Maryland center Julian Reese always dreamed of playing college basketball and then taking his game to the pros, and in that dreaming, the Terps have always occupied his thoughts.
As a Baltimore kid, Reese attended some Maryland games growing up, and each game strengthened his appreciation for his state school. He remembers watching the Terps play Michigan State in his first game at Xfinity Center. The team’s energy immediately sparked Reese’s attention, and he kept that in mind. Maryland also saw a future with Reese, as it was one of the first schools to recruit him.
“I knew that they had a winning culture, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Reese said. “This was a blessing.”
Entering play Dec. 12, Reese was averaging 18.2 minutes, 7.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for the Terps. He continues to impress his teammates with each passing game through the skill, heart and energy he displays on the court.
Reese strongly believes that his high school experience at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore helped prepare him for college basketball.
“Playing [in] Baltimore was a really great style of basketball,” Reese said. “I feel like that prepared me for playing against the older guys and stronger guys. I feel like that prepared me just to have more heart.”
The consensus four-star recruit committed to the University of Maryland on May 10, 2020. His commitment was a Mother’s Day gift to his mother, Angel, who played basketball at UMBC from 1988-1992 and is in the UMBC Athletics Hall of Fame.
Reese spoke proudly about Maryland’s close-knit environment that initially caught his eye.
“It was a family environment that took me in pretty well,” Reese said.
Reese’s admiration of the family environment goes beyond the men’s team. His older sister, also named Angel, plays for the women’s team, and Reese is happy to have her close by.
“It’s pretty cool having somebody just in case I need it,” Reese said.
Angel is thrilled her brother chose Maryland, too.
“I’m really happy for him. It’s been a really long journey for him,” Angel said. “We always ended up at the same schools. … So I’m happy to be back with him again for his freshman year and my sophomore year, and I’m super excited being able to cheer for him. He doesn’t cheer for me as loud as I cheer for him, but it’s all love.”
Nerves consumed Reese before his college debut in an exhibition game against Fayetteville State Nov. 5. Angel suspected her brother would be nervous, and she soon received a text from him. She told her brother not to worry.
“I was like, ‘You’re going to be fine. After you get your first basket, you’ll be OK. Just let the crowd do [its] thing, let the team do [its] thing and let the referee do [his] thing. Just play your game,'” Angel explained to her brother.
Angel was right. Reese felt a wave of relief rush over his 6-foot-9, 230-pound frame after his first basket. A smile formed across Reese’s face as he looked up. His eyes scanned Xfinity Center. Fans filled the arena and proudly sported the Terrapin colors. Angel screamed her brother’s name from the stands.
“I just looked around at the guys. [They] just make me feel like I was here before, just having to lock everything in,” Reese said. “I just tried to make myself feel as comfortable as possible. I just started to take myself back to when I was a freshman in high school.”
And it paid off. The freshman came out firing against Fayetteville State. Reese was everywhere that night as he aggressively grabbed each loose ball and set his teammates up for countless shots. He finished the night with 16 points.
His debut impressed graduate guard Fatts Russell.
“The sky’s the limit for [Reese],” Russell said. “He’s only 18, and where he is at now is just unbelievable. So I can only imagine what he’s going to look like in a couple years.”
During the regular-season opener against Quinnipiac Nov. 9, the freshman finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Junior center Qudus Wahab complimented Reese after the game.
“He looks like he’s been out there before,” Wahab said. “[He] gives us more options. When teams might start double-teaming him, it’s going to create space for shooters.”
Reese continues to provide a solid young presence for a Terps team that has faced some early-season struggles. The 18-year-old is proud of how he responded to his first few college games.
“I feel like I did pretty well,” Reese said. “To have that fire in me as a freshman, I think I responded well.”
His strongest performance of the young season came against Hofstra Nov. 19 (10 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks). Mark Turgeon, who coached the team until he and the university agreed to part ways Dec. 3, decided to utilize a smaller lineup to contain Hofstra’s offense in the second half, and Reese was vital to making it work.
Sophomore guard Ian Martinez applauded Reese’s early contributions.
“I think he has done a great job, unbelievable job,” Martinez said. “… And even though he’s a freshman, he’s new to all this, [he’s] coming in with focus and always trying to get better.”
Prior to stepping down from his position, Turgeon described Reese as a “joy” to coach.
“He’s been very versatile for us. He’s been able to guard screens lots of different ways for us, which has been good, and he just keeps getting better,” Turgeon said. “We knew he was good, but it’s even been a pleasant surprise. He’s a little further along than we thought. He’s been fun to coach, and he’s just going to keep getting better.”
Interim head coach Danny Manning, the former Kansas star who was the coach at Wake Forest from 2014-2020, will oversee Reese’s development for the rest of the season.
Reese is eager to learn from his teammates as well. Reese prides himself as a strong rebounder and shot blocker. However, he believes that there is always room to improve and thinks his teammates can help with that.
The center cannot help but smile as he gazes into the packed stands at Xfinity Center, each home game filled with fans who enthusiastically cheer his name.
And as a Maryland native, Reese eagerly looks forward to representing his home state and making his family proud, especially having already built solid trust with the coaching staff.
“I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team,” Reese said, “if I’ve got to play less minutes, more minutes, whatever.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Originally published Dec. 15, 2021