July 1, 2006

U.S. Reed: from answering prayers to leading them

They were virtually impossible to stop during their college basketball playing or coaching careers.

And they occasionally proved nearly as difficult to track down afterward.

The international nature of basketball can make it hard to find some of the elite college stars and familiar names of the last generation. If they didn't go on to long NBA careers, they often left the United States in order to continue playing overseas.

But the Rivals.com staff still managed to find several notable players of the past whose names remained in their school's record books long after they left campus.

Many of the stars are former conference players of the year who delivered big performances in the regular season. Others had their brightest moments in the NCAA Tournament. Some weren't players at all, but were coaches who led memorable teams or participated in great games.

Now they're ready to relive their college memories while illuminating us on what they're doing now.

U.S. Reed, Arkansas
Name: U.S. Reed
Age: 47
Residence: Pine Bluff, Ark.
Claim to fame: Reed sank a 49-foot shot at the buzzer to give Arkansas a 74-73 NCAA Tournament victory over defending national champion Louisville on March 14, 1981. Arkansas inbounded a pass with five seconds remaining, and Reed worked his way between a couple of defenders before making the shot from around midcourt. The shot still is considered the most improbable buzzer beater in NCAA Tournament history. Twenty-five years after answering Arkansas fans' prayers, Reed now is leading prayers as a pastor at Deeper Revelation International Ministry in Pine Bluff, Ark.

How often he's reminded about the shot: "The last time was probably yesterday. You see people, and they always like to mention it. And I have one of those crazy names anyway. People hear it and recognize it. They like to bring up the shot. Last summer my wife and I were in Jamaica, in Montego Bay. I came down the slide at the pool in the hotel. When I came up out of the water, a guy said, 'Are you U.S. Reed? You hit the shot.' My wife said, 'We can't go anywhere.'

Memories of the shot: "We had a solid team, so we were pretty confident. We had some guys who were pretty solid. We were really happy to have that kind of talent. Those were the kinds of games you dream of playing when you're in college. You dream of that kind of competition. We knew it was going to be a good game because they were pretty talented also.

"We led most of the game. We started to make some really not-so-smart plays to bring them back in the game. When it got down to the final few seconds, to be honest with you, we were pretty down. The momentum had changed, and we were on the verge of collapsing. Eddie Sutton, being the kind of coach that he was, he's the kind of guy who can give you that shot in the arm that you're going to (need to) win the game. He said, 'Someone is going to win this game. Someone is going to pull it out.'

"Coach Sutton called timeout with (about) five seconds left. It was more of a pep speech than X's and O's. He said, 'U.S., you're going to get the ball. Get as close as you can, and you're going to have a shot or kick it to Scott (Hastings).' He's telling me to push it and give it to Scott if I don't have a shot.

"I'd hit some last-second shots before. You look up, and they've got a midcourt press, so you're not really going to get past halfcourt with five seconds left in the game. Darrell Walker threw the inbounds pass, and then they're right there. I'd hit last second-shots against Texas and Texas A&M – last-second plays to win the game. But those were from a lot closer in.

"To be honest with you, before the game I was shooting long shots in warm-ups. They were so long the guys in the line were saying, 'What are you doing?' I was saying I may have to hit a long shot at the end of the game. You never know. It's kind of a heave-from-the-chest jump shot. When you're practiced something before you do it, it's almost like you've already done it. I didn't realize (the game-winning shot) would be that far away, but I guess it's like that old cliché. No preparation is preparation to fail. I was shooting from (maybe 30 feet away). There's a big difference between that and halfcourt.

"When you're shooting a short jump shot, it feels good or it doesn't feel good. With this one, letting it go, it was just a perfect time. It felt like the perfect storm. It felt good. You let it go, then you watch it, and then it went straight in. I knew I had a good shot off. With those things, sometimes you throw it up and you know it's not even close and don't even look at it. This one I thought might have a chance.

"The team went to midcourt and jumped on each other. I didn't want any part of that. I didn't want to be jumped on. I went to press row and started shaking hands, then I ran around the outside of the court and ran to the dressing room. I let those guys have their fun. Then I came out and did an interview with Dick Stockton. It was me and Darrell Walker.

"It was like a roller coaster. You know it's not over until the buzzer goes off. You learn a lot about life. Don't give up until the last second.

"(The Louisville players) were in shock. Some of them were in complete shock and almost a little angry. I didn't get near anybody (from Louisville), but you could feel the aura. You could sense they didn't want to come shake my hand or anything. There were no handshakes, like 'Good game' or anything.

"We walked into a buzz saw playing LSU in the Superdome in front of about 50,000 (a 72-56 LSU victory in the next round). You go from a high to thinking, 'OK, we're playing again,' plus you've got to understand we'd beaten LSU that same year in the (Great) Alaska Shootout, so you're playing someone who wants revenge. That's what we walked into. And they weren't shabby either with their talent.

"Actually, after (the Louisville game), it seemed I hit the shot a couple of more times in exhibition games or just in little play games for fundraisers or something. It was like, 'Man, I can still hit it.' I've missed it a couple of times also, but people don't remember the misses.

"Usually you watch it every March. I do have a tape of it, and people want to see it. It's kind of amazing."

Pro career: The Kansas City Kings selected Reed in the fifth round of the 1982 NBA Draft, but he didn't make the team. He played in the Continental Basketball Association that season for the Montana Golden Nuggets, who were coached by George Karl. Reed went to training camp the following season with the San Antonio Spurs, but he hurt his knee in training camp and never played again.

"I had a chance to go overseas and play," Reed said. "There were some offers I probably should have taken, but I kind of got burned out. And at the time, I had an elderly mother (who died in March 2004 at the age of 94), and I wanted to stay close. My father had passed, and I wanted to stay closer to home instead of going overseas."

What he's doing now: After ending his basketball career to stay close to his family, Reed started restoring rental houses and apartments. He also spent a year as an assistant coach for the Arkansas-Little Rock women's basketball team.

He started working with his church in the late 1990s and now is a pastor for Deeper Revelation International Ministry.

"It wasn't something I was planning on doing," Reed said. "I started attending ministry classes and helping the pastor. … I like teaching people the Word and just helping people. That's the best part about it."


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