Small guard has big goals

By Kyle Inman

April 23, 2012

With one of college basketball under his belt, Missouri Western freshman point guard Reed Mells is making it his priority to stay in the gym and perfect his craft for the future. “Basketball is second only to God and my family in my life,” Mells said. “It’s the only thing I am really passionate about outside of those two things. I love playing and whatever is going on in my head whenever I step on the court is gone, all I can think about is ball.” With his father coaching the team, Mells started running the point at the age of five. He still carries the same values today that his father instilled in him back then. “He always told me if you are going to do something then try to be great at it,” Mells said. “Just be as good as you can be, and I really just took that to heart.” Unlike most 18-year-old freshmen, Mells doesn’t hesitate when asked what he wants to do with his life and the direction he wants it to go. He plans to use his time at Western as a vehicle to a professional career. “I want to play as long as I can at the highest level that I can,” Mells said. “Whether that’s professionally in the NBA or oversees or wherever, I just want to keep playing.” Mells feels like he is right where he is supposed to be and is happy with his decision to choose to play at Western for coach Tom Smith. It wasn’t easy for Mells to get a scholarship offer to play college basketball because of his 5-10, 165 pound frame and because of his location. Mells hails from Des Moines, Iowa, which is not known as a hot bed for major basketball talent. Harrison Barnes, who will be a top-5 pick in June’s NBA Draft, was that guy who garnered all of the attention in Iowa. Outside of Barnes, most players from the area are often overlooked by the power houses. “I went to a really small school and there was always doubts about whether I was going to be tall enough or strong enough to play at this level or any other level,” Mells said. “It was really hard, but Coach Smith had a lot of confidence in me.” As a senior in high school, Mells was part of a team that won 18 straight games and beat three of the top-ranked teams in the state playoffs. He averaged 20.5 points per game, 7.1 assists per game, 3.8 steals per game and 5.0 rebounds per game while leading his team to a district championship. He once lit up 45 points in a game on the road. “Being a small guard, my game is being able to get around people and get shots for myself and my teammates so being quick and being fast is a huge part of my game,” Mells said. Rarely do freshman step in and contribute at a four-year school right away, but Mells was given his opportunity with Western struggling to accumulate wins and having injury problems.  He showed no fear of the moment and stepped into the starting lineup; his impact was felt immediately on the offense end.  Mells started the last nine games of the season and dropped 17 points against Washburn. Mells has his focus on doing his part to make sure Western is a winner next season. “Coach Smith gave me a lot of confidence. He told me that he thought I was ready and that he thought I deserved some more minutes and he was going to give them to me and see how I responded,” said Mells. Mells credits some of the success of his transition to college basketball to unselfish upperclassmen Deionta Mitchell and James Harris, who play the same point guard position. “The older guys, just being point guards, were definitely really encouraging,” Mells said. “They would pick me up; they would also instruct me on how to do it the right way. It meant a lot that guys you would consider your brothers would really have your back like that.” Western finished the season at a disappointing 9-17 overall and 4-16 in MIAA conference play and struggled down the stretch of the season, failing to make the conference tournament.  Mells will do everything in his power to ensure that next season isn’t a repeat performance. “This has been the worst year of my life as far as basketball has gone,” Mells said. “I can’t really blame anybody but the 14 of us in uniform. This was our season and we made it what it was, and now it’s a new team, a new year, and we have to make it what we want it to be.” Mells has learned that playing in the MIAA conference is every bit as tough as Coach Smith claimed it would be. “I don’t know if DII basketball, especially this league, gets the respect it deserves,” Mells said. “There are a lot of great players in this league.” It’s the off-season right now, but Mells knows what he needs to improve on and add to his game in order to turn his team into a winner next season. “I have to work a lot on my physical strength,” Mells said. “To help me get in the lane and find open guys so I don’t get stripped so much. That’s the next step. Coach Smith and I were talking a couple times and he said I need to become more of a true point guard especially when I keep playing this game longer because you don’t see a lot of 5-10 guards averaging 20 points per game.” This summer, Mells will be fine tuning his skills in the Capitol City League in Des Moines against Iowa State players and other college ballers that play in the Iowa area. Mells' goal is to spend four years turning Western into a winner and earn All-American status while continuing to prove that he can play the game that he loves at a high level. “Hopefully at the end of this four years, we have some banners hanging up.” Mells said. “I want them to say: 'This kid from Western, he could really go.'”