Still bouncing around: Paths lead brothers back home for now

Guard Austin Reaves (12) fueled the largest road second-half comeback in Big 12 history (Oklahoma trailed by 18 at halftime) at TCU on March 7 by scoring 41 points — 25 in the second half — and hitting the game-winning basket with 0.5 seconds remaining to give the Sooners a 78-76 victory in Fort Worth. Reaves averaged 14.7 points per game last season and was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection after transferring from Wichita State. Reaves played in high school at Cedar Ridge. 
(AP/Tony Gutierrez)
Guard Austin Reaves (12) fueled the largest road second-half comeback in Big 12 history (Oklahoma trailed by 18 at halftime) at TCU on March 7 by scoring 41 points — 25 in the second half — and hitting the game-winning basket with 0.5 seconds remaining to give the Sooners a 78-76 victory in Fort Worth. Reaves averaged 14.7 points per game last season and was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection after transferring from Wichita State. Reaves played in high school at Cedar Ridge. (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

Basketball siblings aren't necessarily created equal, but for Spencer and Austin Reaves, their paths to success are about as similar as it gets.

The brothers were all-state players at Cedar Ridge, where they earned MVP honors two years apart to help the Timberwolves win state championships.

Austin Reaves at a glance

POSITION Guard

HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-5, 202 pounds

AGE 21 (Born May 29, 1998)

HOMETOWN Newark

HIGH SCHOOL Cedar Ridge

COLLEGE Wichita State/Oklahoma

NOTEWORTHY Was a two-time all-state selection at Cedar Ridge and averaged 32.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists as a senior. … Signed with Wichita State and averaged 6.1 points from 2016-18 before transferring to Oklahoma. … Started 31 games and averaged 14.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this past season as a junior with the Sooners. … Scored in double figures 22 times and finished sixth in the Big 12 in scoring while being named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention.

Spencer Reaves at a glance

POSITION Guard

HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-3, 195 pounds

AGE 24 (Born Dec. 23, 1995)

HOMETOWN Newark

HIGH SCHOOL Cedar Ridge

COLLEGE North Greenville (S.C.)/Central Missouri

NOTEWORTHY Named as an all-stater twice in high school. … Was named Most Valuable Player in two state title games and was a state runner-up twice in tennis. … Signed with North Greenville (S.C.) out of high school and was named the Carolinas Freshman of the Year in 2015 after averaging 16.8 points per game. … Transferred to Central Missouri, where he led the team in scoring as a junior and senior seasons. … Signed to play professionally with Juaristi ISB (Spain) in December 2018 and averaged 15 points in 19 games. Increased his average to 16.3 points per game this past season.

Spencer Reaves enjoyed a successful collegiate career at North Greenville (S.C.) and Central Missouri before signing a professional basketball contract with Juaristi ISB in Spain. Austin Reaves is coming off an honorable mention All-Big 12 season at Oklahoma after transferring from Wichita State in 2018.

But success for the duo didn't come easy.

"It's definitely tough at times," Spencer said. "I love the process, though, because that's what's gotten me to where I'm at. I've never been the most athletic, didn't have many college scholarship offers when I was coming out of high school.

"I just really had to grind my way through everything, and if that's what it's going to take to continue to get better, that's exactly what I'm going to do."

Hard work also has paid off for Austin, who made the decision to leave a successful Shockers program after two promising seasons. The switch surprised many, and Austin never revealed what drove the decision. But he insisted it was the right thing for him to do.

"It was tough to leave because I felt like I had good relationships with a lot of people there," said Reaves, who averaged almost seven points in 66 games at Wichita State. "But I think when it came down to it, it was the right thing for myself."

Reaves' departure was a precursor of things to come for Wichita State. Six players decided to transfer from the program after the 2019-20 season, which was the largest offseason defection in Coach Gregg Marshall's 13-year tenure with the team.

The exodus of players came as somewhat of a surprise to Reaves.

"The year I transferred, we had like maybe three or four leave," he said. "But it was nothing like what just happened, where the majority of the guys that were playing big minutes on the team ended up leaving. That was kind of a shock, but being around there and kind of understanding the situation, I get it."

