LEWISTON – Niagara got a glimpse of some big-time play from forward Dominique Reid on Tuesday night.
The 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman arguably is the most talented recruit on coach Chris Casey’s young team. He’s bounding back from two surgeries on his left knee over the past 2½ years. He scored 11 points and had six rebounds in 20 minutes of action against Arkansas State.
By the way, Niagara lost, 74-69. For realistic Niagara fans, this year isn’t about wins and losses. The Purple Eagles are in all-out rebuilding mode and have one of the youngest teams in the country.
A Gallagher Center crowd of 909 saw the Purple Eagles (1-8) lose their seventh straight. Many more losses are in store. Niagara fans need to see signs some of these young players are going to develop into winners in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Reid has the look of a winner. In his junior year of high school in New Jersey, he had scholarship offers from St. Joe’s, Robert Morris and Delaware. Providence was interested. Then he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a summer league game.
“I got hurt the end of July and had my surgery in August,” Reid said, referring to the summer of 2012. “I was supposed to sit out my senior year, but I had so much pride I had to come back. I came back the end of the year. I did all right.”
Reid said by this point Temple and St. Bonaventure were interested. But after five games, he went down again.
“I hurt my leg again the game before the championship game,” Reid said. “Same knee. I should have sat out.”
All the scholarship offers went away – except for the one from Niagara.
“Niagara stayed with the offer,” Reid said. “They offered me a redshirt year, and I took it. It was an opportunity. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”
If Reid stays healthy through high school, no way he winds up at Niagara.
But after a year of rehabilitation, he’s healthy now.
Reid has fluid movement on the court. He has a good, 15-foot jump shot, and he can make plays facing the basket. His low post game is improving.
“Dom is on the come,” Casey said. “Like any one of our guys, he’s got things he’s got to work on. But he’s a confident offensive player. We want to get him touches every game. He’s got a significantly high ceiling. As his defense continues to improve, he’s going to continue to improve and become a more complete player.
“When he has the ball in his hands, I’m confident he’s going to do something good with it,” Casey said. “The better he defends and the better he avoids fouling, the more you can keep him on the floor.”
Reid contributed to a better offensive showing by the Purple Eagles, who had been averaging only 58.6 points a game.
Niagara shot 63 percent in the first half and led most of the game.
But missed free throws came back to haunt the Purple Eagles, who shot only 10 of 19 from the foul line.
Arkansas State (5-4) took the lead with 1:50 to go on a three-pointer, then hit another three-pointer with a minute left to go ahead, 70-65. Niagara had a chance to tie with 5 seconds left, but a three-pointer by Ramone Snowden missed.
Forward Rayvon Harris led Niagara with 13 points. Snowden scored 12. Niagara got 11 apiece from Emile Blackman, Wesley Myers and Reid.
“I thought our defense was good enough to win the game,” Casey said. “I thought our rebounding was good enough to win the game. We’ve got to keep working to make timely free throws and make timely shots.”
Niagara’s next game is Tuesday at home against Albany.