These 'Cats play together

Basketball: Reggie Bryant and Derrick Snowden, once Baltimore Catholic League rivals, are now tight teammates for Villanova.

January 14, 2002|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova teammates Reggie Bryant and Derrick Snowden go on for hours, reviving a rivalry.

Who was the most dynamic high school basketball player? Better yet, whose team was tops?

Bryant, a former All-Metro performer at Calvert Hall, will bring up his dunk over Archbishop Spalding's Snowden, who was The Sun's Player of the Year for 1999-2000.

Snowden will counter with the Cavaliers' two lopsided victories over the Cardinals before dropping his biggest bomb: the two Baltimore Catholic League titles that Spalding won.

Conversation over?

"No, we still go back and forth, back and forth," Bryant said.

Added Snowden, gloating over his clincher: "I'd be like, `We won it all ... twice.' It always gets on his nerves, but we still never let it go."

The sophomores have had plenty of time to get on each other's nerves. The former rivals have become close friends while manning the Villanova backcourt.

They play on a young Wildcats team, which is 9-4 (2-2 Big East) after falling to Connecticut, 70-65, yesterday and will play 12 of its last 14 games against conference foes. After making the NCAA tournament for four straight seasons, the Wildcats have settled for the National Invitation Tournament the past two.

Snowden could be the key to the Wildcats' fate. He is Villanova's starting point guard, averaging 8.5 points and 4.4 assists. Bryant, the team's third-leading scorer by averaging 10.3 points, comes off the bench and adds dimension to the offense with his long-distance shooting.

However, their play on the court tells only half of the story of the two Baltimore players.

"They are so tight, you would have thought that they were on the same team in high school. They don't room together, but they are always together," said Villanova first-year coach Jay Wright.

Together in dorm rooms, listening to music or playing video games. Together for a night on the town. Together in the weight room.

Some of their teammates have even taken to calling Bryant and Snowden "shadows."

"The whole team is pretty close, but we got our own little bond," Bryant said. "A lot of the stuff he likes, I like. Sometimes, we just say the same thing at the same time. I'd be like, `Man, stay out of my head.' It's like a perfect fit."

On the court, Snowden and Bryant say what one of them lacks, the other one more than makes up for. Snowden says he would love to have Bryant's footwork. Bryant and some of his teammates could use some of Snowden's lightning quickness, which the 6-footer uses to wreak havoc on both ends of the court.

"He can break down anybody off the dribble, and you need a player like that," said junior Gary Buchanan, Villanova's leading scorer at 18.2 points a game. "He also brings a lot on the defensive end and takes pressure off all of us."

After playing well offensively late last season, Snowden has been asked to become primarily a passing point guard in Wright's new-look offense. He admits the change in roles has been a struggle.

"It's more mental, and you cannot get over just on your athletic ability anymore," said Snowden, who scored 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting in a 74-72 win over Notre Dame on Jan. 6. "In high school, I could just create because I was that much better than the other players. But on this level, I have to think the game, and know the right pass and the right reads."

Bryant is often the recipient of Snowden's passes. Slowed last year by an abdominal injury, the 6-2 guard has become one of the Wildcats' most potent marksmen. Though he has the ability to score in a variety of ways, Bryant has found a comfort zone on the perimeter, shooting 51.2 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 28 minutes.

"He is definitely deserving of being a starter, but he brings so much firepower off the bench," said Wright, who replaced Steve Lappas as Villanova's coach after leading Hofstra to two straight NCAA tournament berths.

"He is as good of a shooter as I have seen in my years of coaching."

Snowden was a top prospect coming out of high school, attracting interest from several schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East. Bryant was considered a mid-major prospect.

That changed when Bryant spent the 1999-2000 season at St. Thomas More Prep School in Connecticut, averaging 20 points in leading his squad to the New England Prep Championship.

Snowden joked that Bryant just couldn't resist joining him. In fact, both players said they chose Villanova, located near Philadelphia, because they liked its family-like atmosphere and proximity to home.

"Everyone gets on them about Baltimore, but everyone loves them," Wright said. "Not just the players, this whole campus. They are both really personable and respectful. They have taken this campus by storm."

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