Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

March 6, 2014

Former Ram Omar Reed still ballin’ in Japan

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Former Bluefield College basketball player Omar “Juice” Reed is continuing his professional career on the hard court, now with the Yokohama B-Corsairs of the National Basketball League, the topflight professional basketball league in Japan.

 In fact, Reed is considered one of the top newcomers in the Japan league for a revamped B-Corsairs team fighting for a playoff spot under first-year coach Michael Katsuhisa.

In Reed’s first two regular-season games in a B-Corsairs uniform, he had a 17-point, 11-rebound effort and a 20-point, 21-rebound, three-steal outing. It was a sign of things to come as week after week Reed’s energy and all-around play have helped keep the defending champions around .500 during an up-and-down season.

“Omar’s versatility and ability to do many different things on the court are extremely important to our team’s success,” Katsuhisa told The Japan Times. “We look to him to be our glue guy. He can pass, he can shoot, and he can be good in the pick-and-roll as the ball handler or as the screener.

“He understands the game, can see where rotations are coming from and how to make the right play. He has the potential to help Kenji (Yamada) quarterback our offense, and we need him to be more of a vocal leader so that he can do that. He is also one of the best rebounders in the league.”

Reed’s impact is significant and his desire to succeed is equally strong.

“When he is focused, he has been very good for us and has been hungry to prove himself in games,” Katsuhisa said.

While the team’s other American players — Wayne Marshall (Temple), Marcus Simmons (Southern California) and Marquise Gray (Michigan State) — competed for well-known collegiate hoops programs, Reed attended Bluefield College, a small private Christian college in southwest Virginia and a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

The 6-foot-6 standout has not forgotten his humble roots.

“Basketball’s taken me places I’ve never dreamed about going,” Reed told the Bristol Herald Courier last March. “It’s been such a blessing to be from Tazewell and making it this far.”

Reed began his professional career after Bluefield College in 2010 with 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.

In 2011, he was drafted by the Austin Toros, the National Basketball Association Development League affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs. With Austin, Reed averaged 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in just 13.4 minutes per game.

In 2012, he became a member of the Maine Red Claws, the NBA-DL affiliate of the Boston Celtics, and averaged 5.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 18.0 minutes per game. During the summer of 2013, he stayed with the Celtics on the roster of the organization’s Summer League squad, where he scored 5.0 points in 9.2 minutes per game.

Now, with the Yokohama B-Corsairs,  mid-way through the 2013-2014 season, Reed is the team’s second-leading scorer with 16.9 points per game and Yokohama’s top rebounder with 11.9 per game, the third-best rebounding average in the league.

Yokohama, which was 16-18 late in February — and tied with Aomori and Sendai for the sixth-best record in the 11-team East, had 18 games remaining in the regular season. Fourteen of those games were slated to be against teams tied or ahead of the B-Corairs in the standings.

“The season has shown flashes of promise as we’ve beat the best teams in the league, but we’ve lost to the bottom teams, as well,” Reed said. “Injuries have played a large role and made it hard for us to be consistent without certain contributions every game.

“It’s taken us, over half the season to get a clear identity, but better late than never. We are getting healthy and working hard to make a strong push to close the season and climb in the rankings.”

Indeed the challenge will be there for Reed and his teammates to elevate their game and qualify for the playoffs, but this time without ex-coach Reggie Geary, who led the team to back-to-back Final Fours and the aforementioned title and now serves as the bench boss of the NBL’s Chiba Jets.

If the B-Corsairs can reach the playoffs and challenge for a third straight trip to the Final Four, they will need steady production from Reed, who has topped the 30-point level twice this season — 34 vs. Gunma on No. 17 and 31 against Fukuoka on Dec. 29.

“I’m happy with my contribution to the team in my first season,” said Reed. “I think I surprised a lot of people who had no clue who I was. My versatility has been a big attribute to fitting in with the style of play.

“One quarter I’m a guard, another I’m defending low-post players. It took a while to adjust to everything, but I try to be a consistent player and make the game easier for everyone else. I’m prepared to do whatever needed to lead the team into the playoffs.”

Iwate forward Lawrence Blackledge recognizes how important Reed is for the B-Corsairs.

“Omar is one of the tougher players in the league,” Blackledge said. “He is a stat stuffer. He scores, rebounds, defends, and always plays hard-nosed basketball. He is also a good person off the court. I got to hang out with him once or twice. Nice guy and great competitor.”

— Ed Odeven writes for the Japan Times

  —Chris Shoemaker

 contributed to this report

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