Former Villanova star Scottie Reynolds keeping his NBA dream alive in the D-league

Scottie Reynolds, here scoring for Villanova over West Virginia's John Flowers , went undrafted by the NBA.
Scottie Reynolds, here scoring for Villanova over West Virginia's John Flowers , went undrafted by the NBA.
Posted: January 23, 2011

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - The words sound astounding, coming from the mouth of Scottie Reynolds: "I've scored enough points. . . . In fact, I'm sick of scoring."

This from a man who scored 2,214 collegiate points, second all-time at Villanova? Who perpetrated the greatest mad-dash scoring play in school history, elevating 'Nova to the 2009 Final Four?

Reynolds hasn't lost his mind, or his edge. He just recognizes that 2,214 points didn't get him to the NBA and that his resumé now includes being the only first-team Associated Press all-American since the NBA-ABA merger not to be drafted by the NBA.

After the briefest of stays last fall playing in Italy, Reynolds is a rookie point guard for the Springfield Armor in the NBA Development League, and he's been told what part of his game needs developing.

Earlier this season, Reynolds asked his D-League coach, former Boston Celtics guard Dee Brown, what NBA scouts were saying about him.

Brown told him: "Be more of a facilitator.''

Reynolds has always excelled at the transition game. So now he's in the biggest one of his career. His first couple of seasons at Villanova, Reynolds had to score for the Cats to win, and that always remained his mind-set.

"I haven't done this a lot," Reynolds said before practicing on Thursday. "That's what's so fun about this. I get to do something I've never really done on a consistent basis. That's a challenge, and it's also fun, because I think everybody knows I can score."

Think like a quarterback

In an empty gym, before Thursday's 6 p.m. team practice, Reynolds worked alone with Brown, who had texted Reynolds earlier that day: "Yo, make sure you're dressed and ready at 5:15."

Brown reinforced the message, telling Reynolds how he had to think like a quarterback, seeing a defense as a QB would, with different levels - "Line of scrimmage, then linebackers. . . . Blitz or not? You've always got to be playing two steps ahead. 'Who's helping? Am I shooting, driving? Who's hot?' "

Brown isn't asking Reynolds to put away his own offensive arsenal. Most of that individual workout was spent with the coach, the 1991 NBA slam-dunk champion and still in shape, flying out at him. Brown had Reynolds executing a quick rip move, one dribble, "shoulders square," then a jumper. The jumpers almost all fell, a reminder of what skills Reynolds already has.

"He has to find that balance," Brown said. "He went through one stretch where he didn't shoot. I said, 'Scottie, I'm not saying "Don't shoot." Don't take away what you do.' "

Friday night, facing the Bakersfield Jam, Reynolds had an impressive balance. In a 125-114 overtime victory, Reynolds totaled 13 assists and just two turnovers to go with his 18 points, all scored in the first three quarters. He made simple passes into the post, finding Sixers property Craig Brackins and former La Salle big man Vernon Goodridge, and he consistently found former Oklahoma State star Jameson Curry, who had the hot hand, scoring 30 points. Reynolds also drove for a layup with one second left in the first quarter and hit a three-pointer with two seconds left in the second quarter.

Throughout, Reynolds was the calming presence. Over his last four games, Reynolds had 37 assists and just nine turnovers. Springfield won three of the four.

"Every night, I go home, I've got the [NBA] League Pass, I watch every game that can be seen on TV until I fall asleep, basically," Reynolds said. "I usually wake up [during the night] with NBA TV on. I'm a basketball junkie. That's what I do. That's what I'm here for."

Nothing glamorous

The D-League crowds are nothing like in the Big East. Friday's wasn't bad, announced at 2,343. However, many more people recognized Reynolds, and heckled him, when he went to last Monday's Villanova game against Connecticut in Storrs. "I just wanted to put my jersey on for, like, one play," he said.

There is nothing glamorous about the D-League. The Armor played Christmas night in Fort Wayne, Ind., arriving in town on Christmas Eve.

"I had a honey bun and chocolate milk for breakfast," Reynolds said, remembering his Christmas-morning stop at IHOP, where he also ordered some chicken for a Christmas dinner, except the microwave at the motel didn't work.

