Alex Reese was Alabama’s second-leading scorer in the Crimson Tide’s NCAA-tournament loss to eventual champion Villanova in the 2017-2018 season. The stretch-forward from Pelham, Alabama had nine points in 15 minutes of action.
Even though Reese’s performance wasn’t enough to lift Alabama over Villanova, he got a glimpse of what his future could be in the season-ending loss. Reese went head-to-head against Omari Spellman, a three-point shooting big man with almost identical physical dimensions to Reese.
Reese ended up outscoring Spellman, but he still had a lot to learn from the way Spellman competed.
“[Reese] had an idea of what really quality big men look like in the NCAA tournament and how he can close that gap,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “Spellman ends up getting drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, right. That’s what a 6’9” or 6’10”, 250-pound dude looks like […] If you want to be as good as a guy like that, then you have to prepare yourself the way he prepares himself or better.”
With his freshman season over, Reese turned his attention to transforming his body and his game so that he could help Alabama the way Spellman helped Villanova.
The first step of the process was losing weight. That meant running, and lots of it, to shed excess pounds. He cut his down the court and back sprint time from 10.2 seconds, to 8.
“I just needed to be able to run better, be in better shape, get my body right to help the team,” Reese said. “Really, that’s what I did it for.”
It also meant eliminating some foods from his diet, including french fries and other greasy, high-fat snacks and meals.
The sacrifice paid off for Reese, who lost about 15 pounds over the summer. He’s now down to around 240 pounds.
Reese is poised for a bigger role this season, not only because he has the potential to be a floor-spacing weapon, but also due to the fact that he’ll have the mobility and energy to compete at a high level for more minutes. While Alabama has only played one regular season game this year with an 82-62 win over Southern University on Tuesday night, Johnson has already noticed the improvements Reese has made.
“We like where he is now,” Johnson said. “His body is much improved. He’s in better shape, his stamina is better. He faded a lot at the end of practices last year because of his stamina situation, but now he’s in there until the very last minute.”
Reese played 21 minutes against Southern, scoring eight points on 2-of-3 shooting from past the arc. Last season, he averaged 11.6 minutes per game.
Alabama’s coaching staff and players want Reese to expand his game beyond just knocking down shots from the outside. They are looking for him to improve on the interior as well, both as a rebounder and defender.
“He’s a big part of this team, just his presence,” Avery Johnson Jr. said. “He can stretch and make threes. He can rebound. He’s running the floor better. He’s lost some weight so he should be a big part of this year. We need him to make threes, we need him to play defense. He’s a high-level player, so I think his improvement this year is going to show and help us get more wins this year.”
The Crimson Tide (1-0) will face off against Appalachian State (1-0) in Coleman Coliseum Sunday at 6 p.m.
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