Reaves, a 6-5 guard, got a fresh start with Oklahoma and made a splash after sitting out a year because of transfer rules. He scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds in his first regular-season game with the Sooners during and never let up.

Oklahoma Coach Lon Kruger said Reaves was more of a catch-and-shoot guy at Wichita State, which was what the Sooners needed at the time. But Kruger admitted the former Shocker wasn't satisfied.

"He shot the ball over 40% from three," Kruger said of Reaves' time at Wichita State. "Then during his redshirt year, he challenged himself to do all the things that he didn't do earlier as a player, in terms of putting the ball on the floor, driving the ball and making plays off the dribble. He just kept working on his game."

Reaves hit a milestone March 7 by putting together one of the more explosive performances in recent Big 12 memory. He scored a career-high 41 points, including 25 in the second half, and hit the game-winning basket against TCU. He added 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks against the Horned Frogs, joining Ben Simmons as the only players in NCAA Division I over the past 20 years to post at least 40 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks in a game.

For the season, Reaves averaged 14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3 assists while being named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team.

"I wanted to come in and just do whatever I could to help the team win," Reaves said. "That was really my main focus from Day One. You always have that mentality where you think you can kind of just take over at times, but I ultimately just wanted to help the team win as much as I could."

Reaves and the Sooners had postseason aspirations after going 19-12 and finishing tied for third in the Big 12. Oklahoma was set to play West Virginia in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Mo., on March 12 before the coronavirus pandemic ended everyone's season.

Kruger was pleased with what he saw out of Reaves.

"I think if you were to ask Austin, he'd probably be the first one to say that he's going to shoot it better," he said. "He's very complete, and he can do a lot of things. He's got a good feel defensively, he's very active.

"The stat sheet indicates he's a good all-around player. He did all that without making shots like he's going to."

Reaves' senior season is set to include a game against his home state school. Oklahoma and Arkansas are scheduled to play Dec. 12 at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

After the end of Spencer Reaves' college career, he had a hard time latching on to a professional team before catching a break in December 2018.

"My first agent that I signed with didn't get me any looks," he said. "I ended up getting rid of him, signed with an agency out of Spain, and they had me a job in three days. I got lucky because a guy from their agency wasn't producing as much as the team liked, and they were looking for a shooting guard.

"It was in the middle of the season, too, so I didn't have a lot of time to get adjusted. I had to jump right into games."

He said his roommates made the transition easier for him, and his teammates and coaches all spoke English.

He averaged 15 points and shot 46% from beyond the three-point line for Juaristi ISB, a club team located in Azpeitia, Spain. Reaves re-signed with the organization and was in the midst of another productive season before the coronavirus hit.

"We were just starting our second round of games," said Reaves, who'd increased his scoring to 16.3 ppg prior to the stoppage. "[Coronavirus] was becoming a pretty big deal in Spain and Europe before it ever hit the States. It wasn't that anyone in our league had it, it was just that the country itself was getting so bad with cases.

"I had people wondering if I'd be able to come home because of all the travel bans. Luckily, I was able to, but even if I wasn't, I was in a good spot and living in a small city where there was probably one case of the coronavirus. I wasn't living in Madrid or Barcelona where it was really breaking out. But now that I am back home, I'm going to make the most of it."

Reaves said he and his brother spend quite a bit of time working out in a gym that's located about 30 minutes from their home in Newark. The two intend to do so until they're able to return to their respective teams, where they will continue working toward their common goal.

"We're just going to try to get better and improve on our games," Spencer said. "For me personally, I want to give myself a good opportunity to move up in leagues and make more money. ... just compete at a higher level."

photo

Jimmy Jones

Spencer Reaves, seen here while playing for Cedar Ridge in 2013, had success at North Greenville (S.C.) and Central Missouri before playing professionally in Spain.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo)

photo

AP

Oklahoma guard Austin Reaves (12) looks to pass while TCU’s Jaedon LeDee defends in March. Reaves, a native of Ce- dar Ridge, scored a career-high 41 points in the game. (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

Sports on 05/20/2020