EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 26, 2014

Reyes big and better than ever at LHS

Swept away from Lawrence program by AAU coach's advice, giants Reyes back to work for Lancers

Boys Basketball
Hector Longo

---- — The rim-rattling two-hander shook the foundation at Lawrence High School Tuesday night.

At 6-9, 260 pounds and just about a month after his 17th birthday, Franziel Reyes had announced his presence with authority around the Merrimack Valley Conference – dunking, swatting and rebounding his way for Lawrence over Haverhill.

“The dunk was my first, and that’s nice, but I just want to help the team win,” said Reyes. “I’m just happy that I’m working on my game and I’m getting better.”

For those of you who have caught glimpses of Reyes in his brief Lancer past, you wouldn’t recognize him or his game.

Sure, he’s the biggest kid on the floor in most gyms. But it’s a sleeker, more aggressive, more athletic Reyes, down 40 pounds from his previous high of 300, that draws the attention now.

“That kid improves every time we watch him play,” said Rick Nault, whose club escaped Lawrence with a tough, 59-51, win on Friday night. “If he keeps going like this, nobody will want to play him.

“Maybe somebody else can try and get him out of here and send him somewhere away.”

Far away, would be best, nodded a joking Nault.

But Reyes is no joke.

In fact, he returned to the Lancer fold with a drive that few in this area have seen. After the fall he had, Reyes had enough.

“I won’t call it a mistake, just more of a learning experience, for whatever it was, it just didn’t work out,” said Reyes.

Over the summer, his VBC AAU basketball coach brokered a deal that sent Reyes to Pace Academy – a public charter school in Carrboro, N.C. Clearly, Reyes’ size played a huge role in the athlete moving south.

Things didn’t work out.

“The schedule was extremely hard. And I wasn’t even the tallest kid on the team. We had two 7-footers,” said Reyes. “I didn’t realize how difficult it would be leaving. Being away from home, I missed my mom, my dad, I missed everyone.”

One positive was a change in Reyes’ attitude to diet and nutrition. Trimming the 40 pounds off his giant frame, he put fast-food in the rear-view mirror and learned how to limit portions.

“I learned a lot … fast,” said Reyes.

Home for the Thanksgiving holiday, Reyes had enough of Pace and longed for another shot with the Lancers. How would he be received, though?

“You know, at another school, with different kids and coaches, that might have been a problem,” said Reyes, who returned to LHS right then and there. “But with the coaches we have, Coach Raymond (Nunez) and Coach Stevie (Martinez), I was welcomed back here. All I had to do was make sure that I was eligible.”

Such a big, imposing athletic figure has people talking on the campus of Lawrence High. Football coach Mike Yameen would love to get Reyes back into shoulder pads. He was an impressive football player before an ankle surgery freshman year, caused by rapid growth, took Reyes out of the action.

For now, though, he’s focused on hoop and hopefully helping the Lancers, at 5-6, to a state tourney berth.

Reyes is avoiding foul trouble lately. He’s playing hard on both ends and really gets up and down the court for an athlete his size.

He has pushed his scoring up to 4.6 points a game and continues to grab double-figure rebounds on a nightly basis. He blocks at least 4-5 shots a night and re-directs countless others.

AND THEN THERE’S PRESSURE

Andover High coach David Fazio figured scheduling Brookline yesterday in the “Good Sport” event at the TD Garden had nothing but positives attached to it.

The team sold 350 tickets to its student body, another couple hundred to youth teams.

The schools even decided to let their eighth grade travel teams scrimmage at halftime on the famed parquet floor.

“What a great day for basketball in the community, right?” queried Fazio.

And then the text arrived Saturday morning.

“The Fazios are undefeated at the Garden. Don’t screw it up.”

That text came from Fazio’s daughter, a former Warrior great now at UConn. Ally played five times on the parquet floor and never lost.

“Now you talk about pressure,” laughed Coach Fazio, whose club went out and took care of business with a victory over Brookline. “Seriously, the kids were fired up and they were ready. Like I said, it was just a great event for us all. And you want to play well when teams from all over the state are watching at an event like this.”

NOTHING BUT CLASS

Give Barry Spears Sr. credit, not only for keeping the Georgetown High program going in the right direction after the sudden death of coach Mike Rowinski, but for honoring Rowinski’s memory with taste and class.

The Royals came out this week brandishing basic white shooting shirts this week with Rowinski’s name on the back. Very simple, but a statement made that coach is truly missed.

REGGIES ROLLING

Greater Lawrence Tech is hoping its sudden spurt of four straight wins isn’t a matter of too little, too late when it comes to the CAC large title.

“We’re playing well right now. The kids are playing good team defense and it shows on the floor,” said Coach Dan Habib, who’s watched a different leader step up every night on the offensive whether it be one of the Estrellas – Frankely or Alexis – dependable Oscar Reynoso, or somebody else.

While they’ve locked up a state tourney berth at 10-2 already, the Reggies are looking to catch Greater Lowell.

They will need some help, though, as the Gryphons remain unbeaten in league play, while Greater Lawrence and Chelsea (which beat the Reggies early but had that one avenged this week) have two defeats in the conference.

HANGING ON

A win Tuesday night over Lawrence might have been huge, but somehow Haverhill High continues to hang on in the MVC small chase at 2-4.

Behind Piero Garcia at the point, the Hillies are playing at a frenzied pace and cashing in on the dividends.

All four league losses have come to large schools as the Hillies have two games apiece left with 5-3 Tewksbury, 3-5 Chelmsford and 3-5 Billerica.

This one won’t be decided for a while.