Wichita State Shockers

Arkansas guard Austin Reaves made team chemistry a priority

Austin Reaves (middle) drives through Clarendon’s defense during the Arkansas 2A title game during Reaves’ sophomore season.
Austin Reaves (middle) drives through Clarendon’s defense during the Arkansas 2A title game during Reaves’ sophomore season. Arkansas Democrat Gazette

It is fun to watch Austin Reaves play basketball. Perhaps, if you’re one of his teammates, too much fun. Especially for those players on the court.

“Coach would alway get on to us for it, but in the moment you knew he was about to go do something great and you just had to watch,” Keagan Harrison said. “It was amazing.”

Reaves, a 6-foot-5 guard from Cedar Ridge High in Newark, Ark., will sign a letter of intent with Wichita State on Wednesday. His signing will give the Shockers four newcomers for the 2016-17 season and Reaves is the one with the most mystery. He produced eye-popping numbers at Class 3A Cedar Ridge and played on three state champions in four seasons.

He dribbles through three or four defenders. He makes no-look passes. He spins into the lane for baskets. He dunks, and there aren’t too many people at Cedar Ridge who can dunk.

“Every time he has the ball he does something awesome,” Zack Powell said. “You’ve just got to watch him. There’s always something new he comes up with to surprise everybody.”

The 2016 team went 36-3 with Reaves averaging 32.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists. He scored 73 points in a triple-overtime game and scored 56 or more four times. Even with those crazy numbers, his teammates regard him as a point guard, one always willing to pass.

“He gets me the ball every time he can, but he knows when it’s his time to step up and take the game in his hands,” said Cade Crabtree. “He makes me look better. He makes everybody look better.”

Reaves played point guard as a freshman and sophomore on state champions and largely deferred shots to older players, including brother Spencer and Cole Crabtree (Cade’s brother). As a junior and senior, Cedar Ridge needed him to score.

Cedar Ridge’s chemistry started in third grade when Harrison joined Reaves, Crabtree and Powell in school. They’ve played together since, Crabtree and Powell in the front-court, Harrison at guard and Reaves doing everything. When they’re not in the gym, they hunt and fish the farmland in Northeast Arkansas. When they go to Greers Ferry Lake, they play horseshoes or volleyball and they generally play until Reaves wins.

“He’s silent for awhile (if he loses) and he won’t talk about it much,” Powell said. “He plays the best 4-out-of-5 and he keeps going if he’s losing.”

Those three watched Reaves grow around five inches during high school, a growth spurt that transformed him from a skilled point guard into a high school force.

“He kept all those little guard skills, but he’s 6-5 instead of 5-9 like he used to be,” Crabtree said.

Those relationships made building team chemistry a life-long pursuit for the four boys. Newcomer Ethan Ballard fit in quickly as the fifth starter. When the spotlight found Reaves after a big night, he pulled teammates in.

“He made sure we got our credit,” Harrison said. “He would always say that he couldn’t score mine and couldn’t do what he does without his teammates. That always made all of us feel good.”

Reaves learned how to lead teammates from his older brother and his parents — both of whom played at Arkansas State.

“I’ve been around cocky people and I’ve been around people who do it the right way,” he said. “When people do it the right way, everybody stays happy and does their job. They should get more credit than what they do.”

Reaves, who is recovering from surgery on his left shoulder, will send his letter to WSU on Wednesday. Next week, he will hold a public signing with family and friends present. He committed to WSU in late January and is excited to make it official three months later.

“It will be one of the biggest moments of my life,” he said. “It’s another chapter, it’s going to be a totally different lifestyle. I couldn’t ask for a better place to start the new chapter at.”

Reaves will join three players who signed with WSU in November — Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College guard Daishon Smith, Pearl River (Miss.) forward Darral Willis and Brewster (N.H.) Academy guard C.J. Keyser.

WSU hires volleyball assistant — Donnie Wallace will replace Matt Hoffman as assistant volleyball coach, coach Chris Lamb said.

Hoffman moved to San Francisco State in late March as head coach.

Wallace spent two seasons as a volunteer assistant at WSU and three as coach at Southwestern College. In 2009, he coached Collegiate to the Class 3A title.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

A LOOK AT THE NEWCOMERS

▪ Guard Daishon Smith (6-foot-1) earned All-Panhandle Conference honors for Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College. He averaged 16.2 points, making 41.7 percent of his shots and 37 percent of his threes, for Tallahassee (21-12). He averaged 5.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.3 turnovers.

▪ Pearl River (Miss.) Community College forward Darral Willis (6-8) was named to third-team NJCAA All-American, All-Region 23 and All-MACJC South Division. He averaged 18.4 points and 10.4 rebounds for the Wildcats (16-9), making 59 percent of his shots and 75.3 percent of his free throws.

▪ Guard C.J. Keyser (6-4) of Brewster (N.H.) Academy is listed as a three-star prospect by ESPN.com and 247sports.com. He averaged 10.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists for Brewster, which went 29-5.

▪ Cedar Ridge (Ark.) guard Austin Reaves (6-4) averaged 32.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists in leading his team to the Class 3A title. Reaves, who plans to sign with WSU on Wednesday, scored 56 or more four times, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, with a high of 73 against Forrest City in a 117-115 triple-overtime win in December.

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