By Hector Longo firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — HAVERHILL — Over the years, in both football and girls hoop, Kevin Bradley has had some amazing sales/recruiting jobs to build his Whittier Tech teams.
“This one was an absolute Calipari!” boasted Bradley, comparing his luring of basketball sensation Justin Reyes onto the football field to the work of defending national championship hoop coach John Calipari of Kentucky.
“He’s been unbelievable, more than I ever could have imagined.”
Bradley’s sales job for Reyes proved to be a battle of endurance.
“Four years we worked on him, waiting and waiting, but we finally got him,” said Bradley, whose 6-1 Cats are the fall’s biggest athletic surprise in the region.
“He’s been worth every second and every ounce of effort.”
One of a handful of seniors on the Whittier roster, Bradley figured the 6-foot-3 Reyes to be strictly a situational receiver. Serve it up high to him in the end zone and the all-CAC hoop star will go and get it.
But a funny thing happened on the road to the regular season.
“I really only played half of my freshmen season, before I got hurt,” said Haverhill’s Reyes, who had never played any youth football and stayed away from the game for both his sophomore and junior years. “So I guess I’m a little bit of a natural.”
Through the seven games, Reyes has 11 catches for 260 yards with four touchdowns. With each week he learns a bit more of the offense and plays a few more snaps.
And now Bradley is contemplating some real time for Reyes in the defensive secondary.
“Right now, we use him on defense like some of the NFL teams use Randy Moss or Terrell Owens, when we need someone to cover deep on the long ball,” said Bradley. “He’s a basketball player, but he just hits so hard. If he only had those two years in this game.”
Bradley says the first college, Holland College in Prince Edward Island, Canada, has already opened the conversation about Reyes, now potentially a two-sporter at the next level.
But Reyes, known for his automatic nightly double-double once the basketball season comes along, won’t wait long for more attention.
“With the summer he had, both in Hoops for Hope and at ABA Camp, everyone has their eyes on Justin coming out,” said Whittier Tech basketball coach Tom Sipsey. “He’s a legitimate, very strong Division 3 basketball prospect.”
Sipsey laughs and says there simply is no truth to the rumors that his pulse and blood pressure both jump a bit come Friday nights and Saturdays when Reyes hits the gridiron with the Cats.
“You know, I was a three-sport athlete, and I’m all about the multi-sport guys,” said Sipsey. “He’s doing the work we expect of him. And football is only going to make him tougher, and a better basketball player.”
Reyes might jump for rebounds. He jumps for those sweet lobs from QB Connor Bradley. But the one thing the senior wasn’t doing this fall was jumping on a bandwagon. With a slew of sophomores surrounding him, nobody could have predicted Whittier would be off to this start and staring at the opportunity to shoot for the Commonwealth large title.
“I just wanted to try playing the game. I had no idea things would go like they have,” said Reyes, who along with returning 1,000-point scorer Ryan Grant helps make the Cats a serious contender on a statewide level this winter. “The young guys here are really hungry. They’re dedicated to making it happen. It’s been a lot of fun, and I can’t wait for the rest of the season.”
Follow Eagle-Tribune Sports Reporter Hector Longo on Twitter under the screen name @MVcreature.