OKLAHOMA CITY — Bill Self doesn't want to hear it, but there was debate about Tyrel Reed's ability to play at a place like Kansas.
He was a kid coming out of Burlington, for sure one of the best two or three high school players in Kansas while he was there. He was a can't-miss shooter and had an instinctive feel for the game that made you think he was a coach's son, which he is. His father, Stacy, was his high school coach.
But Kansas recruits the best players in the country, not Class 3A kids from Kansas.
Yet when I reminded Self about the Reed debate, he wasn't biting.
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"I've been asked about that with Tyrel and Brady (Morningstar) both,'' Self said. "Tyrel was offered by — if he wasn't going to be a good player in the Big 12, he certainly had half the league fooled because half the league offered him a scholarship.''
The debate is over. Reed has been a major force at Kansas, a sharpshooter off the bench who can defend, handle the ball and play with those smarts he developed at an early age.
It was Reed's four three-pointers that jump-started Kansas on Thursday night during its sluggish first-round NCAA Tournament win over Lehigh. He usually plays 15 or 20 minutes and there is rarely a drop off in the Jayhawks' quality during those minutes.
"I think I've matured a little bit and I understand my role even better than I did last year,'' Reed said. "I'm playing with a bunch of great guys, so it's easy to figure things out.''
Reed averages 5.1 points, but they're 5.1 important points. He's that guy off the bench with a dagger.
Reed is a 47.2-percent three-point shooter and has made 12 of his past 19 over a span of six games.
"I didn't expect him to come in as a freshman and beat out (Mario) Chalmers or (Brandon) Rush,'' Self said. "But I did expect him to be a slight contributor as a freshman and I thought by the time he was a sophomore he would definitely be in our rotation.''
Reed has met Self's timetable. As a senior next season, he'll be an even bigger contributor.
Barry Hinson, the former coach at Missouri State who is now on KU's basketball operations staff, badly wanted Reed to become a Bear. And he had an in; a Missouri State assistant at the time, Ben Miller, was a close friend of Tracy Reed's.
Hinson, though, knew Reed might be out the Bears' league.
"Tyrel came to our camps and we had him over to as many games as anybody we recruited,'' Hinson said. "At the time, we knew one thing for sure — that he could just shoot the lights out of it. And we knew anytime he was on the floor, somebody would have to guard him.''
Hinson made his run, but Reed had many options. KU was his favorite; like so many young basketball players in Kansas he had grown up a Jayhawk fan.
For a while, though, there were some scholarship issues. Self wasn't sure he'd be able to offer one to Reed, which is when Hinson started to think Missouri State might squeeze back into the picture.
"The question marks about Tyrel were, 'OK, can he guard anybody off the bounce?' '' Hinson said. "How much stronger is he going to get?' We were hoping all along that KU would think about it and decide against signing Tyrel. But at the same time, KU knew what we knew. They had been around him long enough to know that the kid's attention to detail, his determination and just his flat-out work ethic were all there. They knew as well as we did that he would become the player he's now becoming.''
Reed said he was aware of the skeptics, but he never gave them much credence.
"I knew the kind of player I was and what I was capable of doing,'' he said. "I was recruited by a lot of colleges other than Kansas, so I felt in my heart that if I can go play somewhere else, why can't I play at Kansas? I never doubted myself. I always had confidence and I'm just proud to be where I am now.''
He's one of the most important bench players on the country's top-ranked team. He's capable of sparking a rally with just a few flicks of his right wrist.
Leave it to the ultra-quotable Hinson to explain the situation.
"The best analogy I can give you about Tyrel is that long, gangly girl with pimples on her face that you ask to prom because you know three or four years down the road she's going to be Miss America,'' he said. "You better get in on it early, which is what we did at Missouri State. We were just hoping that KU would go on and try to get Miss America and we'd end up getting the prom date of the century.''