketball made on Philadelphia. 

The Wildcats definitely won the hearts of Philadelphians and Nationers forever.