Never forget the legacy of these 2016 Wildcats



TJ Farrell

Holy Massimino ‘Nova Nation, its time to rejoice! Your 2016 Villanova Wildcats are National Champions. Out of the 337 Division 1 college teams, your team is the last one standing. Never forget how their magical run has happened thus far:

Never forget our heroes on the bench: Pat Farrell, Kevin Rafferty,and Henry Lowe. Never forget the roar of the crowd when any one of those three would take off their warm-ups and check into the game. These three walk-ons have grown from the enthusiastic telescoping bench presence into dedicated leaders. Never forget the sight of those guys swinging the net on that ladder in Louisville or them recording minutes in a National Semifinal game.

Never forget the likes of Delaney, DiVincenzo, Paschall, Father Rob and the entire coaching staff. As Jay Wright said, Father Rob gave the best homily to the team before the Championship. Never forget that they do things for this team that will never be publicized. 

Never forget the evolution of Darryl Reynolds. When Ochefu went down with a concussion in January, Reynolds experienced unexpected playing time and really developed into a key big man off the bench. Plays like denying Kansas’ momentum changing alley-oop attempt are the plays that need to happen to win games. 

Never forget the emergence of Mikal Bridges. He who used to pump up the team with his pre-game dance moves now electrifies the crowd with outstanding plays. Never forget his put-back dunk at Butler or his gravity defying put-back layup against Kansas. Most importantly, never forget that immediately iconic image of him diving on the final loose ball of the game, clinching the Wildcats’ first Final Four trip since 2009.

Never forget Phil Booth’s. After bursting on to the scene as an offensive threat as a freshman, Booth saw his numbers go down as a sophomore. However, he has taken on a new roll this season: defensive stopper off the bench. And never forget how that role changed in the blink of an eye in Monday night’s championship game, as that defensive stopper dropped in an incredible 20 points off the bench when the Wildcats needed it most. 

Never forget the new kid on the block.  Since day one, Jalen Brunson has never shown any signs of being nervous or timid against the toughest competition. He is a freshman mature beyond his years. Never forget those nasty Euro-steps at Marquette and Oklahoma in the Final Four or his breakout performance at Temple. 

Never forget the “Big Ticket” or “Big Smooth” or whatever you may refer to him as. Never forget Kris Jenkins and what he has done this season. After starting off slowly, Jenkins turned into one of the hottest sharp shooters in the country. Never forget how tranquil he was his first two years, and how he transformed into the vocal and emotional leader of the latest legendary Wildcats squad. Never forget the epic reverse dunk against Providence or the shot against Miami that he hit from Pike Lot. 

I know its nearly impossible to do so, but never forget the shot the kid from Upper Marlboro, Maryland hit on the biggest of stages against his brother, North Carolina’s Nate Britt, which immediately was etched into the minds of the ‘Nova Nation as the greatest shot in school history. 

Never forget Josh Hart, the sixth man of the year that grew into a national superstar before our eyes. Never forget all of those high soaring rebounds he captured and all those times he found himself in a fan’s lap after diving after a loose ball. Whenever the team needed a bucket, it was Hart. Whenever they needed a rebound, it was Hart. His performance in the semifinals against Oklahoma was second to none. Never forget the season Josh Hart has had so far.

Never forget the chef in the middle of the paint. Daniel Ochefu’s fun loving smile off the court coincides nicely with his ferocious post moves and incredible touch around the rim. Never forget how much pain their captain has battled through this season in order to battle on the court with his family. Whenever the team needed a bucket to slow down a Tar Heel run in the Championship, it was Ochefu posting up down on the block that was the go to move for the Wildcats. Never forget the humbling words Jay Wright spoke about his big man after the Championship, saying how Ochefu stopped the coaches from entering the locker room at halftime so he and Arcidiacono could talk to the team alone.

A reminder for this player isn’t needed, but never forget the heart and soul of this team. As Jay Wright has often alluded to, Ryan Aricidaconos don’t come around very often. Never forget who the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four was. He may not have filled up the stat sheet like he normally does against the Tar Heels, but he was the most important player on the court for the ‘Cats. 

Never forget that you saw Ryan Arcidiacono win his final game as a Wildcat. Unlike so many players who see their college careers end in tears after a heartbreaking tournament loss, the only tears he shed were tears of joy in an epic embrace with his father-like figure of a coach. Never forget how much he means to this team.  

Never forget the architect of this Final Four squad. 2016 has been quite possibly Jay Wright’s greatest coaching job yet. Never forget the reaction he had to Jenkins’ game-winning shot, one that filled with shock, excitement and endless amounts of other emotions. Why would you ever, but just in case, never forget the 2016 Naismith Coach of the Year, Jay Wright

Never forget how you felt after Oklahoma in Hawaii, Virginia, Providence in a blizzard, Xaiver and Seton Hall. Especially that Seton Hall one at the Garden. That pain makes this run that much sweeter. 

Never forget the feeling you had going into halftime up seven on Kansas or down five to UNC. That 30 minute halftime felt like it lasted 40 days. 

Never forget where you were and who you were with when Hart picked off that final pass. Never forget the feeling you had on Easter’s eve when that clock hit all zeroes.

Never forget the historic rout that Villanova put on against the same Oklahoma team that ran them out of the state of Hawaii in December. The Wildcats had a shot at revenge and boy did they hit it out of the park. 

Finally, never forget Monday, April 4, 2016. Never forget how you felt throughout the whole game. Most of all, never forget how you felt when you saw that shot  you had seen all year from Kris Jenkins, fall through the bottom of the net. 

Remember who you were with, who you hugged first, where you were and where you celebrated first. Championships are so rare and what makes them so special is sharing with the people around you. Give a call to loved ones, share your experiences with your family and friends. Never forget how special this is and how “once in a lifetime” this past weekend actually was. 

Never forget the 2016 Villanova Wildcats because championships only come around every 31 years.