By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The University of Virginia men’s basketball program added five players in 2014, and the newcomers had each other to lean on throughout the summer as they acclimated themselves to workouts, schoolwork and life on Grounds.
The Cavaliers’ recruiting class for 2015-16 is considerably smaller. It consists of one player, freshman forward Jarred Reuter, who enrolled at UVa last month without a support system of classmates.
“I was really nervous about that, actually,” Reuter recalled recently at John Paul Jones Arena. “All [the returning players] knew exactly what they were doing coming in, and I was going to be behind everybody. They’d all be close with each other, and I wouldn’t really know anyone.”
Reuter, a graduate of Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, need not have worried. His new teammates “have made it so easy that I haven’t really thought about it yet,” he said.
“It hasn’t been an issue. They’ve been driving me everywhere and anywhere I need to go, having me go to dinner with them, coming over, helping me with workouts, whatever I need … I really can’t say enough about how great they’ve been.”
The Cavaliers’ newcomers last year included 6-11 center Jack Salt, who ended up redshirting in 2014-15. In May, head coach Tony Bennett said he expected Salt and Reuter to be the team’s “two most physical players” in 2015-16, and that hasn’t changed after a month of practices this summer.
“I think he’s adjusted well,” assistant coach Jason Williford said of Reuter, who’s from Marion, Mass., near Cape Cod.
At 6-8, Reuter (pronounced Roy-ter) is one of the Wahoos’ tallest players. He’s also the heaviest, though there’s less of him than when he arrived in Charlottesville last month.
He weighed 272 pounds then. In his first month of workouts with Mike Curtis, UVa’s strength and conditioning coach for basketball, Reuter has dropped about a dozen pounds, and he’d like to be around 250 by the start of the season.
“I knew from when I committed that [Curtis] was going to be a huge help for me, and he’s already done that in a short time,” Reuter said. “The stuff he’s been helping me with is really changing my body and changing me. It’s really awesome. I’m moving better, and I feel better, which is big for me.”
Randy Bird, UVa’s director of sports nutrition, is working with Reuter on his diet, and “then obviously there’s going to be a training component of it,” Curtis said, “an increase in the exposure to and volume of activity, in terms of weight training and basketball. Those things will help also expedite the process.”
So will Reuter’s work ethic.
“He seems to be a kid who’s really, really dialed-in to try to work toward those goals,” Curtis said. “So that’s always beneficial, to get kids who are bought into the process, and he seems at this point to be very, very bought in.”
Curtis, a former UVa basketball player, is accustomed to working with multiple newcomers each summer. To have only one pupil “allows you to really zero in on teaching him the nuances of what you want him to do from a training standpoint, because when you have a larger number of guys, sometimes you have to provide a little bit of a watered-down training program in some respects,” Curtis said.
The better Reuter can move, the more effective he’ll be. Still, Williford noted, Reuter’s “size is one of his assets,” whether it’s for setting picks or carving out room in the post. Other assets include sure hands, superb footwork and an excellent feel for the game.
“He knows how to play,” Williford said. “Great passer. Can shoot it to about 15, and then he just lays the wood. He’s a lot like Salt: He likes to lay the wood.”
Reuter, who’ll turn 20 in September, isn’t the only accomplished hoops player in his family. His mother, the former Denise Higgins, starred at the University of New Hampshire, where she ranks No. 1 in career blocked shots and No. 13 in career rebounds.
As a boy, Reuter played football and baseball in addition to basketball. As a freshman at St. Mark’s School near Boston, he played wide receiver and tight end until a broken foot caused him to assess his athletic priorities.
“That held me back [in basketball], so I was like, `OK, no more football after that,’ ” Reuter said, smiling.
After his freshman year, Reuter transferred to Tabor Academy in Marion, where he starred in basketball for two seasons and received scholarship offers from such schools as Florida, St. John’s, Indiana and Rutgers.
Before the 2013-14 academic year, Reuter moved to Brewster Academy, a boarding school whose basketball program ranks among the nation’s elite. He spent two years at Brewster, the second as a postgraduate student.
Reuter committed to UVa in August 2014. He chose Virginia over his other finalists: Providence, Rhode Island, Iowa and South Carolina.
In each of Reuter’s two years at Brewster, the Bobcats won the National Prep Championship. A thumb injury, however, marred his final season. Reuter was healthy when the 2014-15 season began, but in a pickup game at home during Thanksgiving break he tore ligaments and broke a bone in his right thumb.
He was sidelined for seven weeks and “missed the meat of the season,” Reuter said.
“It was frustrating. I had higher hopes for what I was going to be able to do [in 2014-15]. But I learned a lot, and I really couldn’t wait to get here, so that was the thing that kept me focused, to keep pushing to get here.
“Obviously, I would have wanted to play every game. I played really well at the start of the year — the first, whatever, 10 games that I got to play. And then it’s tough, after missing that much time, to come back and get in a rhythm.”
His experience at Brewster was a positive one, Reuter said. He was never the focal point of the offense, but he found other ways to contribute.
“I knew going in that it’s not the type of team where they’re going to throw the ball in the post,” Reuter said. “You’re going to have to work for anything you get. That was tough, and it was tough to be in a rhythm when you didn’t really have the ball. But when you’re winning, you’ve got to go with what’s working.”
Reuter was one of nine Division I recruits in head coach Jason Smith’s program last season. The other eight signed with Connecticut, Louisville, Arizona, Washington, Georgetown, Wisconsin, UMBC and Boston University.
“To go up against that talent every day in practice, and then to compete against some of the other teams that have like-caliber players, that made [Reuter] better,” Williford said.
UVa’s frontcourt options in 2015-16 will include seniors Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte, sophomore Isaiah Wilkins and Salt, a redshirt freshman, so it’s difficult to predict what Reuter’s role will be this season.
“For me I think it’s going to come down to getting acclimated to the defense,” he said. “That’s obviously a huge part here, and I just want to be able to be productive with what they’re doing and be able to help. So I think if I can do that I’ll have a good shot at contributing.”
What the `Hoos need from Reuter, Williford said, is blue-collar work.
“Bring us a physical presence, and just be solid,” he said. “Be able to rebound, score when needed, play solid defense. You often hear us say, `Be a wall on wheels and make it difficult for guys to score over the top.’ We need him to use his size and strength as an advantage defensively, and then give us some passing and some good feel and just be a solid piece to the puzzle.”