Antonio Reeves grew up rooting for the Kentucky Wildcats, but never once thought he would one day suit up for one of college basketball’s Blue Bloods.
The Chicago native transferred to UK in late April following three impressive seasons at Illinois State where he saw consistent development year over year. Reeves chose the ‘Cats over the likes of Nebraska, Xavier, DePaul, and Oregon. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard worked tirelessly to get to this point in his college career. Now, he wants to contend for a national title and develop himself into an NBA prospect.
“Just wanted to, first, try to win a national championship,” Reeves told the media on Friday about why he picked Kentucky. “Surround myself with really good players and just grind every day in practice and make myself better.
He went from hearing from the likes of Detroit Mercy and Chicago State out of high school to being one of the transfer portal’s most sought-after prospects during this past offseason. It was a life-changing experience.
“No, I never imagined,” Reeves said about becoming a Kentucky Wildcat. “It just came with it. I wanna thank God for that. He laid things out for my life and it just came by the grace of God.”
Despite being “a fan of Kentucky all (his) life”, Reeves never envisioned himself actually playing for the blue and white. That being said, he spent plenty of time watching former UK players such as Devin Booker and Tyler Herro while they were in Lexington. Immanuel Quickley, in particular, is someone Reeves closely modeled his game after and continues to watch now that Quickley is a member of the New York Knicks.
So when Reeves put his name in the portal following his junior season at Illinois State and the ‘Cats came calling, he made sure to take an extra close look.
“I definitely wanted to take it seriously,” Reeves said. “When I heard it I was amazed like ‘wow’. My season I had last year really brought a lot of schools that are really good schools. So when I heard Kentucky I was like this might be the place to be.”
It also helped Kentucky’s case that assistant coach Chin Coleman is close with Reeves’ father. Antonio told the media that his father “knew (Coleman) for a very long time.”
During the 2021-22 season with the Redbirds, Reeves averaged 20.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per outing while shooting 46.9 percent overall and 39.0 percent from deep on 5.9 attempts per game. He was named to the Missouri Valley Second-Team as a result and is expected to fill a similar role to that left by last year’s sixth man, Davion Mintz.
The love of basketball all started for Reeves when his dad bought him his first basketball goal at the young age of seven, which was set up in the backyard of his grandmother’s house. The rim was only 7.5 feet high at the time and he struggled to get the ball off his shoulders due to his size, but Reeves quickly fell in love with the game.
He later went on to attend Chicago’s Simeon High School during his senior season, which has produced NBA players such as Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker. Reeves said his first in-game dunk came a couple of years prior as a sophomore when he tossed himself a lob off the backboard for a slam. He’s a self-described “sneaky” athlete who can pour in buckets from all areas of the floor. Reeves says his most efficient shot on the floor is when he’s firing from the corners.
This fall, he’ll hopefully be knocking down those shots, wearing the jersey he never envisioned would eventually become his reality.