POINT PLEASANT BEACH – Making his way down from the stands at Point Pleasant Beach High School Monday afternoon, the junior varsity game still playing out on the court, Nazreon Reid slipped the headphones down around his neck and pondered his situation.
“I try not to pay attention to all the hype and the pressure,” he said, dipping his head slightly to allow his 6-9 frame to slip through the door.
If he is actually managing to tune out all the noise it would rank as the latest amazing feat for the 14-year-old Asbury Park native, and the only one not chronicled on YouTube.
Because when the heralded freshman takes the court for the first time Friday night, as he and his Roselle Catholic teammates open the season at home against Plainfield, the buzz will be deafening.
Don’t believe it?
Well, consider that Reid is ranked by some as the top big man nationally in the Class of 2018, having already picked up eight scholarship offers, including Connecticut and Virginia, with Kansas poised to join that group.
In October, Reid was in Colorado Spring, Colo. at the request of USA Basketball to participate in a developmental camp for the country’s top young players, his AAU team having reached the national championship game the past two years.
Then there’s spotlight aimed at Roselle Catholic, ranked No. 5 in the USA Today Super 25.
In addition to the Lions’ national schedule, highlighted by a Feb. 13 showdown with top-ranked Montverde (Fla.) Academy at Kean University, they’ll be banging against the Union County elite, including St. Patrick’s, St. Joseph’s (Metuchen), Linden, Union and Elizabeth.
All the while, Reid will be surrounded by top players, including Isaiah Brisco (Kentucky), Chris Silva (South Carolina) and Pierre Sarr (Monmouth), as they look for their second NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title in three years.
The end result is incredible expectations on Reid, which can become unrealistic if not kept in check. In the middle of it all is Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff, trying to manage the situation as best he can, while trying to coach an amazing collection of talent.
“I try to have a lot of conversations with him and his family, about understanding the microscope you’re in when you’re a kid like him, especially in a program like ours,” Boff said. “He spends a lot of time with Isaiah Briscoe, speaking to him about what Isaiah has learned about being that high profile of a player. I think that’s been helpful, and that’s probably the guy he spends the most time with.
“There’s also the fact that we’ve been through all this before and have a good idea of what is going to happen, so it’s comforting to the family that there are not going to be a lot of surprises, and that their son is in a safe environment.”
In the Lions’ scrimmage against Point Pleasant Beach, the reigning Shore Conference champions, Reid came off the bench and seemed more inclined to let the game come to him rather than forcing the issue. There’s clearly more defense for him to contend with, at both end of the floor, and he was content to do more passing than shooting.
“I need work on my post game,” Reid admitted. “I’m more of a wing player. But now that I’m in high school I can play the wing and the post so I feel like I have to work on my post skills more than my wing skills.”
“I think he’s adjusting to the high school game well,” Boff noted. “He has found that some of the things he’s gotten away with at the AAU level, or 8th grade level, he cannot get away with at the varsity level. But he’s so smart and his understanding of the game is so good that he’s been able to pick up on those things very quickly.”
It’s universally accepted that Reid is a unique talent, combining size, speed and athleticism with a great shooting touch and feel for the game.
Now it’s about managing all the extraneous stuff so Reid can fulfill his potential. And that process officially begins 7 p.m. Friday night.
Staff writer Stephen Edelson is an Asbury Park Press columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @SteveEdelsonAPP