Villanova’s table at the Big East Media Day in Madison Square Garden was a mob scene. Seemingly every media outlet, publication, and even us internet bloggers were hovering around their assigned table to grab a soundbite, photo, or breaking story on the National Champions. Jay Wright clearly garnered the most attention as the face of Villanova Basketball, and arguably the Big East itself. Josh Hart, the newly named Big East Player of the Year, and Kris Jenkins, who hit last year’s iconic championship winning buzzer beater, both garnered a large following as well. In fact, the only person at the table that didn’t seem to have a sea of recording devices in their face was senior co-captain Darryl Reynolds.
Reynolds may not share the same spotlight that’s been fixated on his co-captains through the off-season, but make no mistake, he’s just as important to the success of this year’s team. He’s one of those guys that might not fill up the stat sheet, but does everything that’s asked of him and more. Even more importantly, he’s taken on the crucial role of mentor for a very young front court that will be the future of Villanova basketball. We’ve seen flashes of Reynolds talent on the court, and now paired with his off-court leadership, he’s ready to join his more well known teammates in chasing down another Big East title and a second National Championship.
I sat down with Darryl to talk everything from his personal development to how his teammates are looking this season:
VUHoops: What’s it like to be able to play your collegiate career, a successful one at that, this close to your family and the town you call home?
Darryl Reynolds: It’s a blessing, man, it’s a blessing. You know, people don’t realize how much of that process is out of your hands. I could have ended up anywhere. You go where you should go, and for it to be right over the turnpike for me was perfect. I think being in my home city is great, just to see everybody. Everybody who’s rooting for me the most is right there. Outside of my dad, who lives in Phoenix, for everybody to be right there is great.
I think for me, like personally, the best part is hearing that we did it for the city. Anything positive in Philadelphia, for me, is a plus. It’s a blessing. So for us to come back and guys to say that ‘Oh you guys did that for the city. You guys put on for the city!’ Guys who really, to be honest, probably weren’t Villanova fans before the shot went in. But just to hear that all across the city wherever I’m at, and to get stopped constantly about how we carried ourselves as men and we won the right way. Somebody wins every year, but for everybody around the city to feel as though we won the right way, which is with class, with character, with respect for our opponents, with confidence in ourselves, and with pride in what we do. You can’t put a price on that, it’s like peace of mind.
What’s your personal goal for the season?
My biggest personal goal is to get that much better at defending several positions. For me, something that wasn’t necessarily charted across the board or highly touted, is the ability to change people’s shots and as a “big guy” get out on the perimeter and defend someone who you would think would blow right past me and just be at a disadvantage completely. My goal has always been to be one of the best defensive players, if not the best defensive player, on the floor. So for me, my personal goal is to become that much better at defending these great guards in our league. Just making sure that I can do that for my team.
Daniel showed that last year, and I showed it as well. When you have big guys who, just like our guards who get under there and frustrate post players and just be tough. When you have big guys who can get out there and be mobile enough to defend these guards, it give your team an advantage.
Speaking of Daniel, his passing game and court vision were a big part of last year’s offense. Is that a part of your game that continues to improve?
Yes, I’ve heard from my coaching staff that I’m making good decisions out of the post. That’s what it’s really about. Everybody thinks that the post is about who can score or who can do this. It’s decisions, it’s this game slowed down to its slowest point. In the post it’s about decisions and pace, so I want to make sure I’m making the best decision out of there.
I always remember the Providence game. You know, I’m scoring and scoring and scoring, it’s great! For me, one of the best moments was I get in the post, I’m dribbling, I’m dribbling, they go to help down, and leave this man (he points to Kris Jenkins) wide open. I had the peace of mind to see [Kris] and get the ball out of my hands, nothing fancy, just get the ball right to [Kris], he makes the shot. Those type of plays, those deflate teams when you have guys who are all just making the right decision. I gotta practice what I preach, which is giving it up to the next guy.
Speaking of those relationships, last year’s team played very in sync, especially on defense. Now with a lot of new members on the team and some guys who didn’t see as much court time last year, what are you doing on and off the course to build up that team chemistry again?
Off the court, it’s just making sure that our relationships stay strong. I don’t think that’s necessarily something we have control over. You know so much of it is the guys who coach recruits, which is great. Everybody these last couple years, everybody has just meshed and blended right in. With all the personalities, I’m not going to say we don’t have issues, we’re brothers. You’re going to have issues with your brothers. But all the personalities mesh, so that in itself is a blessing. It’s out of our control, but it’s something we want to take advantage of off the court.
And then it transfers over. It’s like us three [Josh, Kris, and I], it transfers over once you get on the court with guys like that who you trust, you depend on. When that ball goes up, you all feel in sync. The only thing we can do is continue to listen to coach and just continue to trust each other on the court and understand what our weaknesses and strengths are.
And that’s what the beauty of last year’s team was, we weren’t afraid to admit that from any individual. And that allowed us to move forward as a group and continue to grow and mesh even closer, which is something that this year we’re doing, but you know it’s a process. Everyone looks at the end of last year, and at the beginning of last year it was not easy. It was not something that we grasped right away or had a feel for right away. We had to work towards it, which is what we’re doing this year.
A lot of fans were impressed with the way you handled the situation of not being able to go on the trip to Spain this year. I know that must have been disappointing for you, but what if anything can you take from that experience into this season?
Try to turn any negative into a positive. You know, I wanted to be out there with my guys. I wanted to be out there even if it was just to root for them. Once the decision was made for me to stay, I was like how can I turn this into a positive. Dylan Painter painter got that much better out there because he saw that much more playing time, because me and Omari weren’t playing. He came back with just a different way about him, which I loved that.
