OU men's basketball: Thriving with Sooners, Austin Reaves makes Wichita State homecoming

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

OU's Austin Reaves drives down the court during the Sooners' game against UTSA, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, at Lloyd Noble Center.

Austin Reaves makes his much-anticipated to Wichita State on Saturday, albeit anticipated most by those closest to him.

“My family and friends have been talking about it for a while,” Reaves said of Oklahoma’s game on Saturday.

“It's been in my head. But at the end of the day, it's just another game.”

Reaves spent two seasons with the Shockers before transferring to OU ahead of the 2018-19 season, sitting out the ensuing year due to NCAA rules and now amid the final two years of his eligibility.

Reaves wouldn’t be surprised if Wichita State’s fans were more fired up to face the player that ditched the program a year and a half ago. Although, it was far from an easy choice for Reaves to leave behind the place that signed him out of Newark (Arkansas) Cedar Ridge High School.

“It was hard,” Reaves said. “I mean, basketball is the thing I love most in the world. It was a decision for myself to be put in a better spot.”

And there wasn’t any bad blood between he and the Shocker staff, Reaves says.

He and Wichita State coach Greg Marshall, who's in his 13th year with the program, left on good terms.

So after playing 66 games with Wichita State and averaging 6.1 points per game, Reaves found the Sooners.

“I just felt like it was a really good fit,” Reaves said. “The coaching staff is amazing, as well as the players. When I came on my visit, I just felt like I was home.”

OU junior Brady Manek, who’s averaging 14.0 points per game and shooting 43.0 percent from the field, hosted Reaves on his recruiting visit to Norman.

Manek didn’t know much about Reaves, other than from what he saw the then-Shocker do against the Sooners on Dec. 16, 2017.

OU won 91-83. The then-freshman Manek had 21 points, while then-sophomore Reaves scored six off the bench.

Manek and Reaves discussed their battle against each other during the transfer’s oddly-timed trip during the spring of 2018.

Reaves, accompanied by his brother Spencer and father Brian, traveled to Norman on a weekday. And with not much to do at night, Spencer Reaves suggested they all visit Lloyd Noble Center and put up a few shots.

No place was better for the basketball family — Spencer plays professionally following a college career at Central Missouri, while both Brian and Austin's mother, Nicole Wilkett, played college basketball for Arkansas State.

OU eventually landed Reaves’ commitment on May 15, 2018.

The 6-foot-5 guard was known as a three-point specialist coming to Norman — a label much-deserved after he shot 50.9 percent from the three-point line as a freshman and 42.5 percent as a sophomore.

His efficiency has dipped through eight games with the Sooners but his shooting volume has increased as an OU starter from Game 1.

He's scoring a team-best 17.6 points per game and shooting 43.6 percent from the floor.

Reaves’ quick success following his redshirt year is fitting for how well he played on OU’s scout team last season.

Manek is especially happier with Reaves running with the first team in practice after the Newark, Arkansas, native made life difficult on OU’s starters during his redshirt season.”

“It kind of sucks because coach starts yelling at you,” Manek said. “It's not fun but I think looking back at it, it just showed how good of a player he is and set him up for this year.

“But when you're in the moment, it just sucks because you've got a guy on scout team, even though he is one of the best players out there, he was lighting us up every day.”

Joe Buettner

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jbuettner@normantranscript.com

Oklahoma at Wichita State

Time/Place: 5 p.m. | INTRUST Bank Arena, Wichita, Kansas

Records/Rankings: OU (7-1, 0-0 Big 12); Wichita State (8-1, 0-0 AAC)

OU starters: 24 Jamal Bieniemy (6-5, So./5.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg); G 11 De’Vion Harmon (6-1, Fr./8.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G 12 Austin Reaves (6-5, Jr./17.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg); F 0 Kristian Doolittle (6-7, Sr./16.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg); F 35 Brady Manek (6-9, So./14.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

Wichita State starters: G 10 Erik Stevenson (6-3, So./13.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg); F 5 Trey Wade (6-6, Jr./9.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg); C 21 Jaime Echenique (6-11, Sr./9.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg); G 2 Jamarius Burton (6-4, So./9.9 ppg, 3.9 apg); G 1 Tyson Etienne (6-1, Fr./11.4 ppg, 1.8 apg)

Series: OU leads 6-2

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KRXO 107.7 FM

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