President Obama Honors the 2016 NCAA Champion Villanova Wildcats Men’s Basketball Team

President Obama Honors the 2016 NCAA Champion Villanova Wildcats Men’s Basketball Team


The President:
Hello, everybody! Hello. (applause) Everybody please
have a seat. Welcome to the White House. And I guess it is the blue
and white house today because we’re giving it up
for the 2016 NCAA Champion Villanova Wildcats! (applause) Now, you should know that
we have some big ‘Nova fans here, from both sides of
the aisle in Congress. We also want to acknowledge
Villanova President, Reverend Peter
Donohue, who is here. (applause) Athletic Director Mark
Jackson, who capped off his first year as athletic
director with a national championship —
pretty good job. Pretty good. (applause) Unfortunately, perhaps the
most important ‘Nova grad here, Dr. Jill Biden,
could not be here. I think she may be teaching,
but her husband Joe wanted me to remind you that he
picked ‘Nova to win it all. (laughter and applause) This is the type of wise
counsel that you are looking for from a Vice President. (laughter) Unfortunately, I didn’t
follow his counsel and so my bracket was busted. (laughter) We have the best-dressed man
in college basketball — (applause) — the George
Clooney of coaches — (laughter) — Jay Wright. And today, we celebrate a
remarkable team that worked tirelessly to make Coach
look good in terms of his job and not just
his wardrobe. (laughter) His tailor and stylist could
not make it, but we do have his basketball players here. (laughter) So Coach Wright and this
team treated us to as memorable a run and as
memorable a championship game as I can remember. We’ll talk more about that
game in a second, but these Wildcats were about more
than just one moment or one shot. They had unbelievable
defense. They had great
clutch-shooting. A senior class that won more
games than any group in Wildcats history. They had a stable of
talented players who were as happy hitting the deck for
a loose ball as they were cutting down the nets. You had Daniel Ochefu,
a.k.a “The Chef,” — (laughter) — who became just the
seventh player in program history to score 1,000
points and grab 900 boards — pretty good. (applause) Also not afraid to do the
little things — we saw him grab that mop in the
middle of the game. (laughter) We had Josh Hart who led
the Wildcats in scoring. Congratulations, Josh. Josh, where’d
you go to school? Mr. Hart: Sidwell Friends. The President: Sidwell
Friends School. (applause) My daughter will be
graduating from there next week, which makes me cry
when I talk about it, so I’m not going to talk about it. (laughter) But it was good to see
a Sidwell kid do well. Kris Jenkins — a.k.a. “Big Smoove” — (laughter and applause) — who learned how to
shoot from his mom. Moms know what they’re
talking about. And then there is
Ryan Arcidiacano. Now, I just sped through
that in case I didn’t say it right. (laughter) Barack Obama is tough, but
Arcidiacano, man, that’s a lot of vowels in there so
we’re just going to call him Arch. (laughter) A captain since his freshman
year, wore the blue and white in more games than any
Wildcat ever, and went out in style as the Most
Outstanding Player of the Final Four. So we are very,
very proud of him. Give him a big
round of applause. (applause) But more than any individual
honor, this team possessed something that the coaches
preached from day one, and that’s attitude. As Coach Wright says: “In
life, you cannot control what happens to you, but you
do control how you respond to it.” And that’s how they bounced
back from disappointing tournaments these
past few years. That’s how they rolled
through the first three rounds by an average of 24
points, beat Kansas to punch their ticket to
the Final Four. In Houston, they blew the
doors off Oklahoma by a Final Four record
44-point margin. All of which set up an
unbelievable showdown with the Tar Heels — it might be
maybe the best title game of all time. Just the last few seconds
could be a documentary — you had an unbelievable
double-clutch circus shot from Marcus Paige
on UNC’s team. A lot of teams would have
had their spirit broken — the Wildcats, they took
control, they responded. And on a play called “Nova,”
Kris took a pass from Arch, and pulled up a few steps
behind the line and shot this team into
basketball lore. That was a good shot. (laughter) It was like a Christian
Laettner-good. It was like a
Jimmy-V-running-up-and-down- the-court shot. Charles Barkley apparently
jumped out of his seat, which — (laughter) — he doesn’t do very
often these days. (laughter and applause) Legendary Coach Massimino,
who led the Wildcats to their first title 31 years
ago, obviously couldn’t be prouder. Coach Wright, on the other
hand, played it cool — (laughter) — just turned around, shook
hands like nothing happened. (laughter) But I know inside he
was pretty excited. (laughter) So this is a team for the
ages, on and off the court. Their grades ranked in the
top 10 percent nationally. (applause) That’s worth applauding. (applause) All five seniors graduated. In fact, ever since the
1970s, the Wildcats have graduated every
four-year player. And that’s the kind of
record that you really want. They’re also involved in
the Philadelphia community, serving meals for those in
need, supporting the Special Olympics. A few days after their win,
Arch and The Chef heard about a fan — a small boy
battling cancer — who could use a boost. So without fanfare, they
snuck into the boy’s basement and hid in his
playhouse to surprise him, which seems a little scary. (laughter) But their hearts were
in the right place. And that’s what we saw all
year from this team — the heart of a champion. So congratulations to the
Wildcats for an unbelievable season. And with that, let me give
the podium very quickly to Coach Wright. (applause) Coach Wright: Mr. President,
after the championship we had a big press conference,
but nothing as big as this. This is big-time. The President: There’s a
lot of cameras around here. Coach Wright: And on behalf
of our entire ‘Nova family, I want to thank you and your
staff for inviting us to the White House. This is a great day for
Villanova University, and you invited all the
politicians and everybody connected to Villanova. We love having them here,
thank you for doing that. And your staff has
been incredible to us. You’re a great leader, and
we want two of our leaders — Ryan Arcidiacano and
Daniel Ochefu to share with you the jersey — 44th
President of the United States — that we wore
this year at Pearl Harbor. And it was on Pearl Harbor
Day, and we really want to thank you. And it says on there, “For
your great leadership, your service to our country,
you’re truly a great role model for our young men.” We want them to be
great leaders like you. And we thank you for
everything you do for our country, and we welcome you
to the ‘Nova nation with your Villanova jersey. The President:
Thank you so much. (applause)

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