One strand of the net remained on the rim, one last chance in Villanova's victorious net-cutting ritual at the TD Banknorth Garden for a player to snip it, triumphantly hold it in the air, and wear it around his neck as a wreath of honor.

The honor went not to Scottie Reynolds, the hero of the game, nor to Dante Cunningham. It went to Frank Tchuisi.

Yes, the 6-foot-8 senior forward from Cameroon, who played only 78 minutes in 23 games and scored just 21 points all season, was the final player up on the ladder Saturday after the Wildcats' dramatic 78-76 victory over Pitt, which got them to the Final Four.

That, however, was just fine with his teammates and coach Jay Wright.

"He's so important to our program - his leadership, his unselfishness," Wright said yesterday. "His work ethic every day, it's such an example for everybody. We all know it on the inside, and I wanted to get him some glory. He never asked for it, but I wanted him to get it, and I knew his teammates would want him to get it, too."

That's the mark Tchuisi (pronounced TWEE-zee) has left on the Wildcats, and why his teammates never forget to mention him when discussing senior leadership on the team as if he played as much as the three other seniors.

"He's the glue that not everybody gets to see," said Cunningham, another member of the senior class. "We're in games and somebody comes to the sideline, and Coach may not get to talk to him, but Frank's always there in his ear. He's talking to them and explaining to them what happened and what they need to do."

Tchuisi is a ferocious practice player, making Cunningham - an all-Big East performer - and the other big men work for everything they can get.

He takes his responsibility as a leader seriously, and learned from seniors such as Jason Fraser and Randy Foye when he walked on the court at Villanova for the first time in 2005.

"I learned a lot from them and from Coach Wright when I was a freshman," Tchuisi said the other day. "I'm still learning how to be a leader, but I appreciate that the guys on the team look up to me."

The story of Tchuisi, who is fluent in five languages, began in his home country, where he dreamed about coming to the United States, playing basketball, and earning a college degree. His dream started to come to fruition when Danny Hurley, the head coach at St. Benedict's High School in North Jersey, saw him play and invited him to attend his school.

Tchuisi arrived at St. Benedict's in 2002 and played for three seasons, the final two with current Wildcat Corey Stokes. He wasn't much of a scorer but averaged eight rebounds and five blocked shots per game to attract the eye of college coaches.

He went with Villanova and never has regretted the decision.

"It's just the family atmosphere," he said. "It's a great place to be. It keeps me happy. I'm such a humble person, and everyone around is so humble. I love the coaching staff. I love the faculty members. Everybody loves me and I love them."

Tchuisi saw action in the Wildcats' pre-conference games, recording career highs of 14 minutes and four points in a win over Fordham. But he managed just 19 minutes of playing time in Big East games, in which Wright rarely used more than eight players, and he conceded that the lack of activity bothered him a bit.

"I have to always keep a great attitude," he said. "You never know when your chance will come. I come in every day and work hard, just like everybody else works hard. It bothers me, but I'm not here for myself. I'm here for the team. I don't want anything to affect my team."

Said Cunningham: "He's giving up everything he can possibly give up for the team to be where we're at right now."

Tchuisi will graduate in May with a degree in management. He is minoring in international business, and Wright said he wants to come back next season as a student assistant coach and work to get a second degree in that major.

Now, though, it's a case of first things first. Tchuisi loves being part of a special team, Villanova's first representative in the Final Four since 1985. Who knows, he may get another chance to cut down another net.

"I'll tell you, that meant the world to me," Tchuisi said with a broad smile. "It's a thrill. I can't ever thank Coach Wright enough for that."