By Chris Shoemaker
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
“got juice?” That’s what the Rams fans’ signs read in the Dome Gymnasium from 2006 to 2010. A creative imitation of the famous “got milk?” advertising campaign of the mid 1990s, the question was rhetorical for Bluefield College men’s basketball fans.
Why? Because they knew who had “the juice.”
BC had the Juice, Omar J. “O.J.” — better known as “Juice” — Reed, a 6-foot-6 swingman like none other during his playing days. A dominating player and prolific scorer who not only led the Rams to greatness, but who also may soon become the first Bluefield College basketball player to ever play in the NBA.
As a Ram, Juice scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds during his four-year career. A native of nearby Tazewell, Va., he averaged 13.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game over that same span, including a double-double average of 16.2 points and 11.1 rebounds during his senior season, 2009-2010.
That year, he was named Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) Player of the Year and AAC Defensive Player of the Year. He also earned a spot on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic (NAIA) Third Team All-America squad.
“He is one of the best I’ve ever coached, including my time as an assistant at the NCAA Division I level,” said former Rams head coach Jason Gillespie. “That is saying a lot, because he came to BC as someone who wasn't sure he was good enough to help us.
“He was humble about his ability, an undervalued trait that has become incredibly rare. He was so skilled for someone his size, but he was also a very hard worker. His attitude on and off the court helped set the tone for our team. He was just a special person to coach all the way around.”
A proven winner, Juice led the Rams to 89 wins — 22.2 per season — during his four-year career. The Rams finished no worse than second in the AAC with Juice on the squad, winning championships during his freshman, junior and senior seasons, including an unblemished 18-0 conference mark in 2008-2009.
But, the championships, he said, are not his fondest memories.
“I remember the fun,” Juice said. “My teammates and coaches were simply fun people, and the memories I have with those guys are things I will never forget. It’s amazing how great our team chemistry was.
“We truly were a band of brothers. Even off the court we were always together, and I definitely think that’s a contributor to why we made history and went 18-0 in the AAC my junior season. Winning equals fun, and that’s what I remember the most.”
After earning his degree in business management and concluding his playing days in the Dome, Juice earned a spot on the roster for the Medway Park Crusaders, a semi-professional team in the English Basketball League.
In just one season, he became Medway’s leading scorer and rebounder and helped lead the squad to its first championship in club history.
“It was an amazing experience to play abroad,” said Juice. “Playing over there gave me a sense of how good I could be. Leading Medway to its first league championship was a great feeling for me. Experiencing the different culture, meeting new people, and the level of appreciation I got blew me away.”
Last year, he was drafted by the Austin Toros of the National Basketball Association Development League (NBA-DL), just one step away from the NBA, the level all basketball players dream of as kids.
With Austin, a minor league affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs, Juice averaged 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in just 13.4 minutes per game. In a win against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, he scored a career-high 26 points.
Playing at that level would not be possible, he said, without the mentors and lessons he learned at Bluefield College.
“Coach Gillespie and [assistant] Coach [Steve] Hardin allowed us to be ourselves and gave us the ability to play and exhibit our skills,” said Juice about the coaches he had his first three years at BC. “Off the court, they were personally involved in our lives. They cared about our progress through school and in life. I learned more about being a man and having people skills from them than basketball.
“My senior year Coach [Richard] Morgan and Coach [Keith] Jennings wanted things done precisely their way. It was a mental adjustment for me. Both had played professionally after excellent college careers and knew how to win and demanded your best. What I took from them was how to be about my business on and off the court and how to be a professional.”
Now, Juice is with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA-DL, and in his first season with the minor league affiliate of the Boston Celtics, he averaged 5.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in just 17.1 minutes off the bench.
Playing with the likes of five NBA-DL All-Stars and two former NBA players, he’s helping lead the Red Claws to a third place position in the NBA-DL’s East Division and a playoff spot for postseason play.
All that, coaches say, is good enough to get Juice the attention he needs to be considered for a starting spot with Maine and maybe, just maybe, a call up to the NBA.
“If I get that call saying I’m being signed to an NBA team, I’ll be the most thankful and grateful person alive,” said Juice, who would be the first graduate in Bluefield College history to suit up for the National Basketball Association. “I’d probably break down crying, to be honest. I have a long story that isn’t well known to others.
“My desire and self-motivation has gotten me this far, and to know a country boy made it to The Association would be everything I hoped for. Maybe the next kid from Tazewell, Virginia, will see it’s possible.
“Hopefully, even now, I'm somehow motivating the youth in that area back home or even guys that come through Bluefield College in years to come. That’s a big enough accomplishment, itself, for me.”