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Faith, not hoops, drives NCAA star

 

It was not the best day for Villanova basketball star Scottie Reynolds.

A blizzard of historic proportions prevented the senior point guard’s planned personal cheering section — including his parents and about 250 friends from his D.C.- area alma mater — from attending a key game at Georgetown.

Even worse, the Big East rival Hoyas served Reynolds’ Wildcats, then ranked No. 2 in the nation, just their second defeat of the season. But outside the visitors’ locker room in the bowels of the Verizon Center, Reynolds wore a smile and displayed a spiritual attitude.

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“We walk by faith, not by sight,” said Reynolds, 22, who is active at the King of Prussia Church of Christ, near the Villanova campus in a Philadelphia suburb.

“You don’t know what is going to happen in life,” he added. “Things are going to happen, good or bad. It is all about how you handle it. It is how you become a better person.”

Already, say those know who him, Reynolds has more going for him than making three-point shots and winning games at the buzzer, like he did to earn his team a Final Four bid last year.

Even after late-night, out-of-town games that might tempt less dedicated church members to stay in bed, Reynolds shows up to worship first thing Sunday, King of Prussia minister Daniel Fletcher said.

“He’s very faithful and has even taught our teen class,” Fletcher said. “He attends worship service while the team practices on Sunday mornings. He goes to practice after services. … He’s definitely a Christian role model.”

The roots of Reynolds’ faith can be traced to his adoptive parents, Rick and Pam Reynolds. His father is the son of a missionary to Ghana.

“He is a blessing, and he always has been,” Pam Reynolds said. “It’s not basketball. It is just who he is. He has always put God first in his life, and in our family, worship comes first, and everything else is afterwards.”

When Reynolds was in high school, the family worshiped at the Annandale, Va., church, southwest of Washington. Today, the family is part of a newer congregation in Ashburn, Va.

Reynolds was baptized at age 18.

“I have been going to church since I can remember,” he said after the Georgetown game. “It has always been a part of me, but there comes a time in your life when you don’t just go, it becomes a part of you. When I was 18, that was that time, and ever since that time I have tried to grow and lead others to the Lord.”

As a McDonald’s All-American at Herndon High School in Virginia, Reynolds was known for showing up late to Wednesday night games, only to do something spectacular once he arrived.

According to a 2006 Washington Post story, Herndon was playing Maryland’s Potomac High School and losing badly in the first half while Reynolds was at a Wednesday night Bible study.

But then Reynolds showed up at halftime: He scored 30 points in 16 minutes and brought his team to within 10 points, even though Herndon still lost. Herndon coach Gary Hall told a reporter that Reynolds had done the same thing many times.

“The doors would open, and it would be like Superman coming into the gym,” Hall said. “He would be pulling off his tie and his shirt and sprinting on the court to save us.”

While Reynolds became a Christian during his senior year of high school, he has worked hard to grow in his faith since he enrolled at Villanova. When asked about attending the King of Prussia Church of Christ, he smiled broadly.

“My faith is very important to me because God put me in a very unique situation,” said Reynolds, who this year became only the eighth Wildcat and 460th player in NCAA history to score more than 2,000 points in his career.

Following the Georgetown game, in which he scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half, Reynolds won praise from Villanova coach Jay Wright as well as Georgetown coach John Thompson III.

“In a 40-minute game, you are not going to be able to slow Scottie down the whole time,” Thompson said after the Hoyas’ 103-90 victory. “He’s too good of a player.”

After the loss, Wright expressed confidence that his star player would bounce back.

“He approaches every game the same way,” the coach said. “He struggled the first half, but there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to get it going the second half. He brings it every night.”

Reynolds originally signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Oklahoma. But when former Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson left for Indiana, Reynolds decided to play for Villanova, where he has started for three years and was named Most Outstanding Player for the 2009 East Regional.

Despite his basketball prowess, however, Reynolds displays none of the arrogance or swagger that is common with many NCAA and NBA stars, observers say.

Whether his team wins or loses, Reynolds maintains his composure, his mother said.

“You have to keep everything in perspective,” she said. “It’s about going out and letting your light shine.”

While Reynolds considered leaving Villanova early last year to enter the NBA draft, he changed his mind and decided to finish his senior year.

As March Madness begins and Reynolds’ final college season nears an end, he said he takes nothing for granted.

At the same time, he gives all the credit for his success to God.

“It is not given to me to have this opportunity. That is why I try to give 100 percent,” he said. “Not just playing basketball, but I am blessed to be at a great institution like Villanova. I feel fortunate and blessed, and I don’t think that anyone could put me in this position but him.”

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