Michelle Reed remembers her husband, Paul Reed Sr., almost always having a basketball in his hands over the years when he starred for Dr. Phillips High school, played college ball at UCF and then turned professional in Europe.
Their son, Paul Reed Jr., had the same habit — even as a pre-schooler.
“Even when we were overseas we’d go to watch my husband’s practice and Paul Jr. would be in a corner with his own little ball practicing the same moves the team was doing,” Michelle said this week.
Those childhood days of mimicking professionals sparked a basketball fixation for little Paul, a former Wekiva High School standout who has grown to 6-feet, 9-inches tall. And on Wednesday night he should himself become a pro. At the highest level.
Paul Reed Jr., a 220-pound forward who made marked improvements in each of his three seasons playing for DePaul University, is projected by most analysts to be picked in the early stages of the second round of the NBA draft, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ESPN coverage begins at 7.
Paul’s extended Orlando family, and some close friends, will watch the selections from a Celebration area Airbnb vacation home they rented for the occasion.
“I’ve been working my whole life for this moment,” Paul Jr. said.
History will be made if Reed is drafted and is joined on the selection list by former Ocoee High scoring machine Grant Riller, a 6-foot-3 guard who is projected by most to be picked around the time Reed’s name is called.
Never before have two true Central Florida products been drafted in the first two rounds in the same year. A year ago Montverde Academy alum R.J. Barrett was the No. 3 pick by the New York Knicks and former Orlando Christian Prep standout Nassir Little went 25th to Portland. But Barrett hails from Canada and Little grew up in the Jacksonville area before playing for OCP as a junior and senior.
Riller, who averaged 21.9 points per game as a senior for College of Charleston, is forecast by at least one analyst to be the Orlando Magic’s second round choice. The Magic own the No. 15 pick in the first round and the No. 45 overall pick in round two.
The first former area high schooler picked figures to be Precious Achiuwa, a 6-9, 225-pound power forward from New York City by way of Nigeria. Achiuwa migrated to Central Florida to play his final season of varsity basketball at boarding school powerhouse Montverde. He is regarded as a sure first-rounder after one college season at Memphis.
A long shot is Lake Brantley standout John Mooney (6-10, 245), who led the nation with 25 double-doubles while averaging 16.2 points and 12.7 rebounds as a Notre Dame senior. The Orlando Sentinel high school Player of the Year in 2015-16 signed in October with an Australian pro team, according to multiple reports, but he has an opt-out clause in the contract that would allow him to go instead to an NBA team if drafted.
Recent Oak Ridge High standouts Emmitt Williams (6-6, LSU, Soph.) and Niven Hart (Fresno State, 6-5, Fr.) also entered the draft pool.
An NBADraft.net top 100 lists Williams No. 97 among draft prospects. Mooney and Hart did not earn rankings.
Paul Reed Jr., who was the Orlando area Player of the Year as a Wekiva senior in 2016-17, said the determination that has defined him won’t wane when he celebrates an NBA contract.
“After I get drafted, there’s so much more work I’ve got to put in to be a great player in the NBA,” he said. “I’m not coming in to be just an average player. I want to be amongst the best. I’m coming into it wanting to be a championship player.”
Reed was the heart and soul of Wekiva’s state runner-up team as a senior but was nowhere to be found on top 100 prospect lists. And his freshman season at DePaul didn’t suggest that he would be NBA material. He was named to the Big East All-Academic Team but played only 15 minutes per game with no starts, averaging 5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds.
“I still believed in myself. I always believed in myself,” Reed said. “But I got humbled for sure. I think that helped me in the long run. I just kept working and working. Hard work paid off.”
Reed started in 25 of 33 games and was voted the Big East Conference’s Most Improved Player as a sophomore, when he averaged 12.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocked shots and 1.1 steals.
As a junior last season, he averaged a double-double with 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, along with 2.6 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.9 steals.
Reed’s NBA.com draft profile states that he shined while “doing a little bit of everything for a team that played extremely fast. Reed proved most effective as a finisher running the floor, crashing the glass, rolling to the rim, and catching lobs.” He is also labeled as a plus rebounder and a potential difference maker on the defensive end.
Reed’s father had his own NBA dreams as a top player for Dr. Phillips’s 1996 and 1997 final four teams. He signed with Old Dominion out of high school, but he returned home to play for UCF after his freshman season.
Paul Reed Sr. averaged 13.8 points and 8.9 rebounds as a Knights senior and totaled 1,182 points and 685 rebounds during his UCF career.
“I know how many great athletes don’t make it to the NBA,” Paul Reed Sr. said. “I always thought my son had a chance, but I didn’t want to put too much onto him.”
He never had to.
“I had a wife and kids when I was playing college ball. I had a lot going on in my life. I was picking kids up at daycare between classes and study hall,” Paul Reed Sr. remembers. “All Paul Jr. wants to do is training. I know for a fact he has a really good work ethic. I don’t think I was that self-motivated.”
Paul Reed Sr. played for teams in Turkey, Poland and France and played well before hanging it up to settle into his role as husband and father for a family of six.
“I was making a pretty nice chunk of change in Europe, but it wasn’t a whole lot of money,” Paul Sr. said. “I did use to save it all. It gave me a good transition from college into the real world.”
Paul and Michelle have been running their own business, doing graphic design and screen printing for shirts and other promotional items from their west Orlando home for about 10 years.
As a little guy, Paul Reed Jr. had a basketball goal inside and outside his house.
“I always wanted to be like my dad,” he said. “I remember missing him a lot when he was overseas.”
Michelle, Paul Reed Jr. and older sister Chantel lived in an apartment with their father during his first year playing in Europe, but they stayed in Orlando after that to provide stability for a family that expanded with the birth of younger sisters Hazel, Danielle and Janelle.
Both father and son said Michelle, who is also a Dr. Phillips alum, deserves a lot of credit for always finding time to drive Paul Reed Jr. to the basketball events that shaped his steady improvement.
“She’s my main source of motivation and inspiration,” Paul Reed Jr. said. “She was the one taking me to all the practices, all the training.”
“I think that his mom actually gave him that extra boost,” Paul Reed Sr. said.
“I just wanted to support his dream,” Michelle said.
That dream could soon come true.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Varsity Content Editor Buddy Collings can be reached at @orlandosentinel.com.
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