In one fleeting, irreversible moment, Brian Rudolph lost all he had worked for as a young basketball player — the scholarship to Providence College, the fast track to success, the respect of his peers in New Bedford, Mass.
But what was lost in New Bedford was replenished in Baltimore, where Rudolph, a resilient and determined young man, created a new future for himself at Loyola University Maryland.
Five years after he plea-bargained to a felony charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, Rudolph will complete his college career at Loyola in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament this weekend. The Greyhounds play Saint Peter's in a 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn.
Second chances in life are rarely so sweet. Rudolph, 22, will graduate in May having played more basketball games than anyone in Loyola history, leaving with more than 500 assists and a degree in communications.
Asked if he ever wonders what might have been at Providence, Rudolph said: "No, not at all. Everything happens for a reason. I think we'll do something special this year."
Rudolph's life course veered on the night of April 17, 2006 in the small Massachusetts town of Acushnet. There was a party, which Rudolph and friends apparently crashed. There was a heated argument. There was a punch thrown, then another. And just like that, Rudolph, then 17, was arrested as an adult for allegedly stabbing another man in the back with a knife.
The case didn't resolve until January, when Rudolph got three years of probation and 300 hours of community service. He also was required to attend anger management classes, write an apology to the victim, submit to random drug and alcohol tests and adhere to a 9 p.m. curfew in New Bedford.
His scholarship to Providence was revoked and Rudolph spent the next year at Bridgton Academy in southwestern Maine.
When most college recruiters bailed on Rudolph, Loyola's Jimmy Patsos did not. Patsos knew of Rudolph's exploits at New Bedford, where he was the only player in school history to collect 1,200 points, 600 assists and 200 steals.
Besides, Patsos needed a point guard and he had already majored in risk management when he brought Gerald Brown to Loyola after Brown had been dismissed by Providence for off-court disciplinary issues. Brown excelled at Loyola.
"I knew a lot of people who knew Brian," Patsos said. "He was a good kid. When it happened, it was a surprise."
After speaking with Rudolph's former coaches, Patsos deemed the incident an "aberration" and not the indicator of a serious character flaw. When the Rev. Brian Linnane, Loyola's president, agreed to take the chance, Rudolph had a new start. He made the most of it.
"I said this in my stint in prep school — that I saw this as my second chance," Rudolph said.
"It was a big learning experience. At the time [of the stabbing], I thought I was on top of the world. I had just signed the scholarship to Providence, I was like a local celebrity. That calmed me down and put me in my place. I realized anything can happen to anybody."
His mother, Kelly Grace-Silva, was devastated by the original charges, but appreciative that Patsos still wanted her son.
"We're grateful that Loyola gave him a second chance," Grace-Silva said. "Jimmy was there for him. He was very persistent."
The ordeal, Grace-Silva said, made Rudolph more humble.
"I remember after his first game at Loyola, I called and asked how it went. He said when they played the national anthem, he got teary-eyed. He said he was really thankful he got a second chance," she said.
Rudolph reinvented himself in the mid-major world of college basketball. He was co-rookie of the year in the MAAC as a freshman. As a pass-first point guard, he gradually climbed the school's all-time assists chart. This season, even though he came off the bench in nine of the first 10 games, he moved into second place.
With 525 assists, he likely will need to play at least two games in the tournament to have a shot at Tracy Bergen's Loyola record of 538. He will play in his 123rd game for Loyola on Saturday.
Rudolph moved back into the starting lineup when Jamal Barney left the team early in the year. Since then, the team jelled.
"Barney was fixated on individual stats rather than team winning," Patsos said. "Since Brian started, it's been an easy team to coach. We all get along, we're all on the same page. He made my job a lot easier."
Last Feb. 13, with the Greyhounds trailing Canisius 24-12 in the first half, Patsos called a timeout. When he couldn't find the right words, Rudolph took over and in a closed huddle, got the team back on track. Loyola won by 15.
Six days later, Patsos let Rudolph give the pre-game speech before a rivalry game against Towson. The Greyhounds won by 18.
"Brian has a chance to be a college coach," Patsos said.