Antonio Reeves’ unique ability is key to Kentucky’s season
Game Day: No. 15 Kentucky 96, North Florida 56
Click below for more Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com coverage of Wednesday night’s men’s basketball game between Kentucky and North Florida at Rupp Arena.
After his team’s 96-56 thrashing at the hands of Kentucky on Wednesday afternoon, North Florida head coach Matthew Driscoll identified what he sees as a key part of a season finale. successful for these Wildcats.
Driscoll was an assistant coach at Baylor and Clemson for 11 seasons combined. He has been in the profession for 35 years and is in his 14th season as head coach of the Ospreys, who he said had just played their 91st ‘guaranteed money’ game – where a lesser-regarded team travels for take on a more touted opponent, and receives a check in exchange for the expected hits – during his tenure at school.
After that particular gambling game, Driscoll wanted to talk about “kid Reeves – number 12”.
It would be Antonio Reeves, who had just dropped 20 points to his Ospreys.
“I saw a lot of good players. He is also a good three-point shooter and also a good three-point shooter searcher like there are in the country,” Driscoll said. “If he doesn’t have a three, he’s going to find a three with a pullback or a split. A lot of guys, they get thrown out, and then they can’t get into a rhythm. And I think that’s what makes Reeves special.
Driscoll went on to predict that Reeves’ ability to get open shots and then make them will be key to the rest of the Wildcats season. He certainly made the difference on Wednesday.
Making his first start as a Kentucky player after being traded from Illinois State in the offseason and coming off the bench in the Cats’ first five games, Reeves notched his first three-pointer of the day minus 90 seconds after the first tip. He made three more threes – all in a 2 minute 7 second flurry – to end the half. At the break, he had 18 points and shot 4-for-5 from deep and 7-for-9 from the field. He was active on offense, not only looking for those long-range shots, but also attacking the basket. He didn’t score a bucket after half-time, but that didn’t really matter. The game was over before both teams came out of the locker room for the second half, with the Cats taking a 54-23 lead by then. Reeves closed the first half with a three at the buzzer to set the margin for what was Kentucky’s biggest halftime advantage in eight years.
“That was awesome, man,” he said. “I just feel comfortable. Being me. And my teammates involved me in the game.”
The way he is able to play on the attacking side makes it easier for those around him.
Driscoll said he noticed Reeves’ ability to open up while watching the Wildcats film leading up to Wednesday’s game. He was clearly impressed with the senior guard even before his team was terrorized by him at the Rupp Arena.
The performance couldn’t have come at a better time for Reeves, who came on Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving after going 8 for 29 from the field in his previous three games. That included a 1-for-7 performance in Kentucky’s double-overtime loss to Michigan State eight days earlier and a 4-for-13 performance in another loss to Gonzaga on Sunday night.
Reeves said he returned to the gym to start this week trying to put those games, especially Gonzaga’s journey, in the past. His 22nd birthday was also on Sunday, and as he got older, his perspective changed, allowing him to go through nights like that and move on to better results.
“I believe it just comes with maturity,” he said. “I who entered university in first year, in second year – it disturbed me a little. But as you get older, you know you’re a basketball player and you know you’re going to have games like that. So just the maturity and going to the gym every day, and focusing on getting better for the team and getting better for yourself.
As for his impressive ability as a three-point ‘seeker’, that’s also relatively new.
Like many in Reeves’ offensive arsenal, he said he didn’t really have that talent in his first two seasons in college. At the start of his freshman year at Illinois State, he entered the gym and started working harder and harder on all aspects of his game. The results were immediate. He increased his three-point shooting from 30.9 percent in his first two seasons to 39.0 percent as a junior, although he was attracting more attention from opposing defenses as the Redbirds’ top threat.
Reeves said being able to spot those open shots requires getting into a rhythm, maintaining good footwork, knowing your own moves and being able to read defenders.
It’s a combination that should pay off big for the Cats as this season continues. After Wednesday’s game, Reeves is now 20-43 from three-point range. It’s 46.5 percent.
“The rim got bigger for me,” he said of his last outing. “And I just kept shooting the ball. Shooters shoot. I definitely have that mentality every game.
Bellarmine at No. 15 Kentucky
When: 7:00 p.m. Tuesday
TV: SEC Plus Network (online only)
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1
Recordings: Bellarmine 2-4, Kentucky 4-2
Series: First meeting
This story was originally published November 23, 2022 8:04 p.m.
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