By: Cole Shelton
Jamal Reynolds decided to head back to the Cape Breton Highlanders for another year. The Canadian had some success last season but knew he could do more and wanted to prove he could do more.
With changes to the coaching staff and the roster, Reynolds entered training camp trying to be a focal point of the roster. He has done exactly that, as coming off the bench he is playing a major role and may very well win the sixth man of the year.
"I didn't know that it would exactly be my role," he said. "I felt like with the hard work that I was putting in, in the offseason that I would have a chance to play a bigger role, I just didn't know exactly what role it would be. I was prepared for anything."
Something that helps Reynolds is the fact that he is a veteran of this league. He understands how it works and what players need to do to have success.
"It definitely gave me an advantage. Last year I didn't know what to expect and I was trying to fit in and I didn't know how the league worked," Reynolds said. "This year I knew exactly how the league worked, what I needed to work on and the ins and outs of getting through a 40-game season. It was definitely an advantage."
Why Reynolds is having such a good season is partly due to the fact that the coaching staff and his teammates trust him, as well as his play on both ends of the court. He isn't just an offensive player, rather Reynolds knows playing defence is just as important for the team to have success.
"I pride myself on being able to play on both sides of the ball," he explained. "I really think I have a lot of versatility being able to guard multiple positions, so I really pride myself to make sure I can always be a two-way player."
So far through 35 games, Reynolds is averaging 17.5 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent from the field. The way he is shooting the ball has contributed to his success, and it isn't by accident. He spent all summer working on his game and now it is finally showing.
"I spent a lot of hours in the gym to become better," Reynolds said. "It is something I really worked on. I pride myself on being a two-way player but I also pride myself on being efficient. I made sure in games I am taking good shots and finding the best available shot. I really pride myself on being efficient."
With all the success he is having, there is no question why he is being talked about as a potential sixth man of the year. He is the first player off the bench for the Highlanders and a leader on and off the court.
"It is crazy because everyone talks about awards because our organization has made some sixth man shirts. I'm not going to lie, it comes to mind but I know where I come from and where I have been. It is very humbling but I am not letting it impact the way I play. I just go into games with the mindset I have been having all season. It is crazy."
Ultimately, although the success is nice, Reynolds is glad to be doing it in Canada. He never could have imagined growing up and playing professional basketball in his country, something he is doing now. And for him, it is something that is hard to put into words.
"It is amazing. Especially being a Canadian who has gone to the NCAA to play basketball. It is a dream come true to be able to come home and play in front of family and friends," Reynolds said. "This is a Canadian league and to show that Canadians can play is a big thing. The persona for me, was the NBL was for American players and the Canadians weren't as good and I am showing the Canadians can play with the Americans and we are just as good."
For now, with just a few games left in the season, Cape Breton should be heading to the playoffs. It will be an amazing feeling for Reynolds to play playoff basketball, and something he is looking forward to.