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SALT LAKE CITY — When Willie Reed Jr. sits down to watch an NBA broadcast, the action on the court often takes a back seat. He cares about what he’s seeing, but he usually is paying more attention to what he’s hearing.
On Monday night, the Salt Lake City Stars center got to be the one heard.
Reed, the Stars’ No. 1 pick in last month's G League draft, shadowed the Jazz broadcast team during Utah’s game against Toronto. But he did more than just view the production — he was part of it.
Reed joined Mike Smith, Alema Harrington and Thurl Bailey for the Jazz pregame show, and during the third quarter, he hopped on with Bailey and Craig Bolerjack to help call the contest. This wasn’t merely a ploy to promote the Stars’ season, either. It was a way to help Reed prepare for life after basketball.
Last summer, Reed took some classes at Sportscaster U., a broadcasting training camp held by the National Basketball Players Association at Syracuse University, with the hopes of making it a career when his time on the court is up.
“I have always been good in front of the camera and talking to people,” Reed said following the Stars’ 106-96 win over Texas on Tuesday. “I thought what better way to continue with that than talk about the game that I love.”
So when the Stars drafted the 28-year-old big man, he asked if he could shadow a couple of Jazz games just to help him learn and see how things worked. He ended up getting more than just a tour, he got live on-air reps.
“I have never done a live broadcast,” Reed said. “When I asked them if I could do it, I didn’t think of it as a live Jazz game. I just thought I was going out there to learn. Once I got out there and started talking, it was really fun. I just went with the groove, and it was all good.”
Reed said he admires how players like Shaquille O’Neal and Mark Jackson have transitioned into broadcasting, and he sees himself as more of a studio host like O’Neal. Bolerjack, though, gave him a chance to practice his play-by-play skills by turning things over to him nearly the moment Reed hopped on the mic.
“Rebound by Derrick Favors, pushes it up to Ricky Rubio,” Reed said on the broadcast, “Swings it around the perimeter, the pace slows down a little bit. Looking for this mismatch, Derrick Favors has Green on him. Good, strong post move, but couldn’t finish.”
He then spent most of the third quarter breaking down the game, impressing at least one person.
“I thought he was very good,” Stars coach Martin Schiller said. “Right? He was very good. I thought he really sounded like a pro. He was very impressive.”
Reed’s broadcasting debut was further proof of the strong connection between the Stars and the Jazz. Schiller said Jazz head coach Quin Snyder allows the Stars coaching staff into meetings and practices, helping them develop as coaches.
“He really takes care of us,” Schiller said. “He put his arms around us from the beginning, and who gets the chance to be all access with an NBA team and with a coach like him. … He cares. He cares because he was there.”
Snyder coached the G League's Austin Toros, even winning the G League Coach of the Year Award in 2009.
"I think, for some of us, that provided an opportunity," Snyder said of his time in the G League, which was previously called the D-League. "At least, if you support it the right way. For a coach, that was one of the ways you could grow."
And Reed is proof the league provides ways for players to grow too. And not just on the court.