With his season ending in defeat on Thursday night, Emmet Ryan looks at Reggie Redding’s unusual journey towards becoming one of the most sought after free agents in Europe.
Reggie Redding was many things at Villanova. Glue guy. Under-rated local prospect. Dude who made mistakes. One thing he definitely wasn’t was the man. On Thursday night, that was what was expected of Redding and he delivered but it wasn’t enough to get Alba Berlin over the line. Jamel Mclean was the star of the show for Alba, with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists in the losing effort but Redding more than pulled his weight. After a quiet enough first half, Redding almost brought Alba over the line with 18 points, 3 boards, and 4 assists. This is the type of night we have come to expect from Redding in Europe. Back in Philadelphia, it would have been considered a truly exceptional day.
Redding wasn’t the hottest property in the United States coming out of high school but in Philly the smart fans knew Villanova were on to something with him.
“He was a fairly solid name on the Philadelphia scene. I recall him being a three-star calibre type of prospect which is to say he wasn’t expected to make a big impact right away but could definitely develop in to a starter down the road. In hindsight, that evaluation was dead-on,” Chris Lane of VUHoops.com told BallinEurope.
“He was billed as a shooter coming on to campus, which is always appreciated at Villanova. Oddly enough though, he never really hit his stride with the long-ball until his senior year (39 per cent 3P%) and became more of a glue-guy, especially on that ’09 Final Four team where he would typically draw the toughest defensive assignment. If you’re a fan of Villanova basketblal, it’s really hard to not appreciate his contribution to some of the best years in recent program history.”
That 2009 team was led by Scottie Reynolds, a consensus All-American and NBA prospect who went undrafted. Reynolds is now plying his trade with Besiktas in Istanbul having bounced between Italy, the Philippines, Czech Republic, Greece, and Russia. Right now, Reynolds is a journeyman who still has a shot if the right bounce comes his way but his star is fading. Back in 2009, Reynolds was the man and Villanova were a serious outfit. Redding was important but, if anything, he was the man destined to bounce around leagues.
“He was the glue-guy or probably more fairly, the stat-stuffer. The offensive load obviously fell on Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham, so there wasn’t much pressure for him to put up big numbers. Still, he was fairly efficient shooting over 50 per cent from inside the three-point line and didn’t take a ton of shots. And most importantly, he typically showed up in big games. He dropped a career-high in scoring when Villanova beat #3 Pitt at home during the regular season, and then upped his averages across the board (leading the team in blocks and steals) during the NCAA Tournament run. Defensively, he could guard multiple positions and thus more often than not took on the other team’s best player,” said Lane.
The odds of Redding even making it to the pro ranks hit a speed bump in the summer between his junior and senior years. A marijuana arrest led to a suspension. Redding came back but Lane said he just wasn’t the same.
“He was expected to sort of take the next step that year, and while he upped his scoring, I think sitting out the first couple of months set him back a bit and allowed other players to step in to major roles on the team. And losing the captaincy had to hurt mentally too. But to his credit, he never made excuses and took the fault for his actions. That’s pretty rare around college athletics, and I think that mature attitude has helped him develop a successful career overseas.”
Having the right head on his shoulders helped Redding but the next stage in his career is a mystery to anyone outside of Cyprus, save for those closest to the guard. In researching this piece on Redding’s road to where he stands now, I reached out across Europe and the world, even to agents who have players in Cyprus right now, to find anyone who saw Redding at ETHA Engomis. I hit a wall. Here’s what we do know. Prior to Redding arriving at the club, based in the suburbs of Nicosia, they had won squat. No cups, no leagues, no glory. In Redding’s lone season at Engomis, they won the Cypriot league and cup double, winning the championship series 3-2 over the historically dominant AEL Nicosia.
Had we just got that, perhaps the mystique of Reggie the scrappy fighter becoming Reggie the dominator might start to fade away but the stats imply otherwise. With 9.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 2.1 apg he was still a role player. The roster page has a cute quirk, he’s the only player listed under his first name. The highlight package of their championship run includes Redding but only as a player in shot, not making any plays. His biggest highlight come at the 59 second mark in the video below when his number 15 jersey flashes across the screen, interrupting the shot.
Redding was so far off the map that even European hoop die-hards didn’t know what he was doing. When he arrived at Tübingen to play for Walter Tigers, all most had to go on was his time as a glue guy with Villanova. Redding was seen as scrappy, not dominant.
“I did not expect him to make an impact immediately but he became the best scorer for the Tigers in his first season in Germany. From the beginning he showed that he was an all-around player. His 2011/2012 average was 13.2 pts, 5.8 reb, 3.3 ast. In his second year he put up similar numbers but otherwise he became a much better player. He was the leader of this team, the best scorer, best rebounder and the leader in assists. He proved that he can be one of the best player in the BBL. In his second year he became an All Star and was selected in the All BBL second team,” said Lubasch.
