Austin Reaves: His rise from Arkansas farm to Lakers fame

Located in the middle of a grassland is Austin Reaves. The gnats are worse now than they were last year, and the air is thick and heated. However, this place is very serene, close to the “big pond” where his mother occasionally catches meals.

This is where “Hillbilly Kobe,” a 6-foot-5 guard the Lakers uncovered after the NBA Draft last year, was born. However, the genuine country kid isn’t quite at ease in this setting.

His eyes start to well up with tears as his allergies are killing his sinuses and giving the tip of his nose the color of an Arkansas Razorback.

Even worse, he might once more be sought after.

Reaves recalled the incident in which the family’s cows ran around him and the family dogs earlier that May morning as he sat at the kitchen table with his mother, Nicole Wilkett. This incident was only one of a hundred reasons why Reaves decided to pursue a different career.

Reaves getting trapped in the thick of a stampede: might that happen again?He laughs, “You might get your wish,” as the herd begins to around him.

Cows bleat. They might be enraged. Or perhaps they want to get closer to the NBA player like everyone else in this cluster of tiny country communities.

Before he can learn the truth, Reaves moos back.

Wilkett jokes, “You never loved the cows.

The fake moos function. The cattle maintain their separation. Reaves jumps back in a four-wheeler and speeds out to a different area of the 300-acre farm.

He had the option to make it his, but he decided against it.

Wilkett would say, “Either you get in the gym or you work on the farm.”

It wasn’t so much a choice as it was a thrҽat, and it was effective.

His doubters claimed that he was merely a slow, little boy from a small village who wasn’t physically prepared for the rough nature of the game due to his narrow shoulders. Reaves was hardly a sure thing in a league that seeks for them.

His agent therefore asked him why he wanted to do this before the NBA draft.

Or was it the cash? The clothing and the vehicles? The ladies? the renown?

Reaves stated, “I looked him in his eyes. I then said, “Tell everyone to f— off. I have been too thin all my life. not physically fit enough. I was formerly insufficiently skilled. Everyone came up with reasons why I shouldn’t. We’re going to find something about him that he can’t do well enough to succeed, was the constant refrain.

“Yeah, so telling everyone to f— off was a good feeling.”

It turns out it includes the cows.

“Even if you don’t like basketball, you still love Austin.”Reaves returned home after making his NBA debut with the Lakers, a season that for him personally couldn’t have gone any better. He divided his time between the farm in Newark and his father Brian Reaves’ home in Batesville, 10 minutes away.

His car’s headlights are the only thing that shine through the eerie, dark emptiness when he travels at night on the roads that connect Newark to Oil Trough to Sulphur Rock.

Although it has always been like way, after living in Los Angeles for a season, he definitely notices it.

Reaves, a former high-school standout who would spend 20 minutes signing autographs on the court before entering the locker room after a game, is more well-known here than he is anyplace else on the earth.

Even while the requests have grown stranger, that hasn’t changed.

Reaves’ friends made fun of him about his NBA reputation in the area as they were out to dinner at a steakhouse on the riverside.

A man approached Reaves and requested for his autograph at a golf tournament the trio won. Around here, it occurs frequently.But this guy came up to Reaves, arms covered with tattoos. Reaves was requested to sign on a blank area of skin on his forearm, which he held out, so that he could get the signature permanently inked to finish the sleeves.

Even if you don’t like basketball, Kelly Dennison, a librarian for Independence County, said, “You love Austin.” Particularly in this area.

Either he knows you or he knows someone who knows you, as Reaves puts it.

At Arkansas State, the father of Reaves was a point guard who finished third in career assists. He left the team and was replaced in the starting lineup by “Hoop Dreams” star Arthur Agee, a well-known guard. At Arkansas State, Reaves’ mother was a standout performer as well; her career scoring average of 19 points per game was second highest in school history.

His mother added, chuckling, “More of a scorer than a shoσter, know what I meαn, as she made a 10-foot shot on a half-court adjacent to the house.On that court, surrounded by woodland, Austin, his elder brother Spencer, and their pals would play “no fouls” and “no out of bounds,” with someone usually ending up bloody after a struᴜggle for a loose ball in the woods.

Spencer is a well-known figure in Newark on his own. The fαct that he is a professional athlete in Germany no longer carries the same weight as it once did.

