“A dog at heart.” Why Efton Reid’s former LSU teammates think big things await Gonzaga’s new center

LAS VEGAS — Shareef O’Neal has no shortage of basketball stories involving Efton Reid, but there’s one that might take the cake.

It happened during a 5-on-5 work out at LSU practice last year. The 6-foot-11, 238-pound freshman center picked up a defensive rebound, dribbled the full length of the floor, faked a handoff, slipped the ball between his legs and threw a dunk.

“This year, I know he’s going to go crazy,” O’Neal said of his former college teammate and close friend who traded to Gonzaga this offseason. “He will show the inside of the game, the post moves and he will also be able to overthrow (peripheral shots).

“Hopefully we see him take it coast to coast, I’ve seen him do it in training and I know he can do it.”

O’Neal is qualified to talk about Reid’s credentials on the court — frontcourt teammates traded their fair share of body shots during LSU practices last season — but he and Gonzaga’s new center have learned to each other. knowing on a deeper level, living under the same roof during their only year together in Baton Rouge.

Which means O’Neal had to cultivate some good roommate stories that could rival the ones he had on the pitch, right? Yes, but not the kind you expect.

Reid, who was 19 when he arrived at LSU, shared living space with two older teammates: O’Neal, a 21-year-old junior, and Tari Eason, a 20-year-old freshman.

“Efton actually woke us up in the morning. We had early practices,” O’Neal said. “Efton was like the big brother in the house. Has always done things right.

Understandably, O’Neal is selective when it comes to media inquiries — interview questions tend to revolve around his Hall of Fame dad — but after stepping out of the Lakers locker room following an NBA Summer game League on July 12 against the Clippers, a media relations official advised the 6-8 forward that a reporter was hoping to ask about a former LSU teammate. When O’Neal learned that Reid was the subject, he agreed to chat.

“Efton is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met,” O’Neal said.

Reid became Gonzaga’s latest big transfer man when he signed on to Mark Few’s program on May 1, completing a frontcourt group that brings back two established players in Drew Timme and Anton Watson, but also the losing one. No. 2 draft pick Chet Holmgren, one of the nation’s most effective rim protectors last season.

As Reid forms chemistry with new teammates in Spokane, gains the trust of Few’s coaching staff, and learns of the Bulldogs’ plans, the former LSU teammates continue to vouch for someone they believe has infinite potential on the field and a disproportionate personality far from it.

“I loved that Gonzaga move he made,” O’Neal said. “I feel like he’s going to thrive. This program will use it very well, and it’s really versatile. He’s an awesome player.”

Now playing with the G-League Ignite, O’Neal was one of three former LSU players participating in the summer league, along with Eason, a first-round NBA pick from the Houston Rockets, and forward Darius. Days, who played for Spurs. in Vegas before signing a two-way contract with the Miami Heat.

Reid’s move to Gonzaga was celebrated by LSU teammates, who are keeping in touch via text group chat. Reid, O’Neal, Eason and Days were among 13 Tigers who either entered the transfer portal or declared for the draft after the 2021-22 season.

“I think that’s probably one of the most perfect moves I’ve seen in the Portal, other than maybe mine,” said Eason, a Seattle native who transferred from Cincinnati to LSU. between its first and second season. “I’m super, super happy for my brother, I think he’s a good choice. I think he’s going to fit in well in Spokane, the environment, just the people and the way he plays. C He’s a really selfless guy, he’s a team player, but he’s also a dog at heart, so I think Zag fans are going to love him.

“I personally think that was one of the best moves he could do. Playing with Drew, they like to throw the ball in the big ones,” said Days, who teamed with Timme in the draft of the NBA: “He can show his full arsenal, so I’m glad he made the decision to go to Gonzaga.”

It’s still unclear how Reid will fit into Gonzaga’s rotation this fall. Timme will start at one of the frontcourt positions and many have speculated that few could return to a smaller, guard-oriented formation while enjoying one of the deepest backcourts in the country – a decision that could keep Watson and Reid on the bench.

Days offered thoughts on what Reid will need to do to stay on the Spokane field, but also provided evidence to support his belief that the center will be more successful in a new environment.

“Stay out of mistakes. He had a little trouble playing at LSU,” Days said. “You know how he can come out and shoot the 3. He’s going to be able to space the floor out to Gonzaga. I’m really excited for him.

O’Neal, Days and Eason all suspect Reid will make a big defensive move at Gonzaga.

While it’s unrealistic to think he or any member of the 2022-23 Zags will replace Holmgren’s impact as a shot blocker, GU’s plans could give Reid more opportunities to patrol the paint in defence.

LSU’s switching defense often took Reid out of the paint, forcing him to keep smaller guards and wings on the perimeter.

“We’re going one-to-five at LSU, so it was a little tough for him to get blocked shots,” O’Neal said. “I feel like if he was there he would have had a lot more but I don’t know how Gonzaga is going to do his defense but if they have him around the edge he can get a lot of blocks. This will have a very high draft stock and it will be here next year.

Whether it happens in crucial, crucial minutes on the court or in another capacity, it seems certain that Reid will have some impact on one of the best basketball programs in the country this season.

“I have a fond memory of when a teammate wasn’t really going strong and he said he was sweating,” Eason said. “(Reid) didn’t take that as an excuse, like, ‘We all sweat.’ He got it. You see it in practice and we were going through adversity in games and all kinds of things. Efton would be one of the main guys in the caucus trying to bring us together and sort of pull us together as a team. .

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