Penn State guard Josh Reaves led the Big Ten in steals per game three consecutive seasons and now looks to bring that skill to the NBA.
Reaves averaged a whopping 4.2 steals per 100 possessions during his four years in college and was a standout defender at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament for seniors. He was also an efficient, prolific spot-up shooter on the offensive side of the ball while playing for the Nittany Lions as well.
The 6-foot-5 guard spoke to HoopsHype about how he will fit into an NBA rotation moving forward.
What were some of the biggest things you took away from your experience of playing college basketball?
Josh Reaves: I worked on being more consistent and not trying to force anything. I worked on my pace and my tempo and knew how to handle the ball in certain situations. I learned how to balance my schedule and I was there for a reason. I wanted to get my degree and play basketball at the highest possible level and I did both of those things. I was proud to finish college, it was a long four years but getting the degree put the icing on the cake. I made my family proud and I put a lot of time and effort into it.
Congratulations on finishing your degree! What did you study at Penn State?
JR: Thank you! It was in criminology. I was interested in how much it got me thinking about things I had never thought about before. It is definitely something I became very interested in after I took a couple classes like it. I knew I needed to continue with it.
What was the process for you to prepare for the draft after finishing school?
JR: After leaving campus, I went to Virginia for a few days to see my family. Then I went to Atlanta to train at Peak Performance Project (P3) for most of the summer. I also played at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament for the seniors. It was a great experience. I was a late entry being around so many talented players and NBA teams. I was very grateful to get an invitation. I was fortunate enough to play well and make the All-Tournament team.
What sort of feedback have you gotten so far during this pre-draft process?
JR: Teams love the intensity and passion that I play with. They said I was very easy to notice on the court and when I wasn’t it showed. They all wanted to get to know more about me. I did pretty well in the agility testing and I know that there are ways I can still improve but I know I will.
Tell me more about your defensive mentality as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and two Big Ten All-Defense appearances.
JR: It came from when I was younger. My older brother was bigger, faster and stronger than I was. We would play in the backyard and it would always be a competition. I didn’t want him to beat me, I didn’t want him to score. I had to use my quickness to my advantage. I try to bait people, make them think they have an opportunity that is not there. I have a great reaction time, too. I enjoy playing defense and it’s something I’m passionate about. I can guard one through five. I’ve guarded big men like Ethan Happ and Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan. But I’ve guarded point guards including Chris Clemons and Carsen Edwards. I’ve really guarded a variety of positions. As a professional basketball player, I’ll probably guard twos and threes playing on the wing.
How do you think you can best fit into an NBA offense at the next level?
JR: I’ve never had a problem with that. I do the things that people don’t usually do. I crash the glass, I move well without the ball and create off-ball screens. I make good decisions when I do have the ball. I’ve worked on my three-point shot a lot since I’ve been in college and it’s improved a lot and I know it still can. I’ll be more fluid and I will never stop working and always just keep progressing.
What are some of your biggest interests off the court when you’re not playing basketball?
JR: I love hanging out with my teammates. I tried to work on that when I got to college. I go out to eat, play video games, go bowling, go to the movies. I try to be around them as much as possible because the more chemistry you have with them the better.
What did you learn about yourself as a leader while playing in college?
JR: We had the same coaching staff for a few years, which gave me so much insight. I was able to talk to the team and notice something the coaches didn’t like and then I found myself saying the same thing coach would say a couple minutes before he said it. I tried to bring them along to the style of play we have and play hard. I’ve been known to lead by example in the things that I do. I show up to workouts early, communicate during practice and lifts and always give maximum effort. I want everyone to see that this is what we do here and this is how we do it. There’s no other option, it’s how we play as a team.
What are the biggest goals that you have for yourself moving forward?
JR: I want to compete at the highest level possible. This is the sport that I love to play. I don’t know what I’d be doing without it. It’s something I have so much passion for and so much dedication to. I just want to get better in any way possible. I want to develop myself and my game and improve as a player and as a person.
Is there anything people might not know about you that may be interesting to share?
JR: I could have played professional soccer when I was younger. I had a chance to play for a club team in Bolivia, I’m half Bolivian. My mom is from there. My uncle played professional soccer. He had connections and so they heard about me and watched me play when I was younger. So I tried out and they thought I could have played left midfield and striker. It definitely helped my footwork and my anticipation as a basketball player. I got very good at sliding my feet, moving side to side, which helps with my defensive game. I still use a lot of the same agility drills.