DETROIT - The transition from high school to Villanova felt like a blur to Scottie Reynolds. He didn't know his teammates. He didn't know coach Jay Wright. Yet there he was on campus, in a small three-man room built for two, trying to adapt.
Gary Hall, Reynolds' coach at Herndon (Va.) High School, knew how much Reynolds was laboring with his new surroundings, mainly because his former player called him almost every day to talk about it.
Reynolds had signed with Oklahoma but pulled out of his commitment after Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson resigned. He trusted his high school coach to find another college for him and Hall, impressed with the way Villanova's guards played, called Wright to inform him of Reynolds' availability.
Wright was delighted to get a McDonald's all-American for the Wildcats, even though he had seen Reynolds play only once and, according to the player, never sent him a recruiting letter.
And that, for Reynolds, was a problem.
"What happens for most people in the recruiting process is that they visit a school and talk to other students," Hall said yesterday. "Scottie was going through the whole process after he enrolled. It was almost like an arranged marriage: 'Somebody put me with this person, and now I have to find out if we love each other.'
"Scottie thrives on coaching. He seeks a need to be in a relationship with his coach. With Coach Wright, maybe he had to make a speech somewhere, and Scottie would have to talk to an assistant coach. He'd take that as 'Coach doesn't like me.' "
Hall added, however, that Reynolds never considered transferring.
Speaking yesterday at the NCAA Final Four news conferences at Ford Field, Reynolds, the team's No. 2 scorer heading into tomorrow's game against North Carolina, acknowledged his struggles getting to know Wright, his new teammates and the Villanova way.
"I didn't know who to trust," he said. "It takes a long time for me to trust someone, let alone someone where I'm putting my career in their hands. It took me a while to take pride in Villanova. I was a part, but I wasn't into the bigger picture."
Reynolds played well enough that first season to be named Big East freshman of the year, but he admitted he couldn't defend or rebound well enough.
Mike Nardi, a senior when Reynolds was a freshman, instructed him in Wright's style and "told me what it took to be a Villanova guard."
Reynolds said Hall told him to "suck it up."
"He said, 'No matter what's going on, you've got to suck it up,' " Reynolds said. "Given our relationship, whatever he said, that's what I've got to do. I may not like what he said, but I've got to respect it, and I've got to go do it.
"I'm getting to that point with Coach Wright. I might not like what he says, or I might not like what he does. But with any team, or any job, when your boss says you've got to do this, you do it. I'll do what he says to the best of my ability because I know, in the long run, it will make me successful and our team as well."
Hall said he listened to Reynolds but also administered "tough love."
"There came a time where Scottie needed to be held accountable," he said. "I allowed him to vent. But there comes a time where you say, 'Listen, it's time for you to understand the message Coach Wright is sending. If you can't handle the pressure from Coach Wright, how are you going to handle the pressure from Georgetown?' "
Reynolds said his breakthrough with Wright came last season, when the Wildcats ended the regular season on a run good enough to earn an NCAA tournament invitation and an eventual Sweet 16 berth.
"I thought at the NCAA tournament last year, Scottie was as pure a Villanova guard as it could be," he said. "That's what we were trying to get him to be, not just a scorer and not just a good player, but a leader and a great teammate. At the end of the year, he really started to buy into that. I told him that's what made us the team we were."
The Wildcats are in the Final Four now, getting there thanks to Reynolds' drive to the basket and game-winning short jumper with five-tenths of a second to play against Pitt in the East Regional final.
As soon as Reynolds received the pass from Dante Cunningham and began dribbling, Hall "made my reservations for Detroit."
"He didn't have time to process things. It was just take off and go," Hall said. "It was like getting the ball for Herndon High School all over again. He was either going to score or get fouled. Coach Wright lets him play."
For Reynolds, who took a long time to put his faith in Wright after being burned by Sampson, that kind of trust is essential.
"The biggest compliment you can give a player," he said, "is putting the ball in his hands at the end of the game, letting him make the right play, letting him make the right decision. [Wright] has done that countless times for me in my career, and I appreciate that."