Tigers were a mid-table club, decent but not the place for a player with big ambitions. Redding however was far from a proven commodity. The brain trust at Alba Berlin, a top club in Germany with a hugely respected front office, decided he was worth the gamble. As with many diamonds in the rough, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
“Reggie had some problems finding his role in the first weeks with Alba Berlin. He also had some problems with the way Sasa Obradovic coached the team. After a couple of weeks the assistant coach, Mauro Parra, said that Reggie was a good guy and who loved Obradovic’s style of play. He said he was a great fit for Alba and will find his role,” said Lubasch.
Coaches say nice things about struggling players all the time. Redding made sure Parra was proven right with an epic effort to lift the Berlin outfit past Telekom Baskets Bonn in the German Cup qualifiers. You will really want to turn the sound up for this.
“After Reggie hit the gamewinner against Bonn in German Cup qualification, he was finally part of the team. After this gamewinner he had much more confidence and showed this every game. In his first year he became one of Alba’s best players and one of the best in the league.”
Malcolm Delaney, who won MVP honours that season, was arguably the only player who impressed more that season. With Delaney gone to Krasnodar at the end of the year, all eyes were on Alba’s rising star.
“The expectations were very high at the beginning of season, because he was second in MVP race with only a few votes behind Malcolm Delaney. He played very well until the middle of the season. He was option number one besides McLean and was the go-to-guy in the crunch-time,” said Lubasch.
Tragedy would interrupt Redding’s rise however with family loss hitting home. Nobody could blame Redding if he wasn’t the same player the rest of the year but he showed real character to lift Alba out of a slump.
“In the middle of the season he had a hard time here in Berlin. His grandparents both died very suddenly. After this he was not the same. He had bad shot selection, poor decisions, lot of turnover. But after all he climbed out of this hole and was a big factor at the end of the season,” said Lubasch.
While Redding’s rise was somewhat expected in the Bundesliga, observers outside of Germany were awoken to his true potential just as Euroleague was about to get under way. Impressing in the Champions Cup win over Bayern in pre-season and Alba’s stunning victory over the Spurs, every club with a serious budget in Europe was quick to check when Redding’s contract was up. Redding, Mclean, and Alex Renfroe made Alba one of the most fun teams to watch in Europe this year partially because nobody knew what to expect. They could stun the reigning champions of Euroleague, Maccabi Tel Aviv, on the road while laying an egg against a fading Crvena Zvezda team. The rollercoaster, fuelled by a fast-paced offence, made Alba the hip team for the neutral.
Everything came down to the return game with Maccabi in Berlin and Alba kept in contention but a hot night from behind the arc for Devin Smith proved their undoing. That ended Alba’s run at the Top 16 stage but even getting a sniff at the Euroleague post-season was a remarkable display for this, or really any, Bundesliga outfit. How little we knew then that in the same venue a barrage of threes would be crucial in ending the season for Alba.
In the Bundesliga regular, after Redding steadied the ship, Alba did enough to ensure home court through to the semi-final stage. Despite dropping both games in Munich, Alba impressed en route to victories in Games 1 and 3, with Redding dominant in the latter. Thursday’s clash with Bayern had the potential to go all sorts of ways, in the end it was a classic.
Game 5 may not have the same ring as Game 7 but as deciders go this had all the swings and roundabouts you could hope for. Svetislav Pešić got T-ed up twice in the third quarter and Bayern were down their coach for the rest of the game yet they drove on without him into a 9 point lead. Then Robin Benzing took a shot right to the nuts and the game finally swung back Alba’s way. In the final quarter both teams took turns looking like they were in command. Redding an Mclean got the job done for Alba but Nihad Đedović was firing right back at them and the threes kept on dropping for the Bavarians. OT in a series decider can feel like a crapshoot but Alba’s mistakes were mind-numbing yet somewhat in tune with their season. If they were going to go down, it would be in a mix of a blaze of glory and a damp squib. Those two clichés pretty much never belong together but if you had watched Alba this year, it would make a whole heap of sense.
Renfroe missed a three to force a second overtime and with that clank off the rim all but certainly ended Redding’s tenure in Berlin. The Bundesliga is smart with money but even the top clubs can’t compete financially with the big guns in Europe. Like Delaney last summer, Redding can expect a big payday.
“They can’t pay him the same money like the bigger fish in Europe can. Now, at 26, he can sign the biggest contract of his career.
Reggie is a difference maker and a missmatch monster. On offence he can bring the ball, shoot the ball, attack the rim – the hole repertoire. On D he can guard all from 1-3. Alba will lose one of the team’s faces of the last 2 years. If Obradovic [The Alba coach has been linked with moves to Spain] stays he has to find a new system or new options, especially on the offensive side. Redding is one of the key parts of the Alba system,” said Lubasch.
He was also a key part of making them fun. Six years after being the glue guy on the Villanova Final Four team, a Euroleague team with Final Four ambitions may want him to be the man.
Images via Beko BBL and Euroleague