If you attended a Howard Hawks basketball game this past season, you most likely saw a 6-foot-1 two-way guard cutting to the basket, shooting with outstanding form from beyond the arc, and frustrating opponents with his lockdown defense.
That player was Eric Reed Jr.
“I thought Eric was our most important guy,” Hawks coach Scott Raines said. “Day-in and day-out and game-in and game out, we relied on Eric’s leadership and toughness.”
The up-tempo and aggressive style of play that defines Reed Jr. on the court began in the state of Louisiana just after he learned some coordination. His father introduced him to the game and ever since it has been basketball over all.
Reed Jr. grew up and played his high school basketball in the great city of Baton Rouge. The quick guard attended University Laboratory for high school and was a member of one of the consistent top 3A teams in the state. Even though he was already very talented in the sport, Reed Jr. did not join the varsity team until his sophomore year.
“My sophomore year we won the state championship and I was a part of our three-peat,” Reed Jr. said. “My junior and senior year we made it to the semi’s so I had a pretty good career there.”
Even after his producive high school career, Reed Jr. was only slightly recruited following his senior season. That led him and his elder namesake to take a trip to the small West Texas town of Big Spring.
When they first arrived, father and son realized how different and how much smaller the city was compared to their hometown. But the pair also had the realization that this small city is where Reed Jr. could focus on nothing other than building up his skills on the court and achieving what he needed to in the classroom.
“I got a call from Coach Cotten and my dad and I made the 10-hour drive from Baton Rouge to Big Spring, Texas,” Reed Jr. said. “We went there, saw the school, and just committed and signed.”
During his first season as a member of the Howard Hawks, Reed Jr. started 14 games and averaged 8.4 points per game. His effort on the boards and defense was consistent and he ranked in the Top 15 of all Region V players for offensive rebounds. As his freshman season progressed, Reed Jr.’s confidence on the court took a noticeable step forward. In the season’s last six games, the speedy guard recorded four double-digit scoring performances and seemed to set himself up for a nice freshman-to-sophomore year jump.
At the start of the 2019-20 season, Reed Jr. was the only returning player for the Hawks. With the experience of enduring one full juco season already, Raines knew that his young team would be relying on the sophomore guard to lead the way.
There is no better example of this than a late January visit to Western Texas. With time running down, the Westerners tied the game at 61 and the Hawks, with zero timeouts, had only a few seconds to run the length of the court and respond. Reed Jr. received the inbounds pass and proceeded to sprint towards the other end of the court. He quickly made his way into the paint past a sea of defenders and finished the play with a contested, acrobatic layup that gave his team a 63-61 win.
“This year he was our first option and he really embraced that,” Raines said.
Reed Jr started all 30 games played during his sophomore season at Howard and led the squad with 15.7 points per game. Out of all 30 contests, the Baton Rouge native failed to score in double-digits only three times. He also was able to collect four double-doubles and seemed to be improving more and more as the season went along.
The game that changed everything and seemed to fast-track his recruitment was a 31-point outburst in a road loss to Frank Phillips in early January.
“I think that’s when my recruitment picked up and more schools started to reach out,” Reed Jr. said.
Since the end of the season, Reed Jr. has been receiving more and more scholarship offers and has described the situation as “stressful” because of the current COVID-19 health crisis.
Last month, he had revealed a Top 5 schools for his recruitment and seemed to be closing in on a decision. That all changed a few days ago when Reed Jr. announced on his Twitter account that he would be re-opening his recruitment and there is no longer a Top 5. In addition to all of the current madness going on, many NCAA players are choosing to enter the transfer portal and might have taken the spot that was reserve for Reed Jr.
Raines is not concerned about this and knows that his star player from the past two years will be on a Division I at the start of basketball season next fall.
“I told him not to stress. A guy like him is going to have offers like crazy. He’s going to be in great shape when it’s all said and done,” Raines said.
Reed Jr. is prepared for his next challenge and will bring his energy on both sides of the court to whichever program he decides to go to next. He would like to join a winning program and have the chance to compete for a conference title and possibly a trip to the NCAA tournament. The high-flying guard also has plans to contend for one of the individual awards.
When Howard remembers the past two seasons, they will think back and describe the era by the play of No. 11.
That player was so fast. That player had such a great shot. That player never gave up. That player is going to go far.
That player is Eric Reed Jr.
Shawn Moran is the sportswriter at the Big Spring Herald. To contact him, email email@example.com or call 432-263-7331.