A funny thing happened on the way to Derrick Reid becoming a UMBC basketball player.
In the spring of 1989, UMBC assistant coach Derrell Matthews spotted Reid's name on a list of junior college prospects and contacted Ralph Miller, Reid's coach at South Suburban College in South Holland, Ill. Miller was only too happy to send along a game videotape.
"We definitely liked what we saw of the kid Miller pointed out," UMBC coach Earl Hawkins said. "When Derrick came to visit us, the only problem was he wasn't the player we had seen on the tape. We thought we were being tricked. We showed Derrick the tape, and he agreed it wasn't him.
"Miller had sent us a tape from the previous year, and he was very apologetic. He also said Derrick was better than the player that impressed us on the tape. He was right."
When UMBC plays its home opener tonight (7:35) against Howard, Reid will be difficult to miss. He's the 6-foot-7 senior forward who had game-highs of 25 points and nine rebounds in a season-opening 90-73 loss at Clemson. Last year he was the Retrievers' second-most productive player behind all-time leading scorer Larry Simmons, averaging 12.1 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds.
The case of the wrong video was one of many odd turns on a long and winding road that brought Reid from Midlothian, on the south side of Chicago, to Catonsville.
"I like physical play," Reid said, and it's no surprise, considering he spent the winter of his sophomore year at Bremen High School as a 155-pound wrestler. He was an all-state linebacker who helped Bremen to an Illinois state title, but more importantly in relation to his basketball development, a frustrated tight end.
"The basketball coach was the offensive coordinator in football," Reid said. "He didn't want to play me on offense, and basically, that's why I didn't play basketball for him as a junior."
Basketball got a new coach in Reid's senior year, and it also got Reid. They lost to Rich Central and Kendall Gill in the 1986 Illinois state tournament. Reid had a strong enough season, but by then it was too late for many college recruiters, who base so much of their work on a prospect's junior year.
Reid spent less than half of the 1986-87 season at Indiana Tech, an NAIA school in Fort Wayne. He was not a full-time student during the 1987-88 school year, but was eligible to play the second half of the following season at South Suburban.
After visiting UMBC, Reid crammed 15 credits into the summer of 1989, gaining his two-year degree in science and becoming eligible to play for the Retrievers. That same work ethic had him holding three jobs at once in between Indiana Tech and South Suburban, but it wasn't always visible to Hawkins.
"I don't think Derrick worked very hard in practice last year," Hawkins said. "He had problems adjusting to a new area, and he put on weight when things weren't going his way. He has all the ability, physically and mentally, and this year he's grown in terms of knowing what we expect from him."
Reid was highly effective after center Jim Frantz had a season-ending broken arm last December. He did a little bit of everything in wins over Coppin State, George Washington and Morehead State, and was a bright spot in an otherwise-embarrassing 113-61 loss at Maryland near season's end.
Reid made just 39.7 percent of his field goal attempts for the year, a confidence problem for someone whose forte on the playgrounds of his childhood had always been his outside shooting. He worked on some technical details over the summer, and was 10-for-15 from the floor against Clemson.
Reid has the same corkscrew jumper of his boyhood hero, Jamaal Wilkes. He would rather be compared to the former UCLA and Laker great than J.R. Reid, a distant cousin.
"I don't like that being mentioned," Reid said. "I like to be known for what I can do."
UMBC basketball watchers recognize Derrick Reid just fine now.
Nov. 24 -- lost to Clemson, 90-73
@Today -- Howard, 7:35
Nov. 30 -- vs. Towson State at Beltway Tourney, 8
Dec. 1 -- at Beltway Classic, 6 & 8
Dec. 4 -- Boston Univ. at Arena, 7:35
Dec. 8 -- at Coppin State, 7:30
Dec. 11 -- at George Washington, 7:30
Dec. 15 -- at Iowa, 8
Dec. 22 -- Loyola, 7:35
Jan. 2 -- Bucknell, 7:35
Jan. 5 -- at Loyola-Chi., 1
Jan. 7 -- at Maryland, 7:30
Jan. 10 -- at Kansas, 8:30
Jan. 14 -- at Bucknell, 7:30
Jan. 17 -- Hofstra, 7:35
Jan. 19 -- at Rider, 3
Jan. 23 -- Delaware, 7:35
Jan. 26 -- Towson State, 7:35
Jan. 30 -- at Drexel, 7
Feb. 2 -- at Hofstra, 3
Feb. 4 -- at St. Francis (Pa.), 7:30
Feb. 7 -- Cent. Connecticut, 7:35
Feb. 13 -- at Delaware, 7:30
Feb. 16 -- Rider, 7:35
Feb. 20 -- Drexel, 7:35
Feb. 23 -- at Cent. Connecticut, 7:30
Feb. 25 -- Univ. Buffalo, 7:35
March 2 -- ECC Tournament at Towson, TBA
UMBC AT A GLANCE
* Coach: Earl Hawkins (29-27, two years).
* 1989-90 record: 12-16.
* Returnees: Derrick Reid, 6-7, Sr., F (12.1 ppg, 6.7 apg); Jim Frantz, 6-10, Sr., C (11.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg); Bobby Mills, 6-2, Sr., G (6.6 ppg, 4.8 apg); Derell Thompson, 6-4, So., G (8.3 ppg); Brian Watkins, 6-4, So, F. (8.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Emmanuel Fasaye, 6-8, So., F; Dana Harris, 5-11, So., G; Melvin Swann, 6-4, So., G.
* Newcomers: Mark Bogosh, 7-0, Fr., C; Spencer Ferguson, 5-10, Fr., G; Skip Saunders, 6-0, Fr., G; Stanley Wright, 6-5, Fr., F.
* Strengths: Hawkins integrated six first-year players into his system last year, and a deep roster gives him many lineup and style options.
* Weaknesses: The loss of Larry Simmons, UMBC's all-time leading scorer, left a huge hole in the backcourt. Retrievers are in first year in East Coast Conference, and must learn their way.