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Antonio Reeves’ rise to stardom powering Redbirds

Published: Jan. 16, 2022 at 7:42 PM CST
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NORMAL (Heart of Illinois ABC) - It’s been a meteoric rise for Chicago-native and Illinois State junior guard Antonio Reeves.

“This year is totally different. I’m out there just hooping, I’m a leader now, teammates got trust in me, so I’ve just got to do my thing out there and that’s the mentality I have,” said Reeves on what has been changed in his play.

From averaging 12.4 points-per-game as a sophomore to now 20.8 points-per-game as a junior. Reeves is the Missouri Valley Conference’s leading scorer and ranks in the top 15 for all Division I players.

Illinois State's Antonio Reeves celebrates with teammates during a win over Missouri State.
Illinois State's Antonio Reeves celebrates with teammates during a win over Missouri State.(Heart of Illinois ABC)

“I took on the role, coach just talked to me saying you’ve got to be aggressive on the floor at all times and even my teammates have been saying that too, so I took on that role, took on the responsibility and put in the work,” explained Reeves.

One summer seems to have made all the difference. Reeves tested the NBA waters, working out with the professional trainers down in Miami.

“Going down there actually benefitted me to do good this season, so I’m happy I did that, it just gave me more confidence in myself,” said Reeves.

He followed the summer up with a momentum keeping return to Normal.

“I thought Antonio would come back and be our leading scorer. He was really hard to guard in practice, almost everyday,” said Illinois State Head Coach Dan Muller. “As we got into October, I knew he was a problem. Now 21 points is hard to do, but I knew he was going to have big scoring games, he’s going to make big shots, and teams are going to have to game plan for him.”

With new transfer and NIL rules, letting collegiate athletes move schools with ease and to be compensated in various ways, Reeves easily could have packed up his bags for greener pastures following a 7-18 season in 2020-21. Several of his teammates from last year did just that, but Antonio decided to stay at ISU and keep working.

Antonio Reeves soars for a fastbreak dunk during an 81-64 home win over UTSA.
Antonio Reeves soars for a fastbreak dunk during an 81-64 home win over UTSA.(Heart of Illinois ABC)

“Here it feels like a family to me. I know how coach [Dan Muller] is, [my] teammates, [and] other coaches. So it actually gave me confidence,” said Reeves on his decision to stay at Illinois State.

Now in the 2021-22 season, the Redbirds (8-8) have already surpassed their win total from last year and look to keep soaring behind the scoring prowess of Antonio Reeves.

“I just go out there and have that guerilla mentality, just play as hard as you can, everything is going to fall into place, that’s the confidence I have now. So I just try to stay humble as much as possible too and know that getting wins is the goal.”

It remains to be seen how many games ISU will win this season, but with Reeves on the court it makes them must-see television.

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