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Among the Celebrations, the Villanova Men’s Basketball Team Remains Grounded

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Photo by Kelly Lyons

Villanova University’s junior guard Josh Hart has never been to a parade, much less starred in one. On Friday, that will change.

The city of Philadelphia has wholly embraced the Villanova Wildcats following their win earlier this week, and the party is just getting started.

“I’ve watched [parades] on TV, but I’ve never actually seen anything like this in person. It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be fun standing next to my brothers,” says Hart, a contagious smile etched on his face.

Just two days before Hart and his basketball brothers were preparing for the parade—which starts at 20th and Market streets at 1 p.m. Friday, ending at Dilworth Park—the victorious feeling of a national championship was still washing over them.

“It still hasn’t sunk in,” junior forward Kris Jenkins says. “I’m still amazed that we won the national championships.”

Despite his heroic efforts, Jenkins has remained down to earth. “It wasn’t too crazy [going back to class with him],” says Hart. “That’s the thing about him—he’s so humble. He made one of the biggest shots in Villanova history. He’s a very low-key, humble guy.”

As for the man who made the pass, senior guard and Langhorne-native Ryan Arcidiacono is getting just as much praise for his quick thinking in a high-stress situation. Similarly, he’s kept his ego in check.

“Nobody is bigger than the program. It’s not about you, it’s about the program,” Hart adds. “You trust Ryan with the ball. Every time, he makes the right decision. He doesn’t care about himself, he doesn’t care how he looks. He’s a guy who’s made countless buzzer beaters, countless big shots. For him, making the right play to Kris just shows where this program is. They sacrifice themselves for this program.”

It would be easy for all of the excitement and lauding to get to them. In addition to the upcoming parade, the players have made appearances on TV, including senior forward Daniel Ochefu on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Like the rest of his team, Ochefu played an important role in the championship, even when he was wiping sweat off the floor. “When [UNC’s] Marcus [Paige] hit that crazy shot, I remember I left a long wet spot [on the floor],” he recalls. “We all knew what the play was going to be. The first action was going to happen around that wet area. I remember in the Seton Hall game in the Big East tournament, [Arcidiacono] slipped right in front of the bench. I just thought this game has to be perfect. Arch called over to the referee asking if they could wipe it up, and the kid was having a tough time. I just wanted to take into my own hands,” he laughs.

The team’s accolades also include a nod from President Obama, who called head coach Jay Wright on Wednesday morning, offering his congratulations. That ranks among Jenkins’ favorite post-victory moments. “President Obama [told] Jay Wright that he thinks I’m cool,” he says with a bashful smile.

It’s a moment he might even get in person—the team will head to White House as party of their victory lap. “We’re the last men’s basketball team to meet President Obama, so I’ll hold that one near and dear to my heart for a while,” Jenkins says, who claims Washington, D.C. as his hometown.

Despite the fanfare, the team remains grounded. “We don’t want to be put up on a pedestal,” Hart says. “We’re just regular guys who happened to do something extraordinary.”