Wichita State transfer Reaves has found new start at OU
NORMAN — Austin Reaves loathes the nickname, but that didn’t stop Christian James from chanting it incessantly as the two players walked off OU’s practice floor Thursday.
“Showtime, Showtime, Showtime,” James kept on, before slightly exaggerating that Reaves scored 60 points in the late afternoon practice.
There was no chance Reaves, a transfer guard, was going to shush James, OU’s senior scoring leader. All Reaves could do was smile and endure the rite of passage as a first-year Sooner.
The practice gym is the only place to watch Reaves play in an Oklahoma uniform. He’s one of the most overqualified scout team players in the country.
Reaves has to sit out this season after transferring from Wichita State — the team his new squad faces at 11 a.m. Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
“Yeah, it’s gonna be awkward,” Reaves admitted.
The Newark, Arkansas, native transferred in May after playing in 66 games spanning two seasons for the Shockers. His transfer didn’t result from a lack of success or playing time. Reaves was a regular for Wichita State, averaging eight points in 21.5 minutes per game as a sophomore.
Reaves shot 43 percent from 3-point range last season and set a school record by making seven consecutive threes against Tulsa last January. So why did he transfer? “That’s a hard question,” Reaves told The
Oklahoman, choosing his words carefully. “I just didn’t feel like I was able to play my game there at Wichita. I just felt like it was time to move on.”
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall and Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger are known to have vastly different personalities. Marshall is fierce while Kruger is universally liked, though Reaves didn’t blame his former coach for his departure.
“They’re both as successful as any coach in the nation,” Reaves said. “Whatever they do works. There’s a big difference in the style, but I’m happy I got to play for both.”
Reaves said Wichita State’s roster turnover was the main reason he transferred. One of his roommates, Landry
Shamet, turned pro. The other, Brett Barney, transferred to Omaha.
The teammates he came to college with were largely absent, and without those connections came the need for a new start.
Reaves’ phone woke him up one morning shortly after his decision to transfer. He hadn’t publicly announced the move, but the news had leaked.
“I thought it was my mom, so I rolled over and answered the phone,” Reaves said.
The voice belonged to Michigan coach John Beilein, who heard Reaves was on the market.
Reaves went through recruitment all over again, taking visits to Purdue and Northern Iowa before committing to Oklahoma.
Norman is six hours from his Arkansas home, and he was familiar with Kruger and the Sooners having played them in his freshman and sophomore seasons at Wichita State.
“I knew the style would really fit the way
I played,” said Reaves, who makes it known he’s more than a spot-up shooter.
That was just the role required of him on backto-back NCAA Tournament teams. Reaves shows off his full game on the Lloyd Noble Center practice court, against James and the other Sooner starters — a group he might be a part of if eligible.
“He’s tougher to guard than the guards we’re lining up against,” James said. “He’s really helped us on the defensive end.”
After all, Showtime is a nickname that comes with expectations.
“He don’t like it, but that’s the name I gave to him. Kobe in the flesh, man,” James said with a smile. “No, he’s really tough though. He has a complete game offensively.”
Saturday, Reaves will sit near the end of OU’s bench at Chesapeake Energy Arena — reminding Wichita State fans of what they’re missing, and Oklahoma fans of what’s to come.
Oklahoma guard Austin Reaves treats practices like games as he sits out this season after transferring from Wichita State.