Meet the basketball coach behind Delaware’s wunderkinds
NEWARK, Del. (AP) — Donte DiVincenzo and Trevon Duval have plenty in common.
They are both aiming to be the first Delawareans to stick out in the NBA since the turn of the century. They both are starting their NBA journey with the Milwaukee Bucks organization.
And they both crafted their game with the same coach in Delaware, Aquil Reaves.
Reaves has spent the last eight years training basketball players one-on-one throughout Delaware. What started as a hobby years ago has blossomed into a career. As players like DiVincenzo and Duval ascend, more come knocking on Reaves’ door.
“They helped me get to where I’m at, probably more so than how I helped them,” Reaves said.
He’s now training Delaware’s next wave of basketball players at the high school and collegiate level. In a state where players often feel they need to leave to be noticed by college and pro scouts, Reaves is developing a homegrown crop. With DiVincenzo as his 1A example, he believes you can make it from Delaware.
“It really inspired the state,” Reaves said. “Now when you say, ‘Oh you can make it to the NBA’ they believe it now.”
The summer is Reaves’ busiest time of the year. Players spend their offseason working on individual skills with Reaves, before returning to their teams in the fall.
Reaves gets to the gym most days at 6 or 7 a.m. and leaves well past dinner time.
In the middle of the day, he works camps and other group sessions at the Greater Newark Boys and Girls Club. Mornings and nights are reserved for his catalog of high school, college and professional clients.
“He’s a gym rat,” said Austin Tilghman, a recent graduate of Monmouth University who played high school ball at St. Andrews. “He loves it. That’s what makes him one of the best.”
Currently Reaves is working with the likes of Tilghman, Isaac Fleming (East Coast Carolina), Eric Ayala (Maryland), Mikey Dixon (St. Johns), Myles Cale (Seton Hall), Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland (St. Georges), Hassan Perkins (Sanford) and Dom Morris, a professional overseas who won a state championship with Caravel in 2008.
Reaves takes each player through a litany of drills catered to parts of their game they are trying to improve. Reaves and Tilghman, for instance, are working to improve his three point shot, his ability to shoot off the dribble and his ability to take advantage of off-ball screens — an increasingly prevalent component of collegiate and professional offenses made popular by the Golden State Warriors’ motion offense.
Reaves also hosts open gym sessions at the Boys and Girls Club, which has been nicknamed “the trenches.”
Throughout the basketball season, Reaves travels the country to watch his current and former players compete. The free tickets they supply him are one way Reaves is compensated for his services.
“They pay me back with support and loyalty,” Reaves said. “The tickets they give me will usually cost an average person hundreds of dollars.”
With some high school and collegiate players he sets prices for individual sessions, but others he trains free of charge, like St. Georges’ Nah’Shon “Bizzy Bones” Hyland. The midday camps supply his primary revenue stream.
Reaves has trained Hyland since he was in middle school. As a junior, Hyland averaged 27.8 points and 5.8 assists per game for the Hawks. He’s called “Bizzy,” because, “he gets busy on the court” and “Bones” because of his slender build.
His electric play style, which features a spattering of three-pointers and reverse layups, makes him one of Delaware’s most exciting high school talents.
It’s also part of the reason why, when asked, Reaves said Hyland “got next.”
“He has that motor, that drive, that ambition,” Reaves said of Hyland. “He’s cut from that same cloth. He can just score. He can just score 30 at any given time.”
Hyland is currently recovering from a torn tendon in his thigh, sustained when he jumped off the second story of his house during a fire in March. His younger brother, Maurice Williams, and his grandmother, Fay Hyland, died in the fire.
“I want to set an example for a younger youth and to make sure I’m doing everything for motivational purposes only,” Hyland said. “There isn’t a lot of people to look up to.
″(Reaves) is like a big brother to me. He’s very motivational. He pushes himself. When you in the gym you gotta go and get it.”
The most important lesson for his players to learn, Reaves said, is consistency — in how they perform each move, but more importantly in their day-to-day approach. His top players train six days a week and up to three times a day, in the weight room and in the gym.
“It’s hard for them to do stuff everyday,” Reaves said. “It’s easy for them to do it on the days they want to. You have to sacrifice for your craft. It’s extremely hard to make those sacrifices consistently.”
“We joke here and there, but when it’s time to be serious, we’re serious,” Hyland said.
While Reaves is a skilled technical coach, his players all credit him more for being a motivator. His main message? You can make it from the small wonder.
“This is an exciting time to be a Delaware basketball fan,” Reaves said. “I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when Milwaukee plays the Sixers this year.”
Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com