PORTLAND – Omar Reed was a basketball All-American and his conference’s Player of the Year.
Yet, Reed needs to prove himself every time he puts on a Maine Red Claws uniform — including at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Expo.
Reed, 25, graduated from Bluefield College. Don’t go looking for the Rams when you fill out your NCAA tournament bracket.
Bluefield, a college of about 450 in southwest Virginia, does not play NCAA basketball, but competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). When Reed, a 6-foot-6 swingman, graduated in 2010, the NBA was not beckoning, nor the D-League, nor the premier leagues of Europe.
Reed settled for the lesser English Professional League.
“I had to get my foot in the door and prove myself,” Reed said. “I couldn’t go off a name or school recognition because I didn’t have it.”
Slowly, Reed is getting there, playing for the Austin Toros of the D-League last year (before getting released last February), and sticking with Maine this season. He is one of four Red Claws players to be here since the first game.
“Omar has had a fantastic year for us,” Maine Coach Mike Taylor said. “We drafted him (in the fourth round) because of his potential and he’s really made big strides.”
Taylor sometimes plays Reed a lot, providing a needed boost off the bench.
Last Friday, Reed got his chance early and he responded, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 22 minutes.
Then came Sunday’s game. Reed got in for eight minutes, recording no points or rebounds.
Reed is averaging 17.2 minutes per game, averaging 5.2 points.
“(Taylor) has given me some solid minutes in some games. And in some games, not,” Reed said. “There are different flows in games. I have to be professional and understand that.”
The understanding is that Reed is not a starter. He is still earning his credentials. For now, he is the backup to 6-8 Micah Downs, whose resume includes Gonzaga University and a stint in the Celtics’ preseason camp. Downs is consistently one of Maine’s leading scorers (17.4 average).
“When Micah Downs plays well, our team wins,” said Taylor. “When you have a guy with the talent level of a Micah Downs, you give him a few extra opportunities to get him going.”
Reed is versatile, taking on guard and post positions, hitting 3s and fighting for rebounds. Reed also has to fight for playing time. He knows his role. On his twitter account (@DaJuice55), Reed often uses the hash tag #UnderdogLife.
“Most of my life I’ve been an underdog,” Reed said. “I’ve accepted that. It means I have to work twice as hard. I have to take everything I want. It starts with effort and hard work.”
That effort gets him noticed. Last year, he scored 26 points for Austin against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Taylor was a Vipers assistant coach then.
“He caught my eye,” Taylor said.
In Maine, Reed is emerging from the “nobody” status.
“I can be in the middle of the game,” Reed said, “and I can here a fan yell out ‘Omar, where’s Bluefield?’
“I don’t take it as a negative. If I can get your attention and have you look me up on the roster, it must mean I’m playing well on the court.
“That’s what I always want it to be about — what I do on the court, not where I came from.”
NOTES: With nine games to go, Maine is one game out of a playoff spot. … Maine added a new practice player this week, 6-11 K.C. Robbins, who played at Cheverus High and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: