FORT WAYNE, Ind. - Add a player to Michigan State's interest list for the spring and summer circuit: Livonia Stevenson post player Jalen Reynolds. REACH point guard George Goodman of Saginaw Buena Vista is a plus ball handler, somewhere around 5-foot-10. Within his repertoire is a behind-the-back dribble that he occasionally uses as a type of explosive crossover of sorts. He doesn't use it a lot, but the fact that he has that club in his bag is noteworthy. He had 8 points.
The long-armed, long-legged springy leaper isn't a Plan A prospect, but he's the type of stock-on-the-rise guy mid-major programs are lining up to get involved with, and one the major conference schools plan to evaluate for months to come.
Reynolds, who is listed somewhere around 6-8, sat out his junior season due to a transfer snag, but is turning heads with his raw athleticism early in the travel season.
The Spartans continue to show primary interest in true center Amir Williams of Country Day and 6-foot-8 Chicago power forward Michael Shaw. Michigan State is still very much interested in 6-foot-7 combo forward Jakarr Sampson of Akron St. Vincent St. Mary, as well as Battle Creek Central center Trey McDonald. Saginaw's Tommie McCune remains on the radar as a guy who could potentially play anything from the two to the four, and Detroit Southeastern's Percy Gibson is very much on the evaluation list. And now, so is Reynolds.
Reynolds was the third-leading scorer for the REACH Legends on Friday night in his team's 70-62 victory over the Grand Rapids Storm in an interesting intrastate game during pool play of the Bill Hensley Memorial Spiece Run-N-Slam All-Star Classic at the Spiece Fieldhouse.
It's not Reynolds' scoring ability or offensive skill that has his stock on the rise this spring in the eyes of major programs. Offensive skill is not his strong suit. Not yet anyway. But the rest of it - like length, leaping ability, timing, activeness - are highly intriguing. Add the fact that he is a staunch competitor with a little bit of a nasty streak, and it's no surprise that schools are taking a look. Dayton and the University of Detroit have offered scholarships.
"A lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon lately," said REACH Legends coach Marcus Webster. "It has really picked up in the last week or so. A lot of people have been calling, inquiring about him."
Michigan State, Syracuse, Dayton and Detroit were among the schools that arranged to watch Reynolds work out last week.
"He worked out every day this week for schools, Monday through Thursday," Webster said. "So his legs have been worked pretty hard this week. And we've been having stomach issues going around our team, so he isn't feeling well and he wasn't going to play tonight, but he battled through it."
On Friday, Reynolds nailed a 16-foot jumper in the first quarter, and scored on a pair of determined, if not pretty, moves in the post while absorbing contact and willing the ball through the rim.
Reynolds sat out the fourth quarter due to various ailments. His hard, unnecessary intentional foul at the end of the third quarter might have also been a reason for sitting in the fourth, but Webster said stomach issues were the main reason.
"He's a real tough kid," Webster said. "He battled through a lot just to play."
It was Reynolds' work on the offensive glass and leaping ability on defense that revealed his unique talents. His wingspan has been measured at or around 7-feet. His springs are evident just in the way he runs up and down the court, surging forward with every stride in uncommon fashion. Centers just don't spring like this while running the court.
Reynolds has a lot of work to do in refining his offensive skills. But he is getting better by the month.
"Two years ago, he wasn't on the floor," Webster said. "Back then, he was a guy that was getting dunked on. And now he is the kid doing all the dunking. All the work that he has put in is paying off right now."
Reynolds sat out last year after transferring from Livonia Clarenceville to Livonia Stevenson. The fact that coaches didn't see him play all winter adds to the scouting intrigue this spring for colleges.
"He relocated and transferred, and I don't really know all the reasons he wasn't cleared to play," Webster said. "It gave him a chance to work on his books. He concentrated on that to get those where they should be cause he is on the right track now."
Physically and stylistically, Reynolds conjures images of something between Patrick Ewing Jr. and Dujuan Wiley. He's probably a more natural leaper than either of them, and if he ever acquires the turn-around jumper Wiley had for Michigan State in 1998, Reynolds could help a Top 25 program. Physically, he's not a rail and he's not fat, which makes him different from most post projects. He's in pretty good shape (think Ewing Jr.), and would probably react real well to a major college weight room.
"He reminds me of a kid from my first AAU team, Lorenzo Orr," Webster said of the 1990 Detroit Pershing grad who had a big-time career as a high-flying, 6-foot-7 post player at USC. "Body frame, same body type. Lorenzo became USC's all-time shot blocker. If you watch a few of these games, he can go get some shots. He's blocking like four or five shots a game. I'm talking about guys posting him up, leaning, and he'll go get it."
Reynolds showed a good basketball I.Q. on Friday, staying low on defense when on the weak side and positioning himself smartly as a help defender while not over-committing. He calls for the ball excitedly on offense, even telling teammates to get him the ball during stoppages in play. On defense, he communicates with teammates. Coaches like that kind of thing.
He not only jumps high, he jumps quickly. Very, very quickly for a post player. He gets two hands to the rim - not one, but two - quicker than anyone on the court. He has good hands, which is highly important for a post player. The length, the pogo, the hands, those give him a chance to do big things if he continues to improve his ball skills. That's why MSU is among the teams watching.
As for others who delivered solid performances in the REACH-Storm game, Taylor Kennedy High School wing guard Aaron Hayes scored 17 for the REACH Legends. Built like a 6-foot-1 version of Maurice Ager, with similar stones, Hayes keyed a second-half run that brought REACH back from a 10-point deficit.
Hayes hit a driving, hanging, double-clutch glasser in the lane, then a 3 in transition, then another 3 on a catch-and-shoot from the corner to fuel the run.
Later, he stole a penetrate-and-kick pass from Rockford High's Ryan Majerle (Toledo signee) and took it all the way for a lay-up and a 61-58 lead with 7:30 to go. REACH led the rest of the way, and iced the game when Hayes delivered a bounce pass off the press breaker to Sam Ozeir of Novi to make it 68-62. Ozeir finished with 16.
Hayes led Taylor Kennedy to a 21-4 record and a berth in the Class A state quarterfinals. He scored 13 in Kennedy's loss to Detroit Denby in the MHSAA's version of the Elite Eight. But he's new on the summer circuit with REACH.
"He is just new out here, coming aboard," Webster said. "I'm going to make him play hard. He has responded. He is wet head to toe, giving us everything he's got."
"He's another kid who has just come aboard," Webster said. "These kids have not played much AAU. They are appreciative and they want to play."
Tyler Krimm, a 6-foot-5 combo forward from Fremont, led the Storm with 16 points.
Majerle, an intense wing guard with good shooting ability and an unselfish demeanor, led the Storm with 12 points. Central Michigan signee Jorddan Myrick (Holland West Ottawa) had 3 points.
Jason Pretzer, a 6-10 center from Jenison, made a pair of deep perimeter shots, sort of in a watered down Adam Ballinger style. Inside, he went up a tad weak with a fade-away on one occasion but has some positives for a young guy maturing into his body. He occasionally matched up with Reynolds, with neither delivering a knockout blow.
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