Pitt basketball remains in race to add 'well-educated,' 7-foot-1 center Efton Reid to roster

Jerry DiPaola, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg
·5 min read

Apr. 13—No one is saying 7-foot-1, 235-pound Efton Reid would be a first-round draft choice if he decided to skip college and go directly to collecting paychecks from the NBA.

But he's good — make no mistake about it — and if the 5-star center gives Jeff Capel the thumbs-up Thursday and decides to enroll at Pitt in time for the 2021-22 season, it would be the most significant development at the Pete in many years.

Reid's considerable presence would go a long way in mitigating Pitt's loss of five players who have transferred (or will) since the end of the season.

Reid's mother reported on Twitter her son, ranked No. 24 in the nation by Rivals.com, will announce his decision Thursday. Pitt is among the top contenders, and some recruiting analysts believe the finalists are Pitt, Ohio State and Virginia, although Reid has offered no clarity on the subject.

He has 17 scholarship offers from major-conference schools, but his only visits occurred before the covid-19 pandemic to Ohio State, Louisville and Virginia.

It's unfair and inaccurate to compare Reid to current and former NBA players, but you don't have to look far to find Reid's style of play compared to the styles of some of the best players in the world.

"I've heard I play like (the Brooklyn Nets') LaMarcus Aldridge," Reid told Rivals.com recently. "A very versatile and skilled big, basically."

IMG Academy's Chad Myers, who coached Reid this season, said, "Efton is just super-skilled, kind of like a (Nikola) Jokic (of the Denver Nuggets) type of guy."

In the same article, writer Jamie Shaw referred to Reid's "comfort with a Kareem-style sky hook."

But probably no one knows Reid better than coach Curtis Kassab of the Steward School in Richmond, Va. Reid played there for three seasons and averaged 19 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two assists while hitting 78% of his two-point attempts in 2019-20. He transferred to IMG in Bradenton, Fla., last year for a post-graduate season.

"I think he's the best post player in that class, coming out, heads and tails above everybody else as far as skill level," Kassab said Tuesday in a phone interview with the Tribune-Review. "He can score at all three levels, just has phenomenal footwork in the post for a kid his age.

"A lot of people compare him a lot to a Tim Duncan-type of player. Very mature. He's a very humble kid in the way he carries himself. He's very professional in the way he carries himself."

Steward is a private school that typically plays several high-quality opponents, Kassab said.

Kassab, who has won more than 400 games in his coaching career, remains close with Reid and still helps with his workouts. He noted the decision to move to IMG was a "no-brainer" for his big center after he earned the opportunity to graduate early.

As it turned out, Steward played only 11 games this season, a third of its normal total.

"We knew what was going on with the pandemic," Kassab said. "There were so many uncertainties in the public and private schools in Virginia.

"That opportunity to train seven days a week (at IMG) and play a full schedule and not worry about wearing masks, obviously, played a big role in it.

"We always talk about what's best for him. The opportunity to play against better competition was very inviting."

Kassab was VCU's associate head women's coach a few years after Capel was there as the men's coach. The two men enjoy a friendly relationship. In fact, when Steward played in a holiday tournament at North Allegheny in 2019, Capel invited the team to watch a Pitt practice at the Pete. Kassab said it was the first face-to-face meeting between Capel and Reid.

In ensuing 16 months, Reid turned into one of the nation's best centers (No. 3, according to Rivals). Reid is bigger than the other two: No. 1 Chet Holmgren (7-foot, 190 pounds) of Minneapolis and Oregon recruit Nathan Bittle (6-11, 200) of Napa, Calif.

When Reid was at Steward, Kassab said his ambidextrous center was dominant around the basket with dunks and while shooting 3-pointers. Plus, he's a good student.

"He's a very well-educated kid. He's very smart. He's very cerebral in the way he approaches everything that he does," the coach said.

"That's one of the reasons why he's taking as long to make his decision. He wanted to make sure he was making the right decision. He doesn't want to end up like the 1,500 kids this year in the (NCAA transfer) portal at the end of one season. Relationships are very, very important to Efton.

"He's a very humble kid for as talented as he is and as many people who are pulling at him to try to get him to go to their school. That's just the way he is. Very appreciative kid.

"He knows what he wants. He has goals and aspirations, and he's pretty laser-focused on what he wants to accomplish as a player."

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at jdipaola@triblive.com or via Twitter .