CLEMSON, S.C. — Following Pitt’s 82-69 loss to Clemson on Jan. 29, freshman guard Xavier Johnson didn’t want to get into the specifics about the Panthers’ defensive game-plan for the Tigers.
But he did elude to the fact that Pitt was prepared for Marcquise Reed.
“I won’t speak on that,” Johnson said when asked about Pitt’s scheme vs. Clemson. “We did have an eye on (Reed). Their guys were getting in the lane, our guys weren’t helping.”
Whatever Pitt had drawn up to contain Reed, it failed. The Landover, Maryland native — and former Robert Morris guard — torched the Panthers for 26 points on 13 shots. Reed also came up with three assists and two rebounds.
Reed has been a solid player for Clemson since the day he stepped foot in Death Valley as a transfer from Robert Morris back in 2015. He averaged double-digits in scoring as a sophomore and a junior and also racked up rebounds, assists and steals while shooting decently from the floor.
Last year, he helped Clemson reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011 and the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1997, averaging 15.8 points per-game
In 2019, not only has Reed continued to be Clemson’s No. 1 scoring option, but he’s become a leader too.
The way Clemon’s coaches and players tell it, Reed isn’t loud, but when he says something, it carries weight. Most of the time, he doesn’t have to say anything at all. His play does a lot of talking.
Reed leads the Tigers in scoring this year with 19.1 points per-game. That mark is good enough for fourth in the ACC, trailing two Duke stars bound for the NBA and Boston College’s Ky Bowman.
Against Pitt, Reed did a bit more talking than usual. He was building his teammates up on the bench, telling them where to go on defense, and celebrating with them after big buckets.
“He’s very well-respected by our players because he’s so competitive. He’s not a super vocal guy, but he was more vocal (against Pitt),” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “But he has a quiet confidence about him and goes about his jobs and his work the right way, so he has a lot of respect from our players.
“When he tells a guy something, they usually listen because of that. Our team continues to kind of need him to step up and be vocal, and it’s not his natural personality to be that way, but I think he’s realizing the importance of it as the season wears on.”
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) January 30, 2019
After a 10-3 non-conference run, Clemson started ACC play off poorly with a 1-5 record. But recently, they’ve won back-to-back games with victories over Pitt and Wake Forest. Reed played an essential part in both victories.
His scoring exploits against Pitt have been noted, but against Wake Forest it was his defense. Reed played 30 minutes, had a steal and two defensive boards, and was part of a Tigers’ unit that held the Demon Deacons to 23.7 percent shooting from the floor and 13.6 percent shooting from three-point range.
Wake scored just 37 points, which is the fewest Clemson has ever held an ACC opponent to since Brownell has been the coach, dating back to 2010.
In addition to his scoring, Reed also leads the Tigers in minutes played, steals and free throw percentage. He’s second on the team in rebounds and blocks.
Simply put: Reed does it all, whatever it takes for Clemson to get a win. Even if he’s having a bad shooting night, he knows how to use his other skills to help the Tigers.
“Marcquise doesn’t really bother you. He’s not a nervous-nelly when he’s playing, ever,” Brownell said. “He just had a bad minute or two (vs. N.C. State). He’s had so many good ones, we aren’t surprised he played the way he did (against Pitt). As soon as we got back, he was shooting free throws in the gym. He’s a confident guy. He’s a good player. A couple of missed shots aren’t going to bother him too much.”
A 6-foot-3 guard, Reed was somewhat of an unknown coming out of Capitol Christian Academy in 2014. He didn’t have a 247sports recruiting profile, and in addition to Robert Morris, his only other scholarship offers came from Drexel and Florida Gulf Coast.
Suiting up for the Colonials, Reed made the most of his freshman season. He averaged 15.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 steals per-game while shooting 41.3 percent from three-point range. In just the second game of his college career, he showed he could play in the ACC as he dropped 24 points on North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He also notched 21 points against his future team, Clemson.
With Reed’s help, Robert Morris finished the 2014-15 season with a 20-15 overall record, a NEC tournament title and an NCAA tournament appearance that featured a First Four win over North Florida — the Colonials first tournament win since 1983 — and a Round of 64 loss to Duke, which went on to win the national title. Jeff Capel was an assistant on the Blue Devils’ bench when Reed scored 22 points in that contest.
Reed caught the ACC bug and set his sights on bigger things. He transferred to Clemson and now, as a senior, has become one of the conference’s top scorers.
While he’s been an important leader on the court, Reed has been crucial off the court too. For Javan White, a Clemson grad transfer this year from Oral Roberts University, Reed was someone he could talk to about adjusting to the ACC.
“We’ve had several good talks about the transition from a mid-major to the ACC and just what it takes on a daily basis as far as preparation and really locking-in on match-ups and more quality players on a nightly basis here,” White said. “You really have to stay focused on what you’re doing and stick to the game-plan.”
Clemson hasn’t made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances since the 2010 and 2011 seasons. They’ve never made it to the Sweet Sixteen two years in a row.
It’s unclear if the Tigers will make it that far this year. But what’s certain is that they’ll have a chance to win every game they play with Reed on the floor. And he’ll always be at the top of every opposing team’s defensive game-plan.