“Villanova Basketball” is more than a punch line



TJ Farrell

There is a common phrase used by Jay Wright and his team that has grown into the mantra for one of the nation’s top teams. It’s heard in virtually every interview, regardless of the time or place. Wright himself says it in nearly every interview he does, usually followed by his players repeating the same phrase. 

On the surface, the phrase is a simple one that could easily go overlooked. However, every time a Wildcat states the phrase “Villanova Basketball,” it means so much more than what meets the eye. 

So what exactly is “Villanova Basketball?” It is not solely a rallying cry for this year’s squad. It is a tradition of excellence that is passed down from one class to the next. From the first day they step on campus as freshmen, the new members of the Villanova Basketball family are taught what playing “Villanova Basketball” actually is. 

It’s about tradition and the rich history that connects the alumni with the current student body. The players say it themselves in the opening pump up video: “We play for the ones that came before us.” 

There is no difference between a player who scored 2,000 points and one who did not play more than 20 career minutes. The term “Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat,” is one that Wright has enshrined into his program for all former Wildcats. 

The tradition is announced to the crowd at every home game when the speakers are filled with names of alumni like Pinkston, Hastings and Kittles who are in attendance watching the current team. 

It’s the long list of heroes who have etched their names into Villanova stardom: Arizin, Porter, Pinckney, Kittles, Foye, Reynolds. The list is never ending, and has plenty of room for new entries. 

It’s looking back on those stars who made the jump to the NBA, but never forgetting the role players who truly embody what playing “Villanova Basketball” is all about. 

From Harold Jensen on the Cinderella Championship team of 1985 to Dwayne Anderson on the Final Four squad in 2009, every successful Villanova team has had the role players who personify what “Villanova Basketball” is all about. 

“Villanova Basketball” surrounds the team’s practice floor in the Davis Center. The words are constant reminders to the entire team of what it means to be a Villanova Wildcat: Play Hard, Play Together, Play Smart, and Play with Pride. These core values are all wrapped up into one word that defines Jay Wright’s squad: Attitude. 

An in sync yell of “Attitude” is how the team breaks every huddle, whether finishing off a practice or before every trip to the foul line. It does not matter which five guys are on the court at any given time. You can guarantee that they will play hard, play smart, play with pride and play together with the right attitude. 

To put it into a specific play, there is no better example then Anderson back in the 2009 NCAA Tournament second round. With just under five minutes left to play in regulation, the third-seeded Wildcats led sixth-seeded UCLA by 22 points and essentially had the game wrapped up. As fans began to look forward to the Sweet 16, Anderson reminded the crowd of the task at hand: playing hard until the buzzer sounds. Future NBA guard Darren Collison took a missed Villanova shot and began a fast break the other way. Anderson, trailing Collison the whole way, dove head first to knock the ball out of Collison’s hands and came up with the turnover. Anderson’s play up 22 looked like a player whose team was on the verge of elimination.

That type of hustle play is what “Villanova Basketball” is all about. Although Anderson’s play against UCLA was over seven years ago, fans continue to see that sort of hustle and energy year after year. This year’s team is no different. Players like Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono often find themselves in the stands after diving to save a loose ball. 

Plays like Hart diving into the Butler student section to save a long rebound or Arcidiacono breaking the courtside light up advertisement sliding for a loose ball at the Pavilion sets the tone for the rest of the team. And you can take it to the bank that four Villanova jerseys will be racing over to their teammate on the floor to help them up. 

“Villanova Basketball” is not just a team: it’s a family. Junior Darryl Reynolds used the term “from 0 to 52” on Wright’s weekly radio show to describe his brotherhood with his teammates. The team is not just the five guys on the court. It goes from the lowest number on the team (Henry Lowe’s 0) to the highest (Kevin Rafferty’s 52). Being a part of “Villanova Basketball” is being a part of a family that plays hard every second for each other.

Indeed, “Villanova Basketball” goes “from 0 to 52”, but it extends so much further into the ‘Nova Nation. Over the years, the team has affected the lives of so many students, alumni and fans. The bond between the Nation and the team is marked by the Vs that are shared between the two after every game, win or lose. 

Being a part of the Nova Nation is so much more than being a fan of a college basketball team.

It’s getting an immediate jolt of energy from seeing a regular fan with a regular Nova Nation t-shirt dancing extraordinarily on the big screen with his trusty old brown hat.

It’s never turning off the radio until you hear “Cats Win, Cats Win, Cats Win,” from radio announcer Ryan Fannon. 

In the end, so many different things make “Villanova Basketball” what it is. But the tradition, history, attitude and Nova Nation are what makes “Villanova Basketball” not just a basketball team, but a way of life.