Former Saint Louis University basketball player Willie Reed finally got called up.
After a year of hard work in the National Basketball Association Development League and a relentless Twitter campaign defined by his own hashtag, #CallWillieUp, Reed finally got the coveted call up to the NBA. On April 14, two days before the Memphis Grizzlies’ final regular season game of the year, the squad decided to pick up Reed, who had been playing for the NBADL’s Springfield (Mass.) Armor. He averaged 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds for the Armor, garnering the NBADL’s “Top Performer of the Week” award earlier in the season.
So how did it feel to finally get that call up to the NBA?
“It was an unbelievable feeling. To continue to work throughout the whole season and eventually get noticed, it’s a great opportunity,” Reed said.
The 6-foot-10 Reed has been struggling to break into the NBA since he left SLU during the 2010-11 academic year. In the 2009-10 season, Reed averaged 12.7 points per game and led the Billikens in rebounding (7.9 rpg). He went undrafted in the June 2011 NBA draft, but was later invited to participate in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ training camp.
The following season, Reed signed with the Sacramento Kings for their eight preseason games, in which he averaged 0.8 points per game and 2.8 minutes in four game appearances. The Kings waived Reed on Oct. 12, 2012, and while he was disappointed, he used the opportunity to grow as a player. He eventually signed with the NBADL’s Springfield Armor, where he would spend the entire season.
“I knew I would eventually be in the D-League somewhere, which would give me the opportunity to grow and mature as a player and as a person in general. So to be able to make it through that and persevere and be able to reach my dream, it’s just an amazing feeling,” Reed said.
He played 48 games for the Armor, posting an impressive 12 double-doubles.
Finally, on April 14, the Grizzlies signed Reed for the remainder of the season. Though they only had one regular season game left, the Grizzlies had secured the five seed in the Western Conference, meaning Reed would be travelling with the playoff-bound squad. He didn’t put on a uniform for the Grizzlies’ first playoff game against the Los Angeles Clippers, but could seen be sitting on the bench during the game, obviously relishing the experience.
“It felt great, ” Reed said. “The atmosphere was awesome in Memphis and they did a great job welcoming me. And to be able to go to a place like Memphis that already has a successful team and great fans, it makes everything more comfortable.”
While his future remains uncertain, it’s clear that Reed is ready to use this latest opportunity to the fullest. Contract details haven’t been made clear yet, but it seems probable the Grizzlies will attach a team option for next season, giving Reed another chance to prove himself at the NBA level come the 2013-14 preseason. Right now though, Reed is content making the most of his long-awaited call up to the NBA.
“It’s definitely a great experience. I’m learning from Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. It’s a great experience to just sit and learn, and working with them is a lot of fun,” Reed said. “I just plan to continue to keep working hard here and hope things work out… I just have to make sure I stay focused on achieving my dream and doing the things they want me to do here.”