When Danny Reeder came out of high school, Westminster coach Tommy Connor described him as being "overlooked and under-recruited."
Sure, he was a first-team all-stater for the 2003 state champion Alta Hawks even earning 5A tournament MVP honors but he was often overshadowed. Partially because he was just 5-foot-10 and wasn't a lights-out shooter, but also because that loaded Alta team included Mr. Basketball, Josh Olsen, and 5A MVP Geoff Payne.
Connor should probably send thank-you cards to the coaches who didn't exactly give Reeder a chance.
"He ended up finding a home here with us," Connor said. "For the last three years, he's been the catalyst of our team. Everything we do goes through him. He is one of the if not the best small
college point guards in the country."
Now in his senior season with the Griffins, Reeder leads the NAIA
in assists with 7.1 per game and is fourth in the nation with his 88.8-percent free-throw shooting. He is flirting with becoming Westminster's all-time leading scorer and he already tops the school's career assists list and ranks highly for steals, too.
Last year, he was named an honorable mention NAIA All-American. The season before, he was the Frontier Conference player of the year. More recently, he has led the Griffins to their highest-ever national
ranking at No. 8. Westminster (16-5) dropped to ninth after a bye week, and it might slip again after Saturday's tough loss at Lewis-Clark State College, but Reeder has the team in the thick of the conference championship race. An invitation to the NAIA tournament seems a certainty at this point.
Westminster has good talent around him Danny Stosich, Blair Prowse, Jordan Jacobs, Nate Sanchez and a deep bench but the Griffins' winning usually happens because they feed off their leader.
Yep, they follow their Reeder.
"As he goes, our team goes," Connor said. "He's having a phenomenal year and that's indicated by our team's success."
Connor says Reeder is "a nightmare for the other team to defend" because he passes accurately, has improved his shooting, uses screens effectively and makes teammates better. Westminster's only senior has become an all-around general, showing what Connor calls "tremendous leadership."
"He's just a wonderful story especially a local story from Alta High School," said the former Utah assistant. "He's succeeded and
really has a chance to play beyond college."
PRETTY IN PINK: Like hundreds of college basketball teams across the country, Dixie State will have a "Think Pink" theme for Saturday's game. Hoping to raise awareness of breast cancer, the Rebels will be dressed mostly in pink from pink headbands, pink shirts to pink socks.
Dixie State women's coach Angie Kristensen hopes everyone will join in.
"Juddie told me he's wearing a pink suit," she said, referring to men's coach Jon Judkins. "It's a great color on guys."
Judkins said the men are ready for the night. When he took over at Dixie, he noticed somebody had accidentally washed white and red uniforms together. The result: pink men's uniforms.
"We'll pull those out and put those on," he said with a laugh.
"It's a great cause."
WORTH ANOTHER LOOK: The last time they played last month in Salt Lake City Lewis-Clark State College pummeled the Westminster women, 80-52. And before Saturday, the 10th-ranked Warriors had beaten the 24th-ranked Griffins in 18 of their 20 meetings and LCSC had won nine games in a row overall and 21 straight in Frontier Conference action.
All that just makes Westminster's shocking 68-55 win Saturday all the more improbable and impressive.
The Griffins pestered the Warriors into shooting only 19.4 percent and scoring 18 points in the first half while they hit half of their shots. For the game, they held LCSC to about 25 points below its season average.
Individually, Kelsi Olsen scored a career-high 28 points, while Shannon Evans tied the school's all-time assists record (402, Amy Jensen) with four dishes and 14 points.
"This is a huge win for us," Griffin coach J.D. Gustin said. "We are really excited to be able to come here and get a win, and snap that long conference winning streak."
OH SO CLOSE: Ken Reynolds' name will remain in the College of Eastern Utah's record book after all. It was reported that Darington Hobson broke the Golden Eagles' single-game scoring record after his 46-point outburst against top-ranked College of Southern Idaho in Saturday's overtime loss, but CEU's talented freshman officially ended one basket short of the old mark.
Reynolds, who went to the University of Utah from CEU, poured in 48 points during a game in the 1968-69 season. That edged Ron Cunningham's previous record of 47 points from 1965.NATIONAL SCENE: The Westminster men are ninth and the women are 24th; SLCC's men improved to fifth ... Griffins point guard Danny Reeder leads NAIA in assists (7.1 apg) and is fourth in free-throw percentage (88.8 percent) ... Westminster's Jordan Jacobs is seventh in assists-to-turnovers ratio (2.81), while Shannon Evans is ninth in assists (5.3 apg) and 11th in steals (3.2 spg) ... SLCC's Brian Green lost the NJCAA free-throw shooting lead because he doesn't have enough attempts; CEU's Kal Bay overtook the top spot with his 94.6- percent FT clip.