Xavier marks the spot for hidden gem Reynolds

by | College Basketball Insider
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WOLFEBORO, N.H. -- It was a chance to get a look at some of the elite prospects in the nation. There were a trio of top 100 players at Brewster Academy, led by Mitch McGary, who checks in at No. 2 in the entire country. Down the road at Tilton Academy resides Nerlens Noel, arguably the most dominant shot-blocker high school basketball has seen in a couple of decades, and also consensus top 10 sophomore Wayne Selden. Then my final stop was at New Hampton, also in New Hampshire, which another Class of 2014 stud -- Noah Vonleh -- now calls home.

However, after my day-long road trip to the Granite State, the guy who was the most impressive was one I couldn't find anywhere in the rankings.

Jalen Reynolds.

I had uncovered a hidden gem.

Jalen Reynolds strikes his X for Xavier pose.  
Jalen Reynolds strikes his X for Xavier pose.    
And there, sitting along the same baseline as North Carolina's Roy Williams and Michigan's John Beilein -- both in attendance to watch McGary -- was Xavier coach Chris Mack.

He wanted to remain stone-faced, but couldn't do it -- and I don't blame him.

Reynolds flat-out dominated -- and it wasn't as if he was going against some big stiff, either. This was basically Round 2 of a heavyweight matchup that Brewster Academy coach Jason Smith will witness until the prep school season begins next month.

Reynolds vs. McGary.

Reynolds took this round. Convincingly.

And those who were in the gym the previous day said it was more of the same.

"He reminds me of Thomas [Robinson]," Smith said of the former Brewster star who is now an All-America candidate at Kansas. "His ability to rebound and his motor. But he also has the ability to step out and make shots -- which Thomas didn't do."

McGary's most admirable quality is his unwillingness to relent. It lands him on par with Tyler Hansbrough and, for those who wish to go back further, there are comparisons to Dave Cowens. The finalists for McGary read as follows: Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Florida, Michigan and Maryland.

But Reynolds, a 6-foot-9, 215-pounder, matched McGary's work ethic and intensity.

"That's what I do," he said with a smile afterward. "And you haven't seen nothing yet."

Trust me, I've seen plenty.

I saw Reynolds more than hold his own against McGary on the glass, saw him score against McGary in the post, saw him beat McGary down the court and also saw him step out and drain multiple 3-pointers.

"He was clearly the most dominant player in the gym," said one of the 30 or so Division I coaches in attendance.

Then the question turned to, "How in the hell did Xavier get this kid?"

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I went to Reynolds for the answer.

The Michigan native began his high school career at Clarenceville High. He left for Livonia Stevenson after his sophomore season, but was ruled ineligible because of transfer rules and didn't play a single game his entire junior season.

Mack and his staff wound up seeing Reynolds at their team camp and offered a scholarship.

Reynolds gave the Musketeers a verbal commitment on Aug. 11, 2010. The other schools that were truly interested, per Reynolds, were Oakland and Detroit.

"It felt like home," Reynolds said. "I love the coaching staff, they graduate their players and have guys in the NBA. And they win."

It was a blip on the recruiting landscape. No one cared.

Reynolds was slated to land on the Xavier campus for this season, taking classes this past summer in hopes of qualifying academically. But he fell short and wound up at Brewster Academy -- a prep powerhouse alongside picturesque Lake Winnipesaukee.

"It's different from home," said Reynolds, who admitted to being homesick. "But this is the plan."

After his final dunk of the afternoon -- and there were at least a dozen on the day -- Reynolds flashed a scowl and then crossed his arms in the form of an "X." Mack momentarily had walked out of the gym but was informed of the gesture by another coach and could only smile.

"Of course I think I did him in," Reynolds said with a smile when asked how he thought he fared against McGary on Tuesday. "But there will be plenty more of these. I think we'll both make each other better."

One who is already considered an elite-level player -- and another who shouldn't be anonymous and unranked for much longer.

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