Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10
1. Penn Wood (Record: 5-3. Weeks rated: 1.)
2. Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Record: 7-0. Weeks rated: 1)
3. Neumann-Goretti (Record: 6-1. Weeks rated: 1)
4. Archbishop Carroll (Record: 5-1. Weeks rated: 1.)
5. Communications Tech (Record: 6-0. Weeks rated: 1.)
6. Souderton (Record: 8-0. Weeks rated: 1.)
7. Malvern Prep (Record: 10-2. Weeks rated: 1.)
8. St. Joseph’s Prep (Record: 7-2. Weeks rated: 1.)
9. Strawberry Mansion (Record: 8-0. Weeks rated: 1.)
10. Holy Ghost Prep (Record: 7-1. Weeks rated: 1.)
It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, or how long the sessions go. It never did. Ryan Arcidiacono is going to do his ladder drills, dribbling drills, jumping drills and then take about 500 shots. He’ll do it four days a week for about 90 minutes a day. He’ll do it with the sneaking suspicion that someone somewhere is working harder than he is.
No one tells him to drive himself like this. No one ever had to. Arcidiacono (pronounced Archie-dee-akono) always envisioned big things. To get there means work, grueling commitment and an ever-driving attitude to outwork everyone else. It’s what has placed the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Neshaminy High point guard among the top sophomores in the country.
He’s averaging 17.3 points, 4.9 assists and 6.3 rebounds a game for Neshaminy, a school with a strong football tradition and tenuous basketball history. Arcidiacono is working on changing all of that. He’s already received offers from Rutgers and St. Joseph’s, and has gained the attention of Villanova, Syracuse, Penn State, Princeton and Wake Forest.
Arcidiacono is the centerpiece, but Redskins coach Jerry Devine, who took over a 2-22 team in 2005 and transformed it into a 16-10 team last year, has built a nice nucleus around his young guard. Neshaminy made its first step toward respectability last year, winning its first PIAA District 1 playoff game since 2001, the last time the Redskins qualified for the state playoffs.
But there is no questioning that this is Arcidiacono’s team. He’s certainly talented enough to uphold that responsibility and the pressure that comes with it. It also helps, Devine says, that Arcidiacono has the right outlook for the job, too.
"For us, it was easy to place Ryan in that role and know he would be a contributor for us right off the bat," Devine said. "The team last year rallied around him and Ryan held his own. Starting Ryan was the easiest decision to make as a coach. He’s a kid with a ton of talent who isn’t cocky. He’s the kind of kid who’s diving on the floor for a loose ball during practice like he’s the ninth guy on the team trying to steal minutes.
"The other guys see this and it makes them work harder. They see that there isn’t anything Ryan can’t do on the court. He’s willing to get better and it makes us all better."
He’s tireless, tenacious and fearless. It’s those intangibles that make him special.
"Ryan will never be able to look back and say he was cheated during this time of his development," Devine said. "Because whatever he does now, he maximizes to the fullest. The only thing he’d like to do is add another hour in the day, and it’s the one thing he can’t do. He’s already a Division I player. He’s still growing. If he gets to 6-5, watch out. He already has a lot of nice options now. He gets to 6-5, he can go anywhere he wants to go. That’s the scary part about Ryan."
Look at where it all started and it’s easy to see. There are baby pictures of Ryan still in diapers with a ball in his hands. Arcidiacono was born into a sports family. His father, Joe, played defensive end opposite NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long at Villanova and tried out for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets. His older sister, Nicole, is the captain of Penn State’s womens’ basketball team. His cousin, Mark Arcidiacono, is an offensive lineman at Penn State. Ryan’s also close friends with former Penn State guard Ben Luber, now an assistant coach at Rider.
But before you think there is a particular leaning here, also consider that both of Ryan’s parents, Joe and Patti, are Villanova graduates, and Wildcats coach Jay Wright is very aware of the special sophomore in his backyard. In fact, Derek Wright, Jay’s younger brother, coaches against Ryan at Council Rock North in the Suburban One League.
"I had sports all around, but no one ever pushed me into anything; this love for the game came from me," Ryan said. "I live it. It’s basically all I do; eat, sleep, work out and play basketball. I love it. My parents know it. When I was a little kid and I did something wrong, my parents would punish me by taking my ball away from me. They knew then how much I loved playing. My goal is pretty simple now: I want to get better. I need to get better if I want to play at the next level."
Arcidiacono will surely get tested this winter in District 1, by far the most competitive region of high school basketball in Pennsylvania, with the last two PIAA Class AAAA (large school) state champions, Chester and Penn Wood. By this time next year, Ryan would like to be committed to a college and enjoy the rest of his high school career without having to always feel college recruiters' eyes are on him. So far, however, he’s already doing a heck of a job withstanding the heat of being so young with so much expected.
"I like the pressure," Arcidiacono said. "I try to stay humble and keep the same attitude. I don’t want to be a ball hog. I’m part of a team. I guess that comes from playing so much. I know I have my doubters. People in basketball circles talk a lot. Some people have doubted my ability. I hear things like I’m not fast enough, I can’t play against the better schools in the area. I want to prove them wrong.
"Maybe it’s why I’m never satisfied, or never going to be satisfied, because I can never be perfect."
It’s probably why he drives himself so hard so often, always feeling as if there is someone else out there outworking him. But players with Arcidiacono’s talent and work ethic? Those players are pretty hard to find — especially as sophomores.
Joseph Santoliquito covers high schools for the Philadelphia Daily News and is a contributor to MaxPreps.com. He can be contacted at JSantoliquito@yahoo.com.