Confident Reeves will be a key for Cats

Published 2:03 pm Thursday, March 9, 2023


Kentucky Today

Once Kentucky guard Antonio Reeves discovered his role, he began to develop more confidence in his game.

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It took a while for the Illinois State transfer to realize his potential but Reeves stayed the course and became one of the top bench players in the Southeastern Conference. Earlier this week, Reeves, who scored a career-high 37 points in an 88-79 win at Arkansas last Saturday, was named Co-SEC Sixth Man of the Year.

“At the beginning of the season, I was still trying to find my role on the team,” Reeves Wednesday. “I wasn’t as confident as I am now.”

He won the sixth-man of the year award and considered winning the SEC award “a blessing.”

“(I’m) honored to even have that under my belt,” Reeves said. “I never thought this would even happen in the first place. Coming from a mid-major school (program) to a high major (school), I didn’t know how it was going to be, but it actually just turned out great for me.”

Reeves finished the regular season averaging 14.2 points per game and survived a mid-year slump before scoring double figures in 15 of the team’s last 17 games of the regular season.

“Later on in the season, it was just more so playing my game,” Reeves said. “Off the dribble, pull-ups, trying to get to the rim and things like that. Everybody found their role on the team and who can do what. It was that type of deal and it worked out for me.”

Along with his 3-pointer, Reeves developed a floater in the lane, which has taken pressure off Oscar Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin in the post.

“It’s something I’ve always had, the floater,” Reeves said. “Ever since I was younger, I’ve always been good at that and have always worked on it. “With those big guys down there, 6-11, 6-9, 7-foot, to have that ability to have that runner, it makes the game more simple.

“You can get fouled really hard to get injured, anything that can happen, but having a floater is just a good shot to have in your game.”

Tshiebwe agreed.

“You cannot defend that,” he said. “… his offense is shaking many people. Many teams right now, they’re in panic mode because of how he’s playing.”

As for his performance against the Razorbacks, the senior guard said he simply “caught fire” and that flame torched Arkansas, especially in the second half.

“When I shot, it just went in,” he said. “It was one of those type of games. I just stayed aggressive and just found my spots on the floor.”

Reeves is looking forward to the postseason. Kentucky opens play in the SEC Tournament at 9:30 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals against Vanderbilt.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I always wanted to play (in the NCAA) Tournament. I would’ve never thought I’d play in the tournament two or three years ago. … “I’m truly beyond honored and blessed to have the opportunity.”