The following is an excerpt from "Reed All About It: Driven to be a Jayhawk," written by former Jayhawk Academic All-American guard Tyrel Reed. The book, from Ascend Books of Overland Park, is now available at most local bookstores as well as select grocery stores and specialty retailers. This book is also available on all popular e-book platforms including iPad, Kindle and Nook.
Fortunately, I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 17. I say fortunately because not having a cell phone meant college coaches couldn’t call and text my cell phone all the time. My parents were really good about managing all of that, because the calls started coming in pretty much every day when I was in high school.
The conversations with coaches really aren’t much. It’s a lot of small talk. How’s the family? How is school going? That kind of thing. They’re really just trying to get a feel for you. That’s one thing college coaches are really good at. They’re salesmen. It’s basically in the job description. They’re just good with people. They’re good recruiters and, I guess, good coaches, but mainly just good recruiters.
You probably can’t be a head coach in college basketball without having some ability to make people feel good or make them feel special.
Coach Self has that uncanny ability to command your attention and make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room while he’s talking to you. He may only talk to you for 30 seconds, but for those 30 seconds you feel like he knows you. Coach Self, once he meets you, will never forget you. He will remember your name for life. It seems like he knows everyone’s name, regardless if they’re your mom, your dad, your girlfriend, your brother’s friend. That’s one of the things that make him special.
You might think a Kansas fan like I was would have wanted to go to Kansas no matter who the coach was, but when you’re a player, the specific coach is a really, really big factor. I wouldn’t have gone to KU to play for just anybody. I had multiple scholarship offers by the time it was all said and done, including one from my friend, Coach Williams, at North Carolina. I had taken an official visit to Stanford and loved it. I could have gone there. Oklahoma offered me a scholarship. So did Missouri. I was blessed to have so many options.
Regardless of how much you love Kansas and the program and everything it stands for, which I had loved since I started watching basketball, you still have to take the coach into consideration. Believe it or not, whether the tradition is great or not, the coach in front of you is the one in charge of your playing time, not the fans or anybody else. That’s a big consideration. You’re going to be spending 80 percent of your time with these people. I loved Coach Williams when he was here and I loved him when he was at North Carolina recruiting me. When Coach Self took over, it was another great thing.
As a player, you still want to do your homework to some extent and get a feel for the coaches. Playing AAU ball helps. Your coaches have gotten to know other coaches. Other players have gone to various schools and you kind of hear what these guys are like, how they treat you, if they’re honest. When you go on your visits, you talk to the players and ask a bunch of questions. What would coach do if this happened? Do you like your coach? I think players are candid in those situations. I really do. At Kansas we were always honest with recruits whenever they asked us a question. I think that’s just the code of honor you take.
Someone from Rivals or Scout would call me probably once every couple of weeks. It’s different for different players, though. Somebody like Josh Selby, the No. 1 player in his class, was probably hearing from somebody every day. It would get busier in the summer, during the AAU season. If you were playing well, they would want to talk to you about that. If you weren’t, they’d want to know why. They also ask about which schools you’re considering. I know if you go to my Rivals.com profile, it will say I had offers from Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Missouri State, and Stanford. That’s all true, but I don’t know how they decided to list those five. I had other scholarship offers, and when it came down to it, the ones I was most serious about were KU, Stanford, and North Carolina.
This is not to say I didn’t give consideration to those other schools. I took an unofficial visit to Oklahoma the same weekend Blake Griffin was taking his official visit. I really liked Jeff Capel, who was the coach at the time. He was young and energetic. You could tell he knew a lot about the game from having played under Coach K at Duke. The only other school I officially visited was Stanford, and I loved that, too. Palo Alto (California) was beautiful. I liked Trent Johnson, who was the coach then. They had the Lopez twins, too, and I thought it would be fun to play with them. Obviously, the academic reputation was attractive as well.
Official visits, by the way, are awesome. The school is allowed to fly you and someone else out to campus. They kind of wine and dine you, put you up in a really nice hotel with your own room; take you to really nice restaurants. You might play some pickup ball with the guys on the team; have a meeting with the coach. At night, the guys will take you out. When I visited Stanford, we went to this big sorority party. We just hung out. Nothing was really going on, but it was just fun being with the guys. Maybe you go to the movies, just act like a college kid for a while. It’s fun. You’re in high school hanging out with a bunch of college kids, seeing what they do, seeing how they act. You’re learning how to be a college guy.
The idea of being on my own did appeal to me. I was not bent on staying near home at all. I love small towns. They’re familiar and you have all your friends and it’s great. But I was, and still am, interested in getting out and seeing the world. I’m not a homebody. I don’t think I’ll live in a small town again. I would have loved moving to California or North Carolina, and my parents would have been fine with that, too. They never pressured me to stay close to home. I always knew it was my decision to make.
Playing time was a big part of it, too. Coach Self was pretty honest with me. He said they had a deep team with a lot of established guys at that point, and if I was going to play, I was going to have to beat out those guys, but that he thought later in my career I could be a big part of the rotation. That didn’t bother me. I trusted him, and I believed I was good enough to contribute anywhere in the country if I worked at it.
I wanted to be finished with recruiting during the fall signing period of my senior year. I never got all that close to committing anywhere else before KU offered. North Carolina offered a scholarship, but the way it worked out I was going to have to wait until the spring to accept it. I just didn’t want to do that.
Suddenly, one day after school Coach Self called and said they had a scholarship available for me if I wanted it. I accepted it on the spot. After that, I was suddenly an enemy to a great number of the people who were at my high school games. The road trips in 3A basketball take you to a lot of rural communities, and those rural communities tend to be more heavily populated by K-State fans, mainly because it is an agricultural school.
I mean, people are booing me everywhere we go, and it’s not just that they are booing Burlington; they’re booing me. And they’re doing it because I chose to go to a college they don’t like.
Opposing players seemed to like to get their shots in, too. Some guys would talk to me all game. It’s like they’re trying to take you down a peg. They’re trying to take something away from you. You make a turnover or something and suddenly you’re not good enough to be going to Kansas. Or some kid blocks your shot. It doesn’t really matter to you, but maybe to someone else it’s a big deal to block the shot of someone who’s going to Kansas. Honestly, it was kind of fun.
I loved hearing all that. In a lot of ways, it prepared me for college. I developed a thicker skin and you need it.