Spencer laughed and remarked, “Now I’m Austin’s older brother.” And I detest it when that occurs.It was going to be athletics or agricultural work growing up in a three-stop-sign town so small that the neighborhood pizzeria is just called “The Pizza Place,” Wilkett informed her boys.

They were all aware that there had been no actual decision. The proof is all over the walls of Austin’s childhood bedroom. A collage of images from the young baseball team on which he was the outstanding shortstop is displayed over his bed. He excelled at golf and still does.

Reaves still keeps the prize from his first successful shot against the bucks, a deer head from a successful hᴜnt when he was six years old, on the other wall.

However, it is hardly unexpected given their genetic make-up that the Reaves sons became well-known on the court.

“I assumed there was a typo. like I was clueless.

― Austin Reaves, upon realizing he had 73 points in a game that required three overtimes.

When Reaves was a freshman and his brother was a junior, their tiny Cedar Ridge High School won the 2A state title. That group defeated East Poinsett County and its star player Malik Monk, a highly sought-after Kentucky recruit and future teammate on the Lakers.

Then, Reaves was just a shoelace-skinny point guard, tasked with running Cedar Ridge’s offense.

“Sometimes, he’d get beaten up just going through the layup line,” their coach, Isaac Middlebrooks, said.Yet Reaves started to build a reputation for toughness. It’s not like he avoided the beatings from his brother on the court or in the family basement. And his favorite player on his favorite team, Kobe Bryant, was known for his toughness, resiliency and grit as much as his skill.

“As an older brother, you always enjoy beating up your younger brother,” Spencer said. “He continued returning for more even though he was constantly being beaten. But he was always resilient.

“He never shied away from competing in that sense even though I was beating the s— out of him.”

The Reaves boys and Cedar Ridge won the state title again the next year, beginning their small-town celebrity.

“In small towns, sometimes basketball or sports are the only thing people have to experience together,” Spencer said. “We don’t have a NBA team. We don’t have a NFL team. … I think it’s nice for people to have something to hold on to, to be connected to. And we were good enough as a high school team to be one of those things. It was really cool.”

Austin Reaves is embraced by older brother Spencer (12) after a Cedar Ridge High game.Austin Reaves is embraced by older brother Spencer after a Cedar Ridge High game. (Courtesy of Brian Reaves)By the time he was a senior, Austin was one of the highest-scoring high school players in the country. Opposing defenses fired double-teams and defensive schemes trying to slow him down. Middlebrooks searched for the right competition, playing bigger schools and crossing state lines to find the best games.

Almost every time Reaves did something spectacular.

There was the time he scored 33 of his 57 points in the fourth quarter, a game capped with a buzzer-beater for the win. He averaged more than 40 points. In the state title game, he scored 43 after battling a slow start and foul trouble to win for the third time in four years.

But none of those games was like the one he had on Dec. 4, 2015, against the Forrest City Mustangs, a team that eventually won a state championship three divisions higher than Reaves’ Cedar Ridge team.

Reaves scored 73 points in a wild 117-115, triple-overtime win.

The Mustangs’ press allowed Reaves to attαck and attαck. He’d shσσt 37 free throws, making 34.

“Every time when we needed a bucket, he was going to get it,” Middlebrooks said.

Late in the game, which wσund up being the highest scoring in state history, Reaves looked up at the scoreboard and saw the point total next to his name.

“I thought it was a typo. Like I had no idea,” he said. “I thought they messed up.”

For once they’d actually gotten it right with Reaves.

“He was clearly the guy who was going to dictate what was going to happen on the floor.”

— Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger on Austin Reaves’ leadership

Things had changed when Reaves arrived home after two years at Wichita State. Themid-major program was built on the backs of players a lot like him, the ones college basketball’s biggest powerhouses looked past for one reason or another. But he wasn’t a star. Hell, he wasn’t even really a starter.

ADVERTISEMENT“People were still proud of him,” Reaves’ father said. “But when people go … it’s nothing like when they’re here winning state championships.”

Reaves was a big deal and Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall knew it.

“His scoring numbers stand out, because that’s what he needed to do in order for his high school team to be successful, but we think Austin is the complete package,” Marshall said upon Reaves’ signing.