RALEIGH – Christian Reeves was sitting in Oak Hill Academy’s gym earlier this month, his national letter of intent on the table in front of him, when an assistant coach offered a brief yet powerful reminder about his journey.
“You know this is, like, one in a million for people, right?”
Reeves, a three-star 2022 center and Duke basketball commit, already considered the past year a blissful blur. But that comment, he said, made him briefly reflect on how much had truly changed for the better.
In 12 months, he’d gone from an unranked recruit at Concord’s Cannon School with primarily mid-major offers to a summer breakout prospect visiting South Carolina and Minnesota to the most surprising addition to Duke’s No. 1 overall recruiting class, a developmental big nestled among one-and-dones.
So forgive the 7-foot-1 Reeves if the grin that spread across his face as he put pen to paper on signing day followed him all the way from southwest Virginia to Raleigh last weekend. It’s been a joyful April.
“A dream come true, really,” he told the USA TODAY Network.
Though he played his senior year north of state lines, Reeves was still a logical choice for last Saturday’s Hoop State Network Last Dance All-Star Game, given his North Carolina roots. He grew up in Charlotte, briefly played at Providence Day School and won consecutive NCISAA state championships with Cannon.
So, in a Triangle precursor before he reports to Duke in June, Reeves hit the court at Enloe High School for a few alley-oops and putback slams, plus one very resounding block that prompted this postgame tweet: “My son tried to dunk on a 7-foot Duke commit yesterday. It ended as you would expect. “
“Duke always has the superstars and the lottery picks, but they also have that three- or four-year-old guy who’s always rock solid,” Bridgers said, “and by the time he’s a junior or a senior, he’s in the rotation and he’s giving them quality minutes – I think that’s the type of kid Christian’s going to be at Duke. “
Added Bridgers: “He’s gotten better and better and better every time we’ve watched him.”
Reeves, 18, agrees. He has a go-to phrase in describing his transformation over four years of varsity basketball: “Night and day.” There was never any question of what position he’d play, given he’d already sprouted to 7-1 as a sophomore, but there were plenty of opportunities to refine his raw playing style.
Reeves still runs the court, but he runs the court more fluidly. He still blocks shots, but he blocks them at a higher point. He still throws down alley-oops, but he dunks them at tougher angles and / or mid-stride.
“I still do a lot of the same things,” he said. “Just at a higher level.”
As Reeves improved, so did his collegiate offers: Houston Baptist his sophomore year, South Florida and ECU and Tulsa his junior season, Power Five options South Carolina and Minnesota his junior summer.
Then came a short-term flurry of good fortune he’ll never forget. After watching Reeves play at Nike EYBL’s Peach Jam event with Team CP3, Oak Hill Academy’s coaching staff reached out with “an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Reeves said. He transferred to the Virginia prep school last August.
Playing at Oak Hill landed Reeves in a major Duke basketball sphere of influence. Not only did then-assistant coach Nolan Smith play two seasons there, but Jon Scheyer, the Blue Devils ‘coach-in-waiting, already had one verbal commit on the Warriors’ roster in five-star 2023 point guard Caleb Foster.
Background work through the fall turned into direct conversations between Scheyer and Reeves, who’d been hoping to verbally commit to a school on Dec. 14, which is both his birthday and his mother’s.
And when Duke’s formal scholarship offer arrived on Dec. 13, “I just knew it was all falling into place,” Reeves said. He committed to Scheyer that night and, fittingly, announced it a day later, becoming the sixth and final member of Duke’s loaded 2022 class, which ranks No. 1 in the 247Sports composite.
Scheyer’s first recruiting class including three of the country’s top five recruits and five of its top 13 recruits. As such, there’s a clear path to prominent roles for five-star centers Dereck Lively II and Kyle Filipowski and five-star forwards Dariq Whitehead and Mark Mitchell and, to a lesser degree, four-star shooting guard Jaden Schutt for 2022-23. As for three-star recruit Reeves? His situation’s more fluid.
Reeves committed to Duke planning to redshirt the 2022-23 season and debut with the Blue Devils’ 2023 class, which includes his longtime friend and Oak Hill teammate Foster, one year later. But that redshirt plan isn’t 100% set in stone, Reeves said, adding he’s “not opposed to one or the other.”
“Initially, I know Coach Scheyer had mentioned it and said it’ll probably happen,” Reeves said. “Then, recently, I’ve talked with one of my assistant coaches who had talked to (Scheyer) and he said: ‘It just depends on how Christian comes in here and competes. We think he can compete at a high level. ‘”
Redshirt or no redshirt, the 7-1 center remains nothing but excited to join Duke’s other recruits on campus in June and do his part in charting a new path for a program fresh off a Final Four appearance in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 42nd and final season and ready to contend for another in Scheyer’s first.
“I’m about to be that one in a million,” Reeves said, and he intends to make it count.
Chapel Fowler is a recruiting reporter for The Fayetteville Observer and the USA TODAY Network. Reach him by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at chapelfowler.