Reeves shoots to top, but has point to prove COUNTDOWN TO CHARLOTTE -- FINAL 4 PREVIEW

March 30, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

Khalid Reeves, Lute Olson and Arizona have adjusted their way right into the Final Four.

After a high school career spent getting the ball from Derrick Phelps and scoring more than 1,600 points for Christ the King in Queens, N.Y., Reeves thought he'd run the point and display his play-making skills at Arizona.

Reeves made Olson recruit New York for the first time, then both wondered if they had done the right thing. Finally, Olson loosened the reins last summer, shifting the Wildcats' offensive focus from the paint to the perimeter. This year Reeves and Damon Stoudamire, the point guard who kept him on the wing, are regarded as the nation's best backcourt.

When the Wildcats meet favored Arkansas in the NCAA semifinals Saturday (5:42 p.m.) in Charlotte, Reeves will keep on scoring his way into the NBA lottery, if he hasn't done so already.

With Duke eliminating Purdue's Glenn Robinson and Arkansas ousting Tulsa's Gary Collier, Reeves has the highest scoring average among the players still in the tournament. He averaged 23.7 during the regular season and 29.3 in four lopsided tournament victories. Two more like that, and Reeves will break the Pac-10 single-season scoring record of 870 points, set by Lew Alcindor in 1967.

Nonetheless, the man wanted to run the point.

"I've always wanted to shoot whenever I want to, but I still feel I'm better as a one [point guard]," Reeves said last week, in between dropping 29 points on Louisville and 26 on Missouri. "I want to show I'm a complete player. I've always been a consistent shooter, but I don't want to have any weaknesses."

Hmmm, let's see. The crease in Reeves' trousers could use an iron. He's missed six of his 37 free throws in the tournament. Against Missouri in the West Regional final, he was 0-for-5 from three-point range.

Actually, the NBA scouts spot few flaws in Reeves, who is most often compared to Joe Dumars. They are attracted to the prospect who can create his own shot.

"He's not a point guard, he's not a shooting guard, he's just a pure guard," said Paul Baker, a scout for the Washington Bullets. as good a guard as has come out in the last several years."

He's 6 feet 2 1/2 and 207 pounds, and the textbook jumper and inside hang time begin with a world-class first step. Opponents are rattled by the quickness of Reeves and Stoudamire, the 5-11 jitterbug who might be the only NCAA guard who's faster to the basket.

"Both are so explosive off the first step," Olson said. "What makes them so tough, is that if you don't honor it, they're gone. If you back off, they'll pop the jump shot."

Reeves said there was never any animosity over Stoudamire running the point, but their relationship -- and Arizona's prospects for 1993-94 -- solidified last May and June during the Wildcats' tour of Australia. Olson let them be roommates off the court and dictate the pace on it, and it's no coincidence that Arizona is in the Final Four for the first time since 1988.

Reeves and Stoudamire are played as the Odd Couple in Tucson. Stoudamire is the Felix Unger neat freak who irons his T-shirts and closely notes his opponents. He can tell you how many Jason Kidd scored when Cal played at UCLA.

Unless one of his friends from New York's stellar class of 1990 -- a group that included Jamal Mashburn, Adrian Autry, Brian Reese and high school teammate Phelps -- is on, Reeves pays little attention to televised basketball. He didn't even know Louisville was at the same Western Regional until he saw the Cardinals at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif.

Reeves is fastidious about what matters, however, namely his own game. The jump shot that was honed in Ajax Park in Jamaica, Queens, quiets the purists who claim that this generation hasn't been properly drilled in the fundamentals. With free-throw shooting at its worst in 40 years, Reeves is hitting .796.

Reeves has hit 85 three-pointers and Stoudamire 91, but the former is more dangerous penetrating. Arkansas must stop one of the two if it wants to remain the favorite, and it's a different

task than the one Wildcats opponents faced in recent years, when Sean Rooks, Brian Williams and Chris Mills made the hTC offense start closer to the basket.

With Mills and 7-footer Ed Stokes being drafted off of last year's team, Reeves was ready to emerge as a big-time scorer, but Olson said it's more complex than that.

"In Khalid's first year, the details on the court weren't as important to him as they are now," Olson said. "In past years, he's floated in and out of things on the court. Now, he's become detail conscious. I've learned that if people are detail conscious on the court, they will be off, too."

Before Reeves turned 19, he had already experienced a season of college ball, some off-court problems and homesickness.

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