Big man Naz Reid can finesse you, but lately his inside moves have kept LSU dominant
BATON ROUGE — Everything about Naz Reid's physical appearance is intimidating.
At 6-foot-10 and a chiseled 250 pounds, he is not someone you would want to meet in the lane in a basketball game, or in the pocket if you're a quarterback and he is a rushing defensive end, which is what he played in junior high.
Reid's dunk with 6.3 seconds to play in a state championship game in New Jersey last year gave his Roselle Catholic High School the title. Roselle, New Jersey, is the hometown of the late, great Greg Cook, whose intimidating, enforcing ways helped to lead LSU to Southeastern Conference championships in 1979 and '81, which included a 31-5 finish in the Final Four.
But Reid, the No. 2 high school center in the nation in the freshmen class of 2018-19 by Rivals.com, opened LSU's season with something called "Guard Disease," which in recent years has stopped big men from playing like big men. Reid was 4 of 6 from 3-point range in his second game as a Tiger on Nov. 9 as he scored 29 in a win over UNC-Greensboro. He had only seven rebounds, though.
It took until LSU's 12th game before Reid had double-figure rebounds with 10 in a win over Furman on Dec. 21. In his first 11 games, he had three games of three rebounds or less. In a win over Alabama on Jan. 8, he had one rebound in 18 minutes.
Entering Wednesday's game between No. 15 LSU (21-4, 11-1 SEC) and Florida (14-11, 6-6 SEC) at 6 p.m here in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Reid is averaging 8.6 rebounds over his last five games — all in the SEC. He averaged 4.7 rebounds in his first 11 games — all outside the SEC. He has also scored in double figures in all five of those games and is averaging 17.2 a game.
"I definitely felt like I wasn't doing enough for us," Reid said Monday.
And coach Will Wade and some of Reid's teammates told him so.
"They said to be more physical," Reid said. "I appreciated it because it helped me as an individual and helped the team. Before, I looked for the guards to get back after a miss. If they wouldn't get back, I'd go back. Now, I just go to the glass and refuse to be boxed out. Really, I'm just going to the glass more."
Reid is still shooting very well from 3-point range, too, as he was 5 of 10 in three recent games against Arkansas and at Mississippi State and at Kentucky. He remains LSU's best 3-point shooter at .371 (23 of 62) with Tremont Waters second at .336 (85 of 106). He does not block shots like 6-11 senior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams, who has 49, but Reid does have 23, including 12 in a six-game stretch in January and February.
"Naz has been great," Wade said. "It takes time to adjust. You are all seeing that he is a talented guy, and he plays so hard. And he wants to win so bad. He does so much for our team both offensively and defensively. He has such a high basketball IQ. He has a great basketball mind."
Reid can also take a hit in the lane. He is LSU's best at taking a charge. At Arkansas, he had five. And none were flops worthy of an Academy Award.
"No flops," he said. "Taking charges is something I've been doing since freshman year in high school. It just falls in line with what I try to do. If I'm in position, I mean, why not? I know it puts your body on the line, but if the team needs it, why not?"
Reid enjoyed playing quarterback and defensive end in junior high, but there is no football at Roselle High. He has kept a football mentality, though.
"It's not something that you can be scared of, taking charges," he said. "You've just got to be tough and do what you need to do. I try to get on the floor, get my hands dirty as much as I can and being physical."
Reid met his match against Kentucky's 6-8 sophomore P.J. Washington, who scored 20 points with nine rebounds in the Wildcats' 73-70 home loss last week to LSU while Reid had 12 with seven rebounds.
"I think I'm as physical as just about anyone I've played," Reid said. "The only person who may be more is P.J. He's a class ahead of me, so I watched him in the McDonald's game. It was great to go at him, and it was a good game. He played tremendous. Our coaches tell me to be more physical and they said, 'If you think you can be the best player in the country, you can be.'"
More and more, Reid is playing like Cook, who played at Clark High in Roselle.
"I've heard his name a lot," said Reid, who is from nearby Asbury Park, New Jersey. "He's like one of of the better basketball names that came out of Jersey. Everybody talks about him in the basketball world. There's been only a few big names from there, but I'm hoping to be one of them."