SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Nic Reed has already enjoyed a sensational season.
This weekend he hopes to make it better.
The New Albany native and 2016 Christian Academy graduate leads Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) into the NAIA Division II National Tournament, which began Wednesday. Reed and the 15th-ranked Tigers (23-8) will take on No. 19 Briar Cliff, Iowa (20-8) at 10 p.m. ET tonight in a first-round game of the 32-team tourney at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The 6-foot-5 junior forward is in midst of an outstanding season for ONU. The freshly-minted Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Player of the Year — he was a unanimous selection by the conference coaches — enters the national tourney averaging 27.3 points (which ranks fourth in the country), 9.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
“I”ve been playing pretty well; it’s been good,” Reed said via cell phone from South Dakota on Tuesday afternoon. “All the credit goes to my teammates and coaches for putting me in spots to succeed, and all the glory goes to God.”
It’s been a glorious season for the Tigers, who had losing records in Reed’s first two years on campus. They went 15-16 in Reed’s freshman year, when he averaged 22.4 points and 8.8 rebounds, and 14-16 last season, when he averaged 24.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and three assists. Reed earned honorable mention All-America honors and first-team all-conference recognition in each of those years.
In the Tigers’ season-opening 103-97 win over Brescia (Ky.), Reed nearly had a triple-double — tallying 26 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists. ONU, though, lost four of its first nine games — including one to No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan, the top seed in the national tourney.
However the Tigers turned it on after that, winning 18 of their next 21 and the CCAC regular-season title, which earned them an invite to Sioux Falls, led by Reed, who eclipsed the 2,000-point milestone — faster than anyone in program history — earlier this season.
“It’s been a good year,” said Reed, whose team was upset, 81-80, by St. Francis in the CCAC Tournament quarterfinals. “We finished 23-8, we’re pretty happy about that. Then we won the conference regular-season title, but took an unexpected loss in the beginning of the conference tournament. That kind of stunk, but we’ve had a pretty good year — a lot better than the first two years I’ve been here.”
Reed tallied a game-high 29 points in the conference tourney loss, but did get his first-ever in-game dunk.
“That was pretty fun,” he said.
Tonight’s matchup will pit two conference Players of the Year against each other as Briar Cliff senior guard Jay Wolfe earned that honor in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. The Chargers have four players who average in double figures, led by Wolfe’s 22.4 points per game.
“They shoot it really well and have good guard play, but we should be able to hurt them inside,” said Reed, who shoots 55.5 percent from the field and 83.9 percent from the free throw line.
If the Tigers win their first-round game they’d likely face No. 1 seed West Virginia Tech, from the Rivers States Conference (which includes IU Southeast), at approximately 10:15 p.m. Friday night.
“Obviously, we want to go as far as possible,” Reed said. “For me, I really just want to try to be a good leader for the team. None of us have been in this spot before, so I just hope to calm the nerves and be a leader the guys need in this spot. We don’t have a senior on the team, so as one of the more experienced guys on the squad I know guys will be looking up to me and [classmate and fellow starter] Dane Schlafley … just kind of be the same guy I’ve been the whole season.”
It’s a season that continues to earn him accolades both on, and off, the court.
Last month Reed was one of 50 players named to the watch list for the Bevo Francis Award, which annually goes to the top small-college player nationally who competes in NCAA Division II, Division III, NAIA Division I, Division II, USCAA or NCCAA. The list will be narrowed down to 25 players March 15.
A few days after that Reed was named to the 2018-19 Google Cloud Academic All-District team. Reed, who is a double-major in economics and finance, maintains a 3.76 grade-point average.
GOHMANN ALSO IN TOURNEY
Luke Gohmann, a 2018 Floyd Central graduate, will also be at the NAIA Division II National Tournament with Marian. The 6-5 freshman swingman is averaging three points and 3.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 43.3 percent from 3-point range, for the Knights (25-7), who are coming off a last-second 79-78 loss to No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan in the Crossroads League Tournament semifinals. Marian is the No. 3 seed in the Duer Bracket (the same bracket as Olivet Nazarene) and will face sixth-seeded Madonna (Mich.) at 2:45 p.m. today in its first-round game.