Despite the talent around him, senior Tyrel Reed has emerged as one of Kansas' key components to what he hopes is a successful final year on campus. Hailed as the overall best athlete on KU's roster, the local product has a chance to shine as the Jayhawks aim for another title.
Upon arriving on campus in 2007, many wondered why Tyrel Reed, a good but not great talent, would come to Kansas and play behind All Americans when he could just as easily head to a mid-major or possibly even lower level BCS school and earn significant minutes.
Coming to Kansas wasn't about playing time for Reed as much as it was about coming to a place that fulfilled a dream that many young aspiring basketball players in the state of Kansas have growing up.
Being a Jayhawks means more than just playing basketball.
"What Kansas kid wouldn't want to be a Jayhawk when they're growing up and watching basketball," said Reed. "It's been a dream come true for this whole four years now and I just want to go out and make the best of it this year."
"It goes fast, I know that," he added. "It's been a great ride so far and this year is just the cherry on top."
Reed has proven that rankings and high school scouting reports aren't everything. In fact, he is unanimously considered the best athlete on the team.
Reed consistently out-performs his teammates in KU's annual boot camp, and when measuring verticals this summer; Reed was measured to have the highest leap of anyone on the team.
"We tested in the weight room, standing straight up and jump and then we tested with a run and on both of them I had the highest vertical," said Reed and KU's media day. "I don't even think I've gotten one yet [in a game], I dunk in practice all the time.
"I think sometimes I'm out there and I'm trying but my legs start burning and I get on a break and I'm just going to make a layup and not worry about it," he added.
His commitment to training and the physical preparation is one of the main factors in becoming one of KU's top players. This semester, Reed will intern as he works towards life after basketball, working in the physical therapy industry.
He knows how to train and how to improve the performance of