"There was, literally, ice on the chicken," said Reynolds, who didn't even play that night, sitting out with a sprained ankle.

D-League travel itineraries border on the sadistic. There is a league rule about not playing three days in a row, and teams often stay in a town for two games. After that, anything goes.

Earlier this month, the Armor played two games in Texas over five days, with a trip home to Massachusetts for a game in between. The first game was in Frisco, Texas, on a Friday, then the home game on Sunday, then the team flew all day Monday, leaving at 3:30 a.m. to drive to Boston for a connection in Houston to Brownsville, Texas, and then an hour bus ride to South Padre Island for the Tuesday game.

The D-League's Eastern Division includes teams in North and South Dakota.

"The travel is unbelievable," Reynolds said.

The level of play is a notch above that of the highest college league. Reynolds had to adjust to the 24-second clock, and 48-minute games. He said you can't really play hurt or you'll get exploited. Even a strong drive to the rim may mean getting your shot blocked. Taking a play off defensively usually is costly. Everyone in the league has skills and the same goal.

"The best quote I heard is that 'You've got 18 guys in training camp trying to make the D-League,' " Brown said. "As soon as they make the team, you've got 10 guys trying to get out - the next day."

He isn't blaming any of them.

"Nobody ever grew up dreaming about playing in Europe or the D-League," Brown said.

This season, there have been less than a handful of NBA call-ups from the D-League, not counting assigned players such as Brackins from the Sixers, who is here to get some playing time and is a popular arrival with his teammates when he shows up.

Everyone on the court was thoroughly engaged in Friday's game. They all know their real audience. When a tallish, middle-aged stranger holding a notebook sat courtside at Thursday's practice, several Springfield players made a point of catching his eye and greeting the man.

"You don't have to impress all these teams, just one," Brown tells his players. "But you don't know which one it is."

Detour through Italy

Last summer, Reynolds had one of the more stressful periods of his life, he said. Within 10 minutes of the NBA draft's ending without his name being called, his agent telephoned to say several NBA teams had called to invite him to play for their summer-league teams. Reynolds had a good summer stint with the Phoenix Suns and was invited to their training camp.

However, he also received a lucrative offer from an Italian second-division club, Prima Veroli, which had reached the second-division finals the season before. Reynolds talked with a lot of former 'Nova players and other friends, most recommending he take the guaranteed paycheck for a year, so he signed.

Veroli is a small hill-town a couple of hours outside Rome - not a tourist destination.

"People I talk to say, 'Man, I would love to live in Italy,' " Reynolds said. "I give them the analogy: It's kind of like saying you'd love to live in the U.S. - I don't want to disrespect any state, but picture, like, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the U.S. That's kind of the way it was."

Reynolds left after a couple of months, just four games into the regular season. Reports came out of Veroli that he was "homesick."

"I would never use that as an excuse," Reynolds said. "I mean, that's not me. If anybody knows me, I don't make excuses - especially an excuse like that. That's a 16-, 17-year-old kid speaking like that. I didn't get into that. I think that every guy that plays overseas, they'd be lying if they said they didn't get homesick. But nobody says that.

"I could have stayed over there, not done a thing. I had a guaranteed contract for a lot of money for a first-year guy. I could have stayed there and just not really played, not really worked on my game, just taken the money."

In his mind, Reynolds couldn't even envision the NBA from where he was. He knew he'd be making a lot less money in the D-League, after his agents worked hard to free him up from his Italian contract. He also knows he didn't leave for a cushy existence. After playing 44 minutes Friday night, Reynolds had to be back at the Mass Mutual Arena on Saturday morning for the second game of a back-to-back with Bakersfield starting at noon.

Reynolds also must know that every NBA personnel executive has seen him many, many times, that expanding their view of him won't happen with one visit from a regional scout. One of the lessons he learned from his Villanova coach, Jay Wright, Reynolds said, is that, "You've got to be here now, in this season now. For me to worry about things I can't control, it's not smart."

"That whole balance thing, he's figuring it out," Brown said.


Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.

 

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