KNOXVILLE, Tenn. —As roommates on the road, Tyrel Reed and Tyshawn Taylor spend hours together watching other college basketball games and discussing their own roles with the Kansas Jayhawks.
But in all that time, bouncing around from town to town, Reed had never heard this take from Taylor about Reed's role for No. 1 KU:
"He's like a field-goal kicker or something," Taylor said. "When it's time for you to hit that big field goal, you're relaxed and you're ready because you know it's your job. Tyrel, that's what he does. He shoots threes."
Reed, told of Taylor's assessment, broke into a grin. While he doesn't see himself as only a three-point shooter, he seemed to enjoy the analogy.
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"I've never thought of it that way," Reed said. "I don't know if that's a good comparison, but it sounds alright."
When you think about it, Taylor may be onto something. A field-goal kicker spends the most of the game on the sidelines, waiting for his chance. He knows it's likely that one swing of his leg will change the entire complexion of the game, and he has to be ready. Each kick is a huge moment, but he can't afford to look at it that way.
Reed's life with the Jayhawks isn't all that different. When KU needs a big three, Bill Self just about always calls on Reed, the 6-foot-3 junior guard from Burlington. This season, Reed has delivered 41 percent of the time, but he's been heating up of late. Reed has made 6 of 11 in the last five games.
"I think it's tough just because he's sitting on the bench for however many minutes and then Coach calls his name," KU center Cole Aldrich said. "He's been in warmups for five to 10 minutes, and he's expected to go hit some big shots like that, which takes a lot. Of everybody, we trust him to do it."
Each time Reed makes a big one, he builds more trust, and Wednesday was a big day for that. The Jayhawks had trailed Cornell most of the game, and every time KU seemed like it was going to push ahead, the Big Red answered. Finally, with 3 minutes, 55 seconds left and KU trailing 60-58, Sherron Collins drove into the lane and found Reed hiding in the corner. Reed caught the pass and released it in rhythm, and suddenly Kansas led 61-60.
At that point, Reed was only getting started acting like a kicker. The usually quiet and humble Reed lost his cool for about five seconds, darting around the floor screaming and hitting himself in the chest with a balled-up fist. He has had other Martin Gramatica-like moments during his career, like the time he hit a big three at Nebraska last season and started jawing with the Cornhuskers' Cookie Miller.
Reed said he never knows when he's going to lose it.
"You get kind of in the flow of the game," Reed said, "things happen and you're just excited about making a play."
Reed's teammates were laughing at Reed in the moment, and they laughed even harder days later when watching the Cornell film.
"Everybody had a good laugh about it," Taylor said. "I never see him show any emotion like that. When you see it, it's good. He needs to show it more."
Odds are, Reed would show it plenty if he just got more chances to shoot. Reed has shot just two threes in each of the last four games, making one each time.
"I think Tyrel's really improved a lot," Self said. "His ball-handling has gotten better, his defense has gotten better. He still doesn't look to shoot the ball enough, but he's very efficient."
It's possible that Reed is hesitant because he can't stomach the idea of missing at all. Reed is a perfectionist.
"He's very competitive," Self said. "He hates to screw up at anything. He's too hard on himself, and he's gotten much better at this as far as taking everything with a grain of salt. Because he can dwell on what he doesn't do at times."
Reed believes that he has made progress in that area during his time at KU.
"Definitely," Reed said. "Coach always talks about 'next play.' Make a bad one, can't worry about the past."
Reed contends that he is never worried about his shooting. Even when he isn't hitting — he has had stretches of 0 for 5 and 4 for 15 this season — Reed knows he will get hot eventually.
"He's probably been hitting shots like that all his life," Taylor said. "He's always been a player that can shoot and score. I think if you would have put somebody else in that situation (against Cornell), it'd be a lot different. But Tyrel is always relaxed in situations like that because he knows what he's gotta do."
Certainly, Reed has earned the faith of his teammates to make the big ones. He doesn't take that lightly.
"You just have to stay prepared and stay focused out there," Reed said. "I just have to be ready."