Sept. 14, 2007
The Nova Notebook, by Villanova director of media relations Mike Sheridan, appears weekly beginning in September through February with monthly updates in the off-season. This week we spend time with sophomore guard Reggie Redding.
Like most top end basketball prospects, Reggie Redding was used to being out on the court at all times during a game. As a standout at Saint Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia he was the focal point of his team and the man his teammates looked to at crunch time.
"For as long as I have played basketball," states Redding, "that was how it was."
Like most incoming freshmen, Redding had heard the talk about the challenges that awaited him in the transition to college. And like most newcomers, he presumed that little of it would deter him. This was a game he had thrived at all his life and there really had never been a need to contemplate road blocks.
When Redding's offensive game was in high gear during the squad's first public scrimmage last October, it seemed to all be unfolding as planned. On a club with only one tested guard - Mike Nardi - and a host of young ones, Redding appeared ready to slide smoothly into the playing rotation.
That Redding eventually got there is not surprising. It's just that the route he took included quite a few zigs and zags. After earning some early opportunities in games against Northwood, College of Charleston and Stony Brook, the 6-5 swingman saw little game action in December and early January. In fact, after being used for three minutes in the BIG EAST opener at West Virginia, he did not see action at all in the `Cats next three league encounters.
"It was tough," he says of that period. "On every team I had ever played on, I had always played a lot. I just tried to keep working every day in practice."
One of his 2006-07 teammates, Curtis Sumpter, knew the predicament well. As a touted youngster from Bishop Loughlin High School in New York, Sumpter spent most of the early portion of his debut campaign of 2002-03 watching from the bench as classmates Jason Fraser, Randy Foye and Allan Ray made their first marks on the program. Like Sumpter, Redding turned to his family and friends for support and insight.
"I talked to one of the assistant coaches at my high school, coach Fox, a lot," he recalls. "We would sit down and he would tell me to keep working and to hang in there, that my chance would come."
Fox wasn't alone. Assistant coach Patrick Chambers was also stressing the need to keep pushing as was Redding's high school head coach, Speedy Morris.
"I tried to stay ready," he says.
Redding's opportunity arrived on Jan. 17. Villanova, off to a 1-3 start in the BIG EAST, was preparing to host nationally ranked Notre Dame at the Pavilion in a pivotal contest. His diligent work in practice paid off as Redding was one of the first `Cats off the bench that night. Though he did not score in eight minutes, his savvy and instincts were on display as Villanova rolled to a 102-87 victory.
From that point forward, Redding was a fixture in the rotation. He contributed 18 solid minutes in a win over No. 21 Texas and followed that with a career high 30 minutes in a triumph in Providence. After logging just 76 minutes in the season's first 16 games, Redding was on the court for 367 minutes over the final 17 games, including a pair of starting assignments at the BIG EAST Tournament and another in the NCAA Tournament against Kentucky.
"I think Coach (Jay) Wright developed confidence in my defense and rebounding as the season went on," he says.
Although Redding's point totals were modest - a 2.8 ppg and 2.4 rpg average - his contribution was substantial. He became a reliable defender and good rebounder from the guard position. His passing and knack for finding open teammates helped create more scoring opportunities. On some nights, his own possibilities were apparent, most notably during an 11 point, five rebound effort in the BIG EAST quarterfinals against Georgetown.
"I look at last year as a good learning experience," he says. "It took me some time to understand just how Coach wants us to play but by the end of the season I felt confident in what I was doing."
Armed with the knowledge of what BIG EAST action was all about, Redding went into the off-season with a clear plan for self-growth. Together with teammate Antonio Pena, he rose early each morning during the summer for shooting work and often did a second session late in the evening. He played in the Sonny Hill Summer League and was diligent about his work in the strength and conditioning program.
"One of the things I wanted to do was get quicker and faster," he says. "I lost some weight and worked on some agility drills to help with my foot speed."
Redding prospered in the summer and was productive on the Wildcats' visit to Ottawa. He started three games on the trip and averaged 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while supplying his usual supply of intangible plusses. And yes, he is excited about what he sees ahead.
"I think we have a lot of depth," he says. "We have a lot of different combinations we can throw at people that can create some matchup problems."
While his primary focus remains defense, Redding is looking to do more at the offensive end as well in 2007-08.
"With the kind of talent we have, you are going to get open shots," he says. "I want to be able to knock down the open shots I get."
It may have taken him a little longer to reach his destination, but as he begins his second season in the Villanova family, Redding feels very much at home - and not just because he is near Philadelphia.
"This summer helped me out a lot," Redding states. "I was able to focus on getting myself ready to go. We've got a real close-knit group here. Now we just need to go be the best team we can be."