As far as me, not being with them, it made me that much more anxious to get back on the floor with them for real. To get out there, and back here honestly, it made me so much more ready to get back out there with everybody because I had missed out on that opportunity in Spain. So, it was what it was at the end of the day. Everybody stepped up, as this team does. One guy goes down, everybody keeps going up.
You mentioned Dylan and Omari, what are you passing on to these young guys that you learned when Daniel was mentoring you?
I think, for the most part, is the idea that you’re never done learning. I think that was something that Daniel was great at. You’re never done improving, you’re never there. And he allowed me to push him, and he pushed me in a way that our guys are starting to do now. So with the younger guys, when they have something to offer me as far as knowledge or they come to practice and just bring it, I accept that and love that and flourish in that.
I think me and Daniel taught each other a lot in so many ways. I think he taught me just how to be passionate about this game. I’ve always admired his passion and his decision making all over the court. Those are the things I took from him the most.
As a follow up, what are you bringing to these younger guys from your own experiences to help improve them as teammates and individuals?
I’m the oldest in my family, so I’m kind of right back where I feel the most comfortable, to be honest. As far as the younger guys, just talking to them about stuff on and off the court. Letting them know things, mistakes that I’ve made in my past on and off the court, with hopes that they would avoid it so they can be that much better and have that much better a career.
They listen and respect me, just like I listen and respect them. Just making sure that it’s a constant give and take relationship and that it’s not one sided. I’m not just always preaching, or I’m not just always barking or sitting back, but just mixing it up. The same way that I would hope they do with me. Making sure that it’s a give and take, making sure that I hear them out on certain things and that I understand them. I may not necessarily be able to relate to it, but I can at least comfort them if they’re having a hardship, and in the same way boost their confidence and instill a sense of urgency and readiness that I hope all of them will have when the ball goes up.
Switching gears, who do you like going up against the most in practice? Who challenges you the most?
Eric Paschall. Eric is a very versatile player and he is a very strong guy. He’s fast, he’s athletic, he’s one of those people that has so many things that can put whoever he’s up against at a disadvantage. In many ways he’s what I aspire to be. And so I think going up against someone like Eric, my eyes widen when I end up on him because you never know what he’s going to do or what he’s going to try to do. So as someone who’s defensive minded, that always excites me.
And then when he’s on defense and I’m on offense, it’s the same way. There’s been times in practice, we’re doing post drills, and I think I’ve got a hook shot. He just leaps up and smacks it out of the air. So he makes you play on your toes. He’s fast and very cerebral in ways, so I think Eric Paschall is one of those guys that brings the best out of me.
How has Tim Delaney been doing this year coming off the injury?
Tim is a tough guy. Tim is tough. Tim is one of those guys that doesn’t back down from anybody. He has a big build. Defensively he’s a problem. So I think Tim will, just like everybody else, bring that much more toughness and that much more of an edge to our team. And he can shoot the ball. He can shoot the ball well. I think anybody that can stretch the floor, that helps.
With Arch gone, what do you see Jalen Brunson bringing to practice? Is he doing something new from a leadership perspective or changing his game?
No, not really. Jalen is going to do what Jalen does. When you look at what it was, Jalen in many ways played the one last year. He’s playing the one this year the same way. So his game has not changed a ton. He’s making better decisions, he’s getting better on defense, his shot has improved, he’s improved in every way. His passing, I mean he’s improved across the board, so I don’t think his game is going to change tremendously.
He’s a leader in his own right. He doesn’t deffer to anybody. He will lead this team one day. He understands that we’re seniors, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t lead, it doesn’t mean that anybody can’t lead at anytime. Just because we have a “senior” title and we’ve been here longer, doesn’t mean that someone else can’t lead in a way, and Jalen definitely makes sure that he does that. He’s a natural born leader. You can see that his people instilled that in him from a young age.
How has Phil Booth’s game changed or improved since his breakout performance in the National Championship?
I think that’s the beauty of our team. You get more productive, you learn more, your output becomes a little bit better, but nothing changes drastically. Phil played the two in many ways, and that’s what he’s doing this year. His game hasn’t changed a ton.
With Phil being healthier this year, he seems to have a little more lift to him. He’s rebounding the ball very well. We actually chart rebounding in our practice. He won the other day, and let me know about it! So Phil is definitely feeling better these days. With being healthy he’s making better decisions, he’s playing with a sense of urgency, so it’s all up for him.
Kris Jenkins’ shot has been all anyone can talk about this off-season. How do you think it will effect his game this season?
It just boosts his confidence. If you can make a shot in those circumstances, under that light, at that time, I can imagine as the shooter it gives you that much more confidence. I think Kris is going to do what Kris always does, he takes negatives and turns them into positives. People are saying how do you put that shot behind you, and Kris’s attitude is ‘I have that much more to prove after this shot’. He’s going to use that for fuel and do what he’s always done.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you since winning the National Championship?
We were at a signing session over the summer for Alumni weekend. We were getting up to leave because it was it, the time was up and they needed us to move on so that the next team could move onto that station. A lady actually threw her baby at Kris. Threw her baby. She actually heaved her child at Kris in order to stop him from moving forward. He definitely has good hands, he has great hands. That was one of the wildest things I’ve seen.
At that point, Darryl and the rest of the team were whisked off to continue with TV interviews and photo shoots, but I must say the young man made quite the impression. He may not get the same praise or recognition as his teammates, but he’s going to be one of those glue guys that a team needs to be successful. Like the rest of Nova Nation, I’m very excited to see what Darryl Reynolds and the rest of his teammates have in store for an encore to last season.