Kentucky fans are counting on Antonio Reeves to fill it up from behind the arc (Dr. John Huang Photo).
Antonio Reeves arrives on the Kentucky campus occupying an unenviable spot. The Illinois State transfer, who averaged 20.1 points per game last season, is expected to fulfill the role of shot-maker on a typical John Calipari coached team in need of additional dead-eye snipers. All of BBN is hoping the senior Reeves—together with backcourt mate C.J. Frederick—are as good as advertised from the perimeter.
If his introductory session with media is any indication, Reeves has the ability and the confidence to exceed expectations. The Chicago native made over 50 percent of his shots from the field last year, nearly 40 percent from behind the three-point line. He’s worked tirelessly in the gym the last couple of seasons to improve those numbers.
Just as importantly, Reeves understands his role on the team. Much has been written about his shooting ability and his overall game. Speculation from the so-called transfer portal gurus has been running rampant, so we thought we’d ask him directly about his own personal expectations of what he can add to the team this year.
“My shooting ability,” Reeves stated from the get-go. “Ball handling, defensive presence, and rebounding… [Coach Cal] knows I can shoot. He knows I can facilitate for the team and be a leader.”
When asked to describe his athleticism, the 6-foot-6 guard described it as “sneaky.”
“Sometimes people don’t really know I can jump,” he readily admitted. “I definitely want to show that I have the ability to get up and dunk the ball.”
Reeves seems unfazed by the pressures inherent in playing for the program with the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball. He assured us he could—first and foremost—fill it up from outside.
“I’m very confident in my shot,” he added. “I work on it all day, every day. I just know I can shoot the ball at a high clip…I’m definitely going to be counted on [to make perimeter shots]. I’m not really pressured about it because the last school I came from, that was my role on the team—to make perimeter shots. I’m comfortable with the situation I’m in right now.”
The soft-spoken, well-mannered Reeves has been a Kentucky fan his entire life. He’s fully aware of the national championship pedigree as well as the multitude of Wildcats in the NBA. The son of supportive parents (his father is a truck driver, and his mother is a nurse), Reeves is majoring in family science education. He describes himself as a good student who hopes to someday be a child life specialist.
Off the court, Reeves enjoys playing video games, watching TV, and watching YouTube. He also enjoys chilling on the beach and is looking forward to the team’s upcoming Bahamas trip.
One of his backcourt teammates, projected starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler, had a bit of a different take on Reeves’ off-court persona.
“Antonio’s a great teammate,” Wheeler said. “He’s pretty goofy, kind of funny. He’s always a joy to be around for sure. On the court, he’s a really good player. He can do everything on the offensive end. He’s really unselfish. He can shoot the ball. He makes plays for others [rather] than himself. He’s going to be a really really good addition for us.”
Not highly recruited out of high school, Reeves suddenly finds himself as an untested—but potentially vital—cog in Kentucky’s run toward another national championship. He doesn’t seem to shy away from lofty expectations.
“Just wanted to first win a national championship,” he answered, when asked about why he wound up at Kentucky. “Surround myself with really good players, and just grind every day in practice and make myself better.”
Did he ever think he would one day be playing for a premier blue-blooded program like UK?
“No, I never imagined it,” he said. “I want to thank God for that. He just laid things out in my life. It just came [through] the grace of God.”
Antonio Reeves may be an X-factor on the court. As a teammate, student, and friend, he sounds like money in the bank.
Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you enjoy his writing, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION. https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669