Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Ryan Arcidiacono drove to the hoop for a reverse layup last Friday night at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions in North Carolina when an opposing player undercut him and sent him flying to the floor.
“The kid shoved me and took my legs out and my face hit the ground pretty hard,” recalled Arcidiacono, a 16-year-old rising junior at Neshaminy (Pa.) High School. “It just hurt. It felt like I had a golf ball in my face. I had blood on my hands. It was just gushing blood.”
It was after midnight when Gene Rice, Arcidiacono’s AAU coach with the PA Playaz, took his 6-foot-4, 190-pound point guard to the Wake Forest University Medical Center where he took eight stitches in the forehead.
“The doctor said if it was his kid he wouldn’t let me play [the next day],” Arcidiacono said.
“If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have played the kid,” Rice added.
But of course he wanted to.
The subject came up as a hungry Arcidiacono dined on waffles and a cheeseburger with Rice and his wife, Michele, at a Waffle House after 1 a.m. Saturday.
“Please let me play,” the player begged his coach.
At 7 a.m., Ryan got on the phone and woke up his parents, Joe, a former Villanova football player who stands 6-5, and Patti, a registered nurse.
“I have to play,” he said.
“We both said ‘OK’ as he would not take no for an answer,” Joe said.
The PA Playaz had three games scheduled for Saturday and one Sunday.
“I was only supposed to warm up but I got the green light to play,” Ryan said.
Arcidiacono then went out and turned heads for the remainder of the tournament as the Playaz went 3-2, drawing rave reviews from the national recruiting experts and scouts who were there.
“He went out with the stitches and a big bandage and competed the way he competes,” Rice said. “He averaged over 25 points a game.”
He drained 19 3-pointers on the weekend, including six in one game.
Entering the weekend, Arcidiacono held offers from Rutgers, St. Joe’s and Rice.
By the time the weekend was ending, Rice was hearing from high-major programs across the nation.
“He’s being recruited by Syracuse, Villanova, Penn State, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Temple and Princeton,” Rice said.
“I got a call from the University of Florida. As I was leaving people from Clemson were trying to talk to me. North Carolina State was in my ear.”
Arcidiacono also mentioned Texas, Notre Dame and St. John’s. Rice said Arcidiacono had been invited to St. John’s Skills & Shooting Camp this weekend.
The funny thing is, Rice said Arcidiacono didn’t even play exceptionally well at Bob Gibbons.
“He played well this weekend but he didn’t play any better than he did he every other tournament,” Rice said.
Before Arcidiacono arrived at Neshaminy High, the program had gone 3-22 in each of the previous two seasons, or 6-44 combined.
They made the district playoffs his freshman season. During his sophomore year, they reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2000 before falling to Penn Wood.
Arcidiacono was named second-team All-State in Pennsylvania’s Class AAAA grouping after averaging 18 points per game.
He was invited to the NBA Top 100 Camp in Virginia this month as one of only 15 rising juniors to attend.
He says it’s still too early to make any serious college plans.
“I’m considering every place right now,” he said. “It’s still early.”
Rutgers was the first school to offer under former coach Fred Hill and Rice thinks that could be a good landing spot for Arcidiacono.
“Rutgers has a good shot,” Rice said. “They have a real close-knit family and they all live in New Jersey and Bucks County, Pa.
“They all want to see him play in a big-time college and see him go to a place where they put the ball in his hands and it’s close enough so the family can watch.”
Arcidiacono has been to Rutgers a couple of times unofficially but has yet to meet new coach Mike Rice. He does know recruiting coordinator Jimmy Carr, who also worked under Hill.
“I’ve never met the new coach,” Arcidiacono said. “Fred Hill, I liked him but I’ll have to keep everything open.”
(Photos courtesy MaxPreps.com)
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.