50 years after Daier W. Clark graduated from Tennessee State University during the growing heat of the Civil Rights Movement, her nephew, Rock Hill High School basketball standout Jaylen Reid, will attend the school on a basketball scholarship.
When I first went there, I fell in love with the campus, the players, the coaches, Reid said. The guys went hard on the court; that was another thing I loved. I really enjoyed myself.
Reid, the son of Pansy Reid-King and former Charlotte Hornet J.R. Reid, signed his national letter of intent Monday morning. He made his decision public by revealing a Tennessee State hat from beneath a table. Almost everyone in the room knew that Reid was becoming a Tiger, except his aunt, and she shrieked with delight when the TSU Tigers cap surfaced, making a Monday that was already her birthday, that much better.
I was so happy, Clark said, drawing out the syllable in so. These were happy tears.
Clark was just one of a slew of family members that surrounded Reid at the signing, seemingly several thick branches of the family tree. But relatives didnt influence Reids decision. An official visit to the Nashville-based school three weeks earlier basically wrapped up his recruitment.
He just felt like he fit in, it was a brotherhood, said Rock Hill coach Eric Rollings. I really liked the coaches and I really thought he was going to try to commit after that weekend.
Even before Reid averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and two steals per game, made all-state and played in the Clash of the Carolinas All-Star game this season, he had a number of options. Winthrop, Jacksonville, Austin Peay, Southeast Missouri, Miami (OH), Kent State and High Point all offered scholarships, and the 6-foot-7 wing with NBA bloodlines took official visits to Peay, Southeast Missouri and Miami. But Tennessee State coach Travis Williams and his players won over Reid by making him feel part of the family, which based on Mondays show of support, was a deal-sealer.
My family has been there since Day One, said Reid. They play a very huge part. Theyve been there at every game, every tournament in AAU.
Reid said the Tennessee State players he met on the visit, including a pair from Columbia, S.C., were great guys, all of them. Im just ready to go play with them.
Rollings believes Reid fits in with a program that appears to be on the rise after posting consecutive winning seasons to halt a 16-year stretch of losing campaigns. Tennessee State won 20 games in 2011-12, and went 18-15 last year in Williams first season at the helm in the ultra-competitive Ohio Valley Conference. The league, boasting the likes of Murray State, Morehead State and other perennial NCAA Tournament banana peels, is one of the toughest mid-major leagues in NCAA. Williams team plays at a high tempo, something that should suit Reids ability to run the floor, and free his full potential in the process.
His ceiling is unbelievable, he has such a high ceiling, said Williams, and the best is yet to come. I believe he has a bright future here in our program.
Rollings lauded Reids work ethic, especially in pre-school weightlifting sessions and skill development workouts witnessed by few. Its paid off for him to get to go and play in the Ohio Valley Conference and get a free education, said the coach.
That was music to the ears of Reids family members, including a politician and a doctor, that were on hand for the signing. The notes couldnt have been any sweeter to Clarks ears though. Clark, who is actually headed back to the school this weekend for her graduating classs 50th reunion, said she recently gave Reid a copy of the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken.
I told him you have to make choices, and I want you to read this and make the right choice, she said.
On Monday, Reid picked Tennessee State over several larger, more well known schools. When he looks back in 50 years, it might have made all the difference.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T