BY: TOMMY COSTELLO
You may be not too familiar with Ryan Arcidiacono, the current point guard of the Chicago Bulls. You might’ve heard his name tossed around before by broadcasters, always seeming to pronounce his name in different ways. You might also remember him from the 2016 national championship run made by the Villanova Wildcats. For those of you who don’t know who he is, let me proudly introduce you to him.
Ryan Arcidiacono is a 6’3, 200-pound guard from Langhorne, Pennsylvania, which is about 25 miles away from Philadelphia. Ryan attended Neshaminy High School where he starred as a top 50 recruit picking up offers from schools such as Villanova, Notre Dame, Florida, and West Virginia. After his junior season at Neshaminy, Ryan started to feel pain in his lower back. This pain that he was feeling turned out to be a herniated disk and forced him to sit out his senior season. Before this injury occurred, Ryan was already committed to attend Villanova University and he was worried that he would be dropped from Villanova’s list because of it. This could’ve been the end for his future at Villanova, but something amazing happened.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright decided to keep Ryan’s scholarship offer, and the rest was history. It was Ryan’s destiny to attend Villanova and compete at the highest level. Before arriving in the Main Line, he has already been a Villanova fan. Both of his parents attended Villanova and met there. His father, Joe Arcidiacono, played football for the Wildcats from 1976-1980. Ryan was brought up bleeding blue and white and knew that once he started playing for Villanova, he was going to give it everything he got to and to push himself to be a true Wildcat.
I’ll never forget how hard Ryan Arcidiacono played every single game. He became known for diving and laying-out for loose balls, making smart passes, hitting clutch shots, and playing true Villanova basketball. Ryan was named a captain for Villanova during his freshman season, which is almost unheard of in college basketball. He remained a captain for all four years, making his leadership noticed on and off the court.
He had a great career at Villanova in which he shared Big East Player of the Year Honors as a sophomore with his current Chicago Bulls teammate Kris Dunn, who attended Providence College at the time. As his career at Villanova went on, his team was able to find success. They made the NCAA tournament each of his four years, with three of his four seasons resulting in early departures. His junior season resulted in a second-round upset to the eight-seed North Carolina State. After this loss, Ryan realized that he didn’t want to have another early exit in the NCAA tournament in his senior season. He knew that he had to step up and was willing to do whatever it would take to bring Villanova to the top of the college basketball world.
Ryan’s senior season was nothing but successful. He helped lead his team to a 27-4 regular season and an AP #1 rank for the first time in program history. They ended up losing in the 2016 Big East Tournament championship to Seton Hall which pushed them to a two-seed in the NCAA tournament. People doubted them every game of the tournament and weren’t projected to make it past the second round. Villanova was able to feed off of the haters and win game-after-game and make a run to the NCAA Final Four for their first time since 2009, where they lost in the national semi-final to then champ North Carolina (wink-wink, not this time).
Villanova breezed through Oklahoma in the national semi-final this time around and were on to face the heavily-favored North Carolina Tar Heels in the championship. I’ll truly never forget that national championship game as both a life-long Villanova fan and simply just as a fan of basketball. The championship game against North Carolina went back-and-forth, both teams competing to out-duel each other. They continued to play close the whole game and with under ten seconds to go in regulation, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige made a difficult, yet lucky double-clutch three-pointer to tie the game at 74 with 4.7 seconds remaining. Villanova immediately called a timeout after the made three-pointer to discuss a play that will give them the possibility to hit a game-winning shot. As a Villanova fan, I honestly thought that the game was going to go into overtime after Paige’s three-pointer and I was a nervous wreck. I sat there during the time out seeing the elation shown by the North Carolina fans including their famous alumnus Michael Jordan. I was scared; I never expected what ended up happening to end the game.
Following the timeout, Villanova had to bring the ball down from under their opponent’s basket. They set up a play where Kris Jenkins inbounds the ball to Ryan Arcidiacono where he is greeted by a pick from their center Daniel Ochefu to free him of his man. After watching Ryan play four seasons of true Villanova basketball, I knew that he wasn’t going to take a shot if it wasn’t there for him. Ryan dribbled up the ball after using the pick from Ochefu up to around the top of the key and turned around to kick the ball back to who was the last option on the play, Kris Jenkins, aka “Big Smooth.” The rest is history. Kris Jenkins hit the three-pointer, becoming perpetually esteemed in college basketball history. The selfless decision of Ryan to give up the chance to be a hero and pass it off to Jenkins speaks volumes on his leadership that will always be remembered by all Villanova fans.
Following Ryan’s graduation from Villanova that spring, he didn’t get the privilege to hear his name called in the first or second rounds of the NBA draft. He was skeptical on what his professional basketball career had in-store for him. The 2016 NBA Summer League came around and Ryan was picked up by the San Antonio Spurs. His hustle and leadership were present for the Spurs and following the completion of the Summer League, they signed him to a two-way contract. He saw most of his action playing with the Austin Spurs, San Antonio’s development team. At the end of the season, San Antonio didn’t extend a contract offer and he became a free agent.
That July, Ryan decided to sign an offer to play professionally in Italy for Juvevaserta Basket. They played in Italy’s Serie D, which is the fifth-tier of professional basketball in Italy. They were going to move up to Serie A at the time of Ryan’s signing but ultimately ended up being declined. Following this, Ryan decided to leave the team and attempt to recommence his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.
Ryan was picked up by the Chicago Bulls to play for them in the 2017 NBA Summer League. Following a successful summer playing with the Bulls in Las Vegas, they signed him to a two-way contract. He split time with the Bulls and their G League team, the Windy City Bulls. He was able to succeed in the G League and average over ten points a game. Following a successful season with the Windy City Bulls, Ryan found himself playing in the NBA Summer League again with the Bulls. Every aspect of his game was shown from his hustle to his high basketball IQ.
The Chicago Bulls were very impressed with Ryan’s complete body of work in the G League and Summer League. They were so impressed that following the completion of the NBA Summer League, they announced that they offered a guaranteed one-year deal worth around $1.4 million. This has been a major turning point for the professional career of Ryan Arcidiacono in the NBA as he went from almost playing for a fifth-tier Italian professional team to signing a guaranteed one-year deal to play with the Chicago Bulls. As of now, Ryan has been playing in Chicago with the Bulls this season and has found an increased role. In 52 games this season, Ryan has played an average of 25.1 minutes per game, which he has been fully able to adapt to. Ryan averages 6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1 steal, and 3.5 assists per game while shooting on average 42.4% from the field, 37.3% from three, and 90% from the foul line. Ryan picked up his career-high of 22 points on November 26, 2018 against his former team, the San Antonio Spurs. The fans in Chicago have loved the effort that he has put in for the Bulls each and every night, becoming one of the fan-favorites. Chicago Bulls television broadcaster Stacey King awarded Ryan the nickname “Gutsy-Gritty” because of the intense hustle that he plays with every time he takes the court.
Where can you find Ryan today? You can find him diving into the stands to save loose balls or making a smart pass and doing everything he could to help his team. If this is your first time being introduced to Ryan, please do yourself a favor and watch some of his highlights. I can guarantee that it will be immensely difficult to find a player who plays harder than Gutsy-Gritty every time he touches the court.