Speculation has run rampant in the 10 days since news broke that Austin Reaves had decided to transfer from the Wichita State men's basketball team.
The decision rocked WSU fans: Reaves was pegged for a major role in the 2018-19 season, one of just five returners from this past season, and coming off a sophomore year in which he excelled offensively in an expanded role.
Without a statement from Reaves or coach Gregg Marshall, fans began to speculate online that criticism delivered in a column titled "Bench Austin Reaves," published in the WSU student newspaper, The Sunflower, had played a role in Reaves' decision to leave. The Sunflower received so much flak that it wrote another column on the "ludicrous rampage" by some WSU fans.
In his first public interview with local media, Reaves addressed the topic.
"I heard about that, but honestly that has nothing to do with why I'm transferring," Reaves told the Eagle. "A guy saw an opportunity to get a story out and that's his job and he chooses what he writes about. At the end of the day, that's his job. It wasn't something I really loved to read, but I respect that's his job."
So why exactly did Reaves decide to leave a chance to be a star at Wichita State?
Reaves understands WSU fans want to know every detail, but he hopes that fans can respect that his decision was finalized after serious time and consideration with his family.
"I get that everybody is wondering why," Reaves said. "At the end of the day, it was one of those things where I felt like I needed to move on to pursue my dream. I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the coaches and the fans."
Reaves is the second scholarship player to request a transfer since WSU concluded a 25-8 season, joining guard C.J. Keyser. Marshall recently said it was the first time he's been surprised by a transfer request in two decades of coaching, while WSU athletic director Darron Boatright also said Reaves leaving was "a little bit of a surprise."
A 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Newark, Ark., Reaves started 11 games this past season and averaged 8.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists, while shooting 42.5 percent on three-pointers. He set a school record by making seven consecutive three-pointers in the first half against Tulsa in a 90-71 win on Jan. 29.
On-court/off-court splits showed WSU was at its best (0.18 points per possession better than its opponent) when Reaves was on the floor, while advanced stats showed Reaves improved his field-goal percentage around the rim from 40 percent as a freshman to 70 percent as a sophomore.
"I was probably a 2- or 3-star recruit coming in and Wichita State gave me the opportunity to put my name out there," Reaves said. "The biggest thing I'll take away from playing for coach Marshall is how to play extremely hard, no matter the situation. He knew how to push us and make us give 100 percent at all times."
Reaves has taken official visits to Oklahoma and Northern Iowa, but has not scheduled any others as of this weekend and has no timeline in place on when he wants to make his final decision. He has also received interest from Michigan, Purdue, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech.
He said his personal happiness and his fit on the team will be his priorities at the next program he plays for.
While it didn't work out at WSU, he said he will leave with fond memories.
"I'll forever be grateful to Wichita State and coach Marshall for allowing me to play in one of the greatest atmospheres in college basketball," Reaves said. "I have nothing but appreciation for WSU fans and all of the support they gave me, even when things were rough. They always had my back and that is greatly appreciated. I wish the university the best of luck moving forward and I hope they do great things."