A Game And A Life Burning With Desire

January 12, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

Talk to the men who have coached Michael Reese, and the contradictions pile up.

Michael was a gentleman, but he couldn't always control his temper.

Michael lacked self-discipline, but he always took care of business in the classroom.

Michael is a terrifically talented basketball player, but there is something that has stopped him from reaching his potential.

As for Reese himself, he'll discuss his early exits from prep school and the Big East, his forced leave of absence from Loyola College at the beginning of last basketball season after criminal charges for which he never was convicted and the five coaches he has had in as many seasons.

He doesn't dwell on the past, however, not when his basketball hourglass, already a bit cracked, is running out of sand.

"There are 17 games left in my college career, and I'm going to play my butt off every night," Reese said yesterday. "I count them down every night."

The basketball season that turned into a best-case scenario for Loyola will continue at Reitz Arena against UMBC tonight (7:30), when Loyola (6-3) goes for its fourth straight win. A team that went 2-25 without Reese and point guard Tracy Bergan last season now has both, and the Greyhounds have to keep their anticipation in check.

Reese was ineligible for the first semester, but in four games since his return, the 6-foot-8 senior forward is averaging 24.8 points, on 56.5 percent shooting, and 9.8 rebounds. He doesn't look like someone whose college experience from March 1990 to January 1994 amounted to 27 games.

The Greyhounds have won three straight, but Reese's return began with a loss at Delaware, and he "cried like a baby" afterward. His game is fueled by an inner fire, but Reese has discovered that the flame that keeps him heated on the court sometimes needs to be turned down off it.

"My mom used to say, 'When you wear your emotions on your sleeve, you leave yourself open to all kinds of stuff,' " Reese said. "I've learned some lessons. The emotions I use on the court, when I put the same aggression and passion into life, that gets me in trouble. "

Reese grew up in northeast Washington, within site of RFK Stadium. He starred at H. D. Woodson High and went to Maine Central Institute in 1988-89 when he didn't meet the NCAA's standards for freshman eligibility. Among his teammates was a Dunbar grad named Sam Cassell, now with the Houston Rockets.

Paul Pellicani, then MCI's coach and now Severna Park High's, said Reese was dismissed from the prep school, but Reese disagrees. He said that once the season was over and he had the necessary college board scores and a scholarship to Boston College, he left MCI and went home.

Reese started 16 games as a freshman for a struggling Boston College team in 1989-90 but said he wasn't satisfied with his playing time and left after one year.

"We had a couple of disagreements, but I didn't think it was a big deal," BC coach Jim O'Brien said. "He became a little impatient. . . . He's a very headstrong kid, and he can be very stubborn at times."

Reese considered Maryland, George Washington and Southern Methodist, but opted to become "a big fish in a little pond" at Loyola.

Shooting guard Kevin Green, Reese and Bergan were a potent -- albeit volatile -- mix. One practice in 1990-91, when Reese was sitting out as a transfer, ended with Reese and Bergan in a shoving match.

"Everyone has a dark side, but Michael's came out more," said Tom Schneider, then the Loyola coach and now an SMU assistant. "Michael has been Michael's greatest enemy, but he realized he had to work on controlling his emotions. All these times he's been knocked down, maybe they've made him stronger. He keeps getting up."

Bergan left Loyola in April 1992, but Reese was supposed to return and anchor the Greyhounds in 1992-93. It didn't happen.

Reese said that on Oct. 31, 1992, the day before practice was to begin, he stopped at a UMBC dormitory and "I got in an altercation with an old girlfriend," Retrievers basketball standout Missy Quille. Reese was charged with assaulting Quille and Tammy Brown, a former All-Metro player, and also with breaking and entering, malicious destruction of property and trespassing.

Three weeks later, Reese was suspended from Loyola. Last March, several charges against him were dropped and he received probation before judgment on two counts of battery and one of malicious destruction in Baltimore County District Court. He performed 50 hours of community service at a hospital.

Even though he said he feels he was unjustly dismissed from Loyola less than a month from semester's end, Reese chose not to appeal that decision and waited until last spring to ask athletic director Joe Boylan whether he could come back. He took six credits over the summer, and had to pass 18 credits last fall to be eligible to rejoin the Greyhounds at the end of the first semester. Reese's grade-point average for the semester was 2.6.

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