From three-star recruit to NBA prospect: Paul Reed is ready for next level


Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia

DePaul junior forward Paul Reed dunks the ball against Texas Tech on Dec. 4 at Wintrust Arena.

When Paul Reed arrived at DePaul in 2017, he was not penciled in as one of the starters to begin the season. Even with his family traveling from Orlando to Chicago to watch Reed play in his first college basketball game, the forward only played one minute in a 72-58 loss to Notre Dame.

In that moment, Reed realized there was no guarantee he would get playing time, especially as a rookie, unless he improved his game and showed the coaches they could trust him on the court.

“I always think back to my freshman year, the first game of the season and I didn’t touch the court,” Reed said in a phone interview with The DePaulia. “And I think about how far I’ve come since that point. That was a realization point in my life because my family had driven up from Orlando to Chicago to see me play in that game, and I didn’t touch the court until the end. So, I knew I had to prove myself even more. I just felt disrespected a little bit.” 

Coming out of high school, Reed was only a three-star recruit and didn’t receive many offers from high-major programs. According to 247 Sports, Reed only got offers from DePaul, Kansas State, Rutgers and Murray State. 

As a senior, Reed led Wekiva high school to a state runner-up finish in Florida’s class 9A, while averaging 18.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. At the end of the season, he was named Central Florida Player of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel. 

The numbers and accolades were there for Reed, but the offers from the best Division I college basketball programs were not. 

“I have always been overlooked my whole life,” Reed said. “I always have been underrated. People don’t always see my full potential or how good I can be, or how good I am. It’s normal for me, they don’t owe me anything. I know I got a chip on my shoulder because I feel like I got to prove to a lot of people that I can actually play, and I can compete on the highest level. Before the games, I would always tell myself they got me messed up because nobody knew who I was and still don’t know who I am. I still feel the same way.”

As a freshman at DePaul, Reed came off the bench for 28 games while averaging 3.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 9.9 minutes per game. The Blue Demons didn’t have a particular successful 2017-18 season, going 11-20 and 4-14 in Big East play. 

But Reed used that disappointing freshman season as fuel to get better in the summer, and show his coaches and the rest of the Big East that he can be one of the better players in the conference.

With a couple of players leaving in 2018 and former DePaul guard Jalen Coleman-Lands getting injured nine games into the 2018-19 season, the door suddenly opened for Reed to start. During his sophomore season, Reed started 28 of the Blue Demons’ 36 games, while raising his numbers to 12.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

While Reed saw improvement in his game, DePaul also saw its first winning season in over a decade. The Blue Demons went 19-17 and made it all the way to the CBI Championship series, before losing to South Florida in three games. With DePaul on the verge of getting swept in that series, Reed poured in 28 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to help give his team a 100-96 victory to force game three. 

At the end of the season, Reed was named the Big East’s Most Improved Player of the Year.

“Once I got into the starting lineup, it was over with,” Reed said. “I knew I could make my impact on the game.”

Reed solidified his spot in the lineup by his third season, where he saw another jump in his numbers and the team’s growth in the first part of the season. DePaul and Reed got off to a hot start to begin the 2019-20 season, winning the first nine games and going into conference play with a 12-1 record. 

But climbing the standings of the Big East proved to be a tall order for the Blue Demons, as the team went 3-15 in the conference and finished in last place for the fourth straight season. Reed, however, was the only player in the conference to finish in the top 10 both in points (15.1) and rebounds (10.7) per game.

DePaul junior forward Paul Reed celebrates after a play in the second half against Cornell on Nov. 16 at Wintrust Arena. (Alexa Sandler | The DePaulia)


Reed missed the last three regular-season games because of a hip-pointer injury, but he returned for the first round of the Big East Tournament against Xavier. In his return, Reed scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to give his team a 71-67 victory. The rest of the tournament was canceled because of coronavirus concerns. 

“When we got him, he was slight of body, needed to get stronger and his game wasn’t where it is now,” DePaul head coach Dave Leitao said. “But credit to Paul that he invested not only in himself but in the process of getting better. Even as a sophomore, he wasn’t slated at the beginning of the season to start until we had an injury. That became a moment for him to show himself. It’s because Paul approached it the right way mentally and then really became a serious worker. His development because of his talent level and his potential it took on a life of its own, and it’s sped up faster than a lot of us thought it would because of what he did.”

Three years after coming to DePaul, Reed grew an extra four inches, put on an extra 50 pounds and became an NBA prospect. Before the 2019-20 season, few if any NBA mock drafts had Reed on their board. Now, some mock drafts have Reed as a mid-to-late first-round pick or a second-round pick.

On March 28, Reed officially declared for the NBA Draft and then nearly two months later he signed with Ron Shade and Octagon.  Shade, who also attended DePaul, told The DePaulia that Reed has already talked to 17 NBA teams.

If this was a normal year, Reed would have participated in the NBA’s combine, met with multiple teams and would have been drafted June 25. But this is not a normal year, just like Reed’s basketball journey up until this point being unorthodox. 

“Everything has been going good,” Reed said. “I have been able to talk to teams, we have been doing zoom call interviews. That’s how I’ve been connecting with teams. I’ve been doing two workouts a day, first with my trainer and we have been working on everything. Second workout, I do strength and conditioning with one of my guys that I grew up with since high school.”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Saturday that the 2020 NBA Draft will take place on Oct. 16. When Reed gets drafted in four months, it will be nearly four years since he made his DePaul debut. Depending on where and who drafts Reed, he will most likely have to fight again for his spot in the starting lineup.

But Reed’s time at DePaul has helped him grow in multiple ways, that he’s now ready for his next challenge. 

“I was a kid coming in, I was 17 and just turned 18 when I got to campus, and I grew up at DePaul,” Reed said. “I matured a lot being at DePaul. The staff helped me mature, they talked to me, they were with me. They helped me grow mentally as well as physically.”