Friday, May 28, 2010

SPORTS>>Interesting chapter to Reed

Leader sports editor

I had my whole column written, then I had to tear it up because I was reminded, even at this advanced stage in my career, there are two sides to a story.

When I heard Arkansas State freshman guard Brandon Reed was asking out of his scholarship, and that his father may have been behind his decision, I made some assumptions.

Here was a kid who averaged 15.1 points a game, was named Sun Belt Conference freshman of the year and was instantly bolting for greener pastures. I had heard Reed’s father and his former AAU coaches were telling him he was good enough to play in the SEC or the ACC.

I was reminded of a vacation getaway to Hot Springs, when I stopped by the Convention Center to check out a photography exhibit and found a youth beauty pageant under way. When I heard of Reed’s decision and his father’s apparent meddling, I instantly thought of the heavily made-up, preteen beauty queens being led around by their grim-faced mothers.

The press release Arkansas State used to announce Reed’s decision basically implicated the father.

“Brandon Reed, through his father, asked for permission to pursue other opportunities as it relates to his basketball future,” second-year Red Wolves coach John Brady said in a statement.

Arkansas State frequently opts for the press release when announcing less than pleasant news. But as opposed to previous bland and opaque statements, there was some meat to the university’s missive this time.

Why? Because this time Brady was involved, and anyone who remembers Brady from his days coaching LSU or, for that matter, who has followed him at Arkansas State, will know Brady is unafraid to call it as he sees it.

And Brady didn’t like what he saw.

“It is a situation that really disappoints me, upsets me, is not right and does not sit well with me,” Brady said in the release.

Reed, 6-3, figured to be the linchpin of a Red Wolves program on the way up after winning just 10 games in Dickey Nutt’s last season and 13 games in Brady’s first.

With Reed, a product of Atlanta’s Whitefield Academy, Arkansas State improved to 17-14 and reached the second round of this year’s Sun Belt Tournament.

Sure Brady is miffed. I would be, too.

But then I read a story in the Jonesboro Sun by sportswriter Matt Roberson. I have known Roberson for years and know he is an enterprising and fearless writer, and he didn’t let me down.

Roberson got Reed to talk — did his job, in other words — and in the process revealed another set of circumstances.

Instead of a young man with stars in his eyes being manipulated by the adults closest to him, Reed, in Roberson’s portrait, becomes a conflicted young man making a painful decision out of love for his family.

The newspaper account said Reed wants to be closer to his grandmother, who suffered a stroke earlier this year, and he said he had been thinking about a transfer even as he was lighting up Denver for 34 points, Western Kentucky for 30 and scoring an
Arkansas State freshman record 469.

Reed claimed the decision to leave was 100 percent his, absolved his father from blame, expressed his regret at leaving his friends on the team and urged fans to continue to support Arkansas State.

Nonetheless, if Reed wanted to wind up at a bigger school, or his father wanted him to, this situation may work out to Reed’s advantage.

He will be closer to Atlanta and his grandmother sure, but Reed also said in a statement of his own he was thankful to God for a chance to play at a “higher level of college basketball.”

Reed is reportedly considering a transfer to Georgia Tech or Clemson, of the ACC, or Tennessee, of the SEC.

I’m not saying Reed is manipulating a tough family situation to his advantage, and I’m not saying Arkansas State and Brady are wrong to be upset.

It may be just the way Reed says it is, or it may be that he is bailing out on a program that signed him when others wouldn’t.

But I doubt it is that clear cut either way. It never is.

I’m glad I was reminded of that.