One time, just one time, Jay Wright asked Scottie Reynolds, his star player, to stop being unselfish for a minute.
Reynolds had bounced between point guard and shooting guard for most of Villanova's season and had struggled on occasion with the constant position change. Finally, about three weeks ago, Wright sat down with him and asked a question.
"Where are you more comfortable?" the Wildcats' coach asked.
"Wherever you put me, I'll do whatever you want," Reynolds replied.
"No, I need to hear where you're more comfortable," Wright countered.
"I'm more comfortable at the point."
"Fine," Wright concluded. "That's what we'll do."
The Wildcats have thrived ever since. They are enjoying the best of both worlds with Reynolds, a guy who looks out for his teammates, finds the open man, and can also score whenever he puts his mind to it.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore scored 21 and 25 points in the team's first two NCAA tournament wins, over Clemson and Siena, while handling both teams' presses. Reynolds played a total of 72 minutes in games that started 38 hours apart.
"We felt we had to adjust what we do so he's comfortable," Wright said of his talks with his assistants. "I think that made us better. Then we said, 'Look, they're not going to let him bring the ball up and get shots every time. They're going to get it out of his hands. Other guys have to make plays.' "
The Wildcats got perimeter scoring from Corey Stokes and Dwayne Anderson along with inside scoring from Dante Cunningham and Antonio Peña, a more balanced attack that has helped them win five of their last six games since Reynolds took over full-time at the point.
For his part, Reynolds said it was always about the team for him, and he was happy he could help at this critical time.
"The last three weeks have been me at the point trying to make plays for my teammates, or making plays - not being passive, but trying to score and deliver the passes where my team can score, and also knowing time and score situations," he said yesterday.
"We've pretty much done that in practice the last three weeks, and each day, each game, it's gotten better and better," he said. "Some games you're not going to have the best stats. But at the end of the day, it's about wins and losses."
Cunningham has seen a difference.
"He's been demanding, taking control like a big-time Big East point guard would do," the junior forward said. "He knows when to score, knows when to slow the game down, knows when to drive or drop it off to somebody. Dominating, that's what he's doing."
The shifting of Reynolds between guard positions may have cost him votes for the all-Big East team. He was a unanimous preseason all-conference selection but did not make the 10-man postseason team, settling for second-team status.
"I felt bad for him," Wright said. "I knew he was not there because he was trying to do what was best for the team. But now I feel great for him because he's playing his best basketball and he knows why. He knows it's because he did what was best for the team, and it's worked out for him. I think the other guys are seeing that. It's something they're going to learn from."
"I'm not saying I didn't care, but it's what it is," he said. "We didn't really have the best season in the Big East. Those guys who were on the first team deserved that. Their teams were at the top and they played great basketball."
Now it's the Wildcats playing great basketball. Villanova is one of three Big East teams remaining from the original eight that reached the tournament. And the Wildcats are led by a guy who was "a McDonald's all-American handed to us on a platter." That was how Wright described Reynolds on Sunday to the national media.
The story is familiar locally. Reynolds originally committed to Oklahoma but was allowed to back out after Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson took the Indiana job. The guard called Wright to tell him he wanted to play for Villanova, a school that did not recruit him.
The national spotlight will be turned up higher on Reynolds this week when his team heads to Detroit for a Midwest Regional semifinal against top-seeded Kansas.
"It's a different feeling than what you would expect," Reynolds said. "Growing up and watching all the press conferences and practices and everything in between the games, it's hard to comprehend, me and this team being in this position. We feel fortunate."
Drummond to have surgery. Villanova announced that sophomore center Casiem Drummond suffered a fractured right ankle late in the first half of Sunday's game and would undergo surgery today. An athletic department spokesman said the injury was not related to the stress fracture Drummond suffered in the same ankle in December.