CAIRO, Egypt—Cameron Reddish is a peak into the future of men’s basketball. The 6-7 point/forward from The Westtown School in suburban Philadelphia—who has a 7-1 wingspan and was one of the two best players in the Nike EBYL along with 6-10 Marvin Bagley III – has become the post child for increasingly positionless nature of the sport.
He is a rare breed of blue chip talent who can play all five positions on court. “Within five years, everybody’s going to be playing every position,’’ he said. “That’s the new thing now.’’
Reddish has emerged as the starting point guard for John Calipari’s USA Basketball U19 team, which is the early favorite to win a fourth consecutive gold medal in this international basketball tournament. But he can also play inside if either or both centers Austin Wiley and Brandon McCoy get into foul trouble against an inspired, albeit Canada group that has overcome the fact its roster was thinned down by politics or European powers Lithuania, Spain or France in this 16-team competition.
Reddish eased his way to 14 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals as the American made a frightening first impression, defeating Asian representative Iran by 60, 108-48, before a near full house at Cairo Indoor Hall I yesterday. He also made all three of the three point shots he attempted and contributed 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in the first round of bracket play, which was attended by Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El Sisi, who has taken a personal interest in the fact Egypt in the first African country to host a major FIBA tournament and was in a special box to watch the opening ceremonies.
Reddish, who averaged 22,6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.5 steals during the Nike spring league season, is being recruited by Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, Maryland, Arizona, UCLA, Connecticut and Miami. He will cut down the list to five or six schools late this month after Nike’s Peach Jam in Augusta.
Calipari is barred by the NCAA from talking about him as a prospect because he is recruiting him. He is restricted to talking about Reddish only as his game relates to USA basketball. But he obviously likes what he sees.
“When you look at the points guards on this roster,” Calipari said. “Immanuel Quickley is more of a combo guards and Carsen Edwards and Payton Pritchard are smaller, scoring ones. Cam can really handle and shoot it. He’s not attacking the way he used to, but . . . Cam got to play the point for Team Final, his Nike travel team, this spring. So, we felt he could play the position for us.’’
The game comes easy for Reddish, who rarely has any highs or lows. He has become a nightmare matchup for other teams in this tournament, much like Kentucky freshman 6-9 P.J. Montgomery, a stretch four who can play all three front court positions.
The U.S. has been dominant ever since the second half of their first scrimmage against Lithuania. They won that friendless easily and then went on to defeat medal contender France, 82-60, in the second game before blowing up against Iran. The Americans put five players in double figures. Guard Hammy Diallo scored 17 points during the route. Edwards had 15. McCoy and Reddish had 14 and Washington added 13. The U.S. shot 55 percent and had 31 assists on 41 field goals.
All 12 players scored and the game gave Calipari a chance to rest his starters with another game coming up Sunday against Angola.
Reddish initially learned the game from his father Bobby, a 6-7 JUCO transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A & M, who found a two-year home at VCU from 1989-1991, starting several games for then head coach Sonny Smith.
Reddish won’t need junior college. He is a strong student who has attended two distinguished private high schools— The Haverford, Pa. School and most recently Westtown, which has established a national reputation the past year with 7-0 McDonald’s All America Mo Bamba, who will attend Texas; and guard Brandon Randolph, who signed with Arizona.
“I really liked Haverford School,’’ Reddish said. “I actually didn’t want to leave. But it was a basketball decision. But Haverford kind of felt apart a little bit after my coach (Henry Fairfax) left coaching to become the admission director there and Lamar Stevens (a freshman starter at Penn State) transferred. So, it was the best situation for me to be in athletically. We started looking around. My family has known Seth because he coached my brother on an AAU team, back in seventh grade. So, we took a visit.’’
Reddish has been around USA Basketball since ninth grade when he was a first evaluated as a 6-3, 160- pound off guard. But, then he underwent a growth spurt, growing four inches and putting on 43 pounds over the next two years. “I just keep growing and growing and growing and my game literally changed.’’
“Going up my dad always worked on my ball handling,’’ Reddish said. “He knew I’d be tall. So we knew it would work out either way. ‘’
Reddish got a taste of point guard last year a sophomore at Westtown. “He told me I was going to be a point guard. At first, I didn’t believe him. But he coached me through it.’’
He played multiple positions, including the point, in the EBYL for the Team Final 17s.
Reddish would have been on the U17 World championship team last year, but he suffered an injury on the final day to trials. There was no keeping him off this team. He has already been a world traveler, participating on a special USA select team at the Adidas International camp in Treviso, Italy where he got a chance to visit Rome and Venice.
“I love playing for John,’’ Reddish said. “He pushes you to the limit. He makes you do everything, go hard. He told me he wanted me on the ball more, coming off screens and stuff; that’s how I knew he wanted me to show my versatility more.
“He’s giving me details, like tighten up my jump shot, get stronger, things like that. Those are always good things to hear, knowing he’s looking at me and seeing what I can improve. But he’s stressed me playing hard all the time. I have a bad habit to relax at times, but he’s always kind to pushed me to play hard every day.’’