Follower Turned Leader
March 6, 2003
By Jon Barnwell
When you ask the Ole Miss basketball players which teammate makes them laugh, one name pops up more than most. That name is Justin Reed.
"The more you laugh, the more relaxed you can be on the court," said Reed. "I'm kind of a comedian off the court because I like to have fun and relax."
When Reed is having fun, his opponents aren't, as he is all business on the court for the Ole Miss Rebels. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound junior forward from Jackson, Miss., is one of the top players in the Southeastern Conference, and his versatility and incredible skills make him an invaluable member of the team.
Through 22 games this season, Reed is averaging 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds and is hitting 49.6 percent from the field. Reed, who has made 19 starts this year, is the leading scorer for the Rebels, and is ranked among the conference leaders in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots. But for the 2-time John Wooden Award candidate, impressive stats and honors are nothing new for him.
His long list of accolades began back in his prep days at Provine High School in Jackson, where he averaged 27.4 points, 14.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists his senior year. Bill Hodge of ESPN.com ranked Reed the 24th best high school senior in the 1999-2000 season, and several other lists had Reed among their top 40 high school players in the country that year.
When he arrived at Ole Miss in 2000-01, the honors kept coming. During his inaugural collegiate year, he earned Freshman All-America third team, SEC Freshman of the Year (SEC Coaches) and SEC Newcomer of the Year (Associated Press) awards. He also helped the Rebels advance to the NCAA Tournament "Sweet 16" that same year.
Following his solid play that year, Reed was invited to try out for the World University Games team in the summer of 2001 and made the squad. Reed traveled to Beijing, China, and competed for Team USA. The U.S. team won the bronze medal and posted a 7-1 record, with the lone loss coming to China and its superstar Yao Ming in the semifinals.
Despite all the honors early in his career, Reed continued to work hard, and it is his work ethic that has impressed Rebel head coach Rod Barnes as well as several NBA scouts.
"Justin is a very talented player," Barnes said. "But what makes him an even better player is how hard he works. He is always trying to find ways to become a more complete player. Justin has a great understanding of the game, but is looking to learn more every day in practice and that's exciting."
Reed's sophomore year was one of improvement. He was named to the Coaches All-SEC second team and to the Associated Press All-SEC third team. He also made the biggest jump in free throw percentage in the nation in 2001-02, going from 54.9 percent as a freshman to 78.7 percent as a sophomore.
And Reed has not stopped working. This season, he has added the three-point shot to his arsenal to go along with his solid low-post moves and strength.
"I don't shoot the three that much," said Reed, who tied his career high scoring with 26 points against Vanderbilt Feb. 1. "But when it is falling, I'm not afraid to use that part of my game."
Barnes added, "Justin has worked hard on his perimeter game. I told him that would be a part of his game that would develop as time goes on. He came into our program as a post player, and he has developed his game. He has gained more confidence. It's not a surprise to me what he is doing on the perimeter."
Another area that Reed is focusing on in 2002-03 is that of becoming a leader. This year has been a transitional one for Reed, who is going from following Rebel basketball alums like Jason Flanigan, Jason Harrison and Rahim Lockhart to now being a leader himself.
"I always wanted to be a leader, and I know that I can get the guys motivated on the court," said Reed, who joined the Rebel 1,000-point club earlier this year. "I wanted to start the season off right and try to be a complete player, and be a leader for my teammates."
"Like many college players, Justin is maturing on and off the court," Barnes said. "I've always believed to be a great leader you have to be a great follower, and Justin was that. He followed and learned from those ahead of him and waited his turn. He is now the leader I expected he would become."
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