Off-Court with Coco Reed
For those who have had the privilege of spending time with 5-11 shooting guard junior guard Coco Reed, it is probably fair to describe her as a talented athlete with a youthful exuberance, a penchant for always saying hello in her soft-spoken way with a warm smile to match.
But, do not let her friendly disposition fool you. Underneath it all is a tough competitor with the strength and determination to overcome any challenge and setback she may encounter.
A season-ending left knee injury during December of her freshman campaign (2001-02) was just the beginning of a long road of rehabilitation and doubt as to her role on the team. However, one year later, Reed returned to the hardwood and since then has continued to make her presence felt every time she steps on the court.
This season, Reed started three of the first four games and seemed to be well on her way to building upon her accomplishments from the past two years. In the season opener against Penn State, Reed logged a season-high 12 points. She was training hard and working tirelessly, all in an effort to prepare herself for a breakthrough season.
Unfortunately, Reed's aspirations to grab a constant starting berth were brought to a halt after she re-aggravated that old knee injury early in the season. The result was removal from the starting rotation and a decrease in playing time as treatment on her knee took center stage once again. It seemed as if the steps she had taken to move forward were suddenly going in the opposite direction.
"I was very disappointed when I re-injured my knee," Reed admitted, speaking without her trademark smile and bright expressions. "I had worked out a lot over the summer and felt more prepared than ever for the start of the season. Every day in the summer I shot at least 100 shots, because Coach Conradt told me a consistent shot was going to get me more playing time. I remained confident, though, that my injury wouldn't stop me. With the help and support of my teammates and DeAnn (basketball athletic trainer DeAnn Koehler), I knew I would return to the court."
And as she has done once before, Reed overcame the knee injury and has since seen quality minutes and evolved into a player that her coaches and teammates can rely on.
And that toughness under the soft smiling exterior is making its presence known on the hardwood.
Entering tonight's game with Colorado, the 5-11 redshirt junior has seen action in 22 games, playing 15 minutes per contest while shooting 47 percent from the floor and a solid 72.2 percent (13-18) from the free throw line.
"I am happy to be back in the rotation and playing more minutes," Reed said. "I'm finally feeling comfortable on the court and the more comfortable I am, the more confident I become."
Reed's newfound confidence has enabled her to become what she calls "a spark off the bench." The doubt she used to have about her role on the team has now been erased. She is fully accepting of her "sparkplug" role. And this acceptance - in addition to her energy and stifling defense - has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.
"Coco is someone who has developed into a real steady and reliable player," assistant coach Kathy Harston said. "Whether she's starting or coming off the bench, she has provided us with a lot of good defense against some tough opponents. Coco is also a pretty good shooter and if you go back and look, she has really been the "X factor" in a lot of big games for us during her career."
CoCo ReedReed's 5-11 frame brings size to the perimeter which she says enables her to defend against bigger guards and help take some of the pressure off Jamie Carey and Nina Norman when they are running the point. And Reed's teammates are quick to boast about the contributions she has made to the team's success.
"Coco was doing really well at the beginning of the season, but then the problems she was having with her knee set her back," stated fellow junior guard and best friend Nina Norman. "Now Coco's back and when she gets into the game, she is more confident in her shot, there is more penetration and she collects a lot of offensive rebounds. She is definitely becoming a threat."
Reed might become a threat to opposing teams, but she is certainly not a threat to anyone who meets her in person.
A self-proclaimed jokester, Reed is someone assistant coach Travis Mays calls "a comedian on the low-low!"
"Not many people know this, but behind-the-scenes Coco is the one cracking the jokes," Mays smiled and added.
And her passions are unique. Some people may not know that Reed has a penchant for all things SpongeBob SquarePants, is a die-hard fan of the Houston Rockets' 7-6 center, Yao Ming, and loves everything - everything - about "H-town" - her hometown of Houston. Here's a person who has journeyed across the United States and to Canada with the Longhorns, yet still writes in the media guide that her favorite place to visit is….. Houston!
It would be safe to assume that at practice this week, Reed arrived wearing a SpongeBob SquarePants watch and told anyone who would listen, "11 points and eight boards," in reference to Yao Ming's stats after this past weekend's NBA All-Star game.
(Coach Harston jokingly revealed that every time she gets on the bus for a trip, she always knows what Yao had for dinner and how many points and rebounds he had in his most recent game - courtesy of Coco Reed who doesn't let a day pass without giving the coaching staff and her teammates the latest updates on Yao - whether they want to hear about them or not!
All joking aside, Reed has the maturity and mindset of a seasoned competitor. She has battled through some knee issues and emerged a stronger player with a better understanding of what she needs to do to help the team accomplish its goals.
Reed has invested a lot of time in the gym and made many sacrifices to get to where she is today. Yet, through it all, Reed has not comprised who she is nor has she lost the ability to through each day without wearing her trademark soft smile.
"I love it here at Texas and I know I've been through some rough times, but they make you appreciate the good times even more," Reed noted.
And Texas fans appreciate everything that Reed and her game bring to the Longhorn lineup.