TAPPING AWAY ON THEIR WORD processors in the Utah State Spectrum press box, sports writers regularly used to notice a tall, slender student methodically running and shooting on the basketball court far below them. They might have thought nothing of it, except usually it was 11:30 p.m. and the Aggies' games were
long over - and this guy was just getting warmed up."See that kid down there?" said a USU official to a writer once. "Someday he's going to be great. This kid can shoot the lights out."
That was three years ago, and, as it turned out, the kid could shoot. Sometime this year Reid Newey will become the highest-scoring guard in Utah State history.
Not bad for an aspiring biology teacher with no measureable vertical leap, who can't run a lick, who wears a knee brace the size of a golf bag, who defines a good shot as anything in the same zip code and who has trashed the coaching maxim "work for a good shot."
Newey is the trey-generation player, a product of the 3-point rule. His final career statistics will say he was a 44 percent shooter - which leaves some doubt as to whether he really could shoot, after all - but, then again, more than half of his 1,036 shots have been taken from beyond the 19 feet, 9 inches that is the 3-point line.
Never shy about putting up shots, in this his senior year, Newey is averaging 20 points a game and shooting with even greater abandon. Of his 280 field goal attempts, 176 of them (or 63 percent) have been 3-pointers. "I feel comfortable from there," explains Newey, and, indeed, from 3-point range or two-point range, his shooting percentage is virtually the same - 46 percent to 43 percent.
Newey sets up camp behind the 3-point line, usually on the right wing, and even with a man in his face, even with open court in front of him, there he remains. His coaches sometimes pull out their hair, but Newey says, "That's my shot. It's no different for me than telling a post-man to turn around and shoot a hook shot with a man in his face."
Perhaps it's a matter of simple arithmetic. A player must hit 60 of 100 two-point attempts to beat a player hitting 40 of 100 3-pointers. Newey will do the latter almost always. Almost. Streak shooters are just that. Three of 16 vs. Utah. Four of 17 vs. Fresno State. Three of 15 vs. UNLV. On the other hand: Seven of 11 treys vs. Irvine, seven of 13 treys vs. Fullerton.
These days no one raises an eyebrow when Newey cuts loose with a shot from, say, 24 feet, which might say something about the state of the game. The 3-point shot, once a source of contention among purists, has settled in.
"The dunk was the big thing," says USU assistant Jim Boatwright. "Now the 3-point shot is the same thing."
And Newey could never be a dunker anyway.
There's too much gravity in his legs. He finishes next to last in team windsprints, which, as one coach noted, "is pretty amazing." So is his jumping. "I can dunk it once in a while - on a good day," says Newey, who is 6-foot-5. Asked his vertical leap, Newey says dryly, "It's never registered . . . I just can't jump. I don't know why. I've lifted a lot of weights."
And run a lot of miles. Newey is a player of the '80s, but he has an old-fashioned work ethic. While redshirting the '85-'86 season, he regularly trained in the Spectrum late at night following Aggie games, watched occasionally by a distracted writer who was rushing to meet his newspaper deadline upstairs.
Nothing has changed since then. Newey's still the last to leave practice. "I don't feel like I get the number of shots in practice I need to improve my shooting," he says. So he stays afterward alone for a minimum of 45 minutes and works his way through an old routine: 100 free throws, 20 shots moving around the 3-point stripe, five shots from selected 3-point launching sites, a series of drives to the hoop (although no one can remember the last time he did one in a game). When Newey does go home to his wife Susan, he takes his work with him - to study videotape.
And then there's game day and The Face. "The toughest game face I've ever seen," says Boatwright. Games are war for Newey, whose scrappy, hustling, scowling, dogged, swaggering, never-say-die style has caught the eye of scouts.
"I'll tell you who I like is that No. 32," one NBA scout told USU athletic director Rod Tueller. "He's the most aggressive, tenacious player I've seen all year." Hall-of-Famer-turned-agent Oscar Robertson turned up at the Indiana Classic to watch Newey.
Too slow, you say? Probably, but, despite his physical shortcomings, Newey plays a fine all-around game - he rebounds, he defenses, he steals, he hits free throws. But of course he'll leave his most enduring mark out there on the 3-point line.
These days Newey is drawing a crowd out there. Facing the Aggies the second time around, Big West Conference opponents are extending their defenses for Newey. Perhaps he will simply raise the stakes? Is there a four-point shot in the house? As Newey says, "I never know really how far out I am. I just go up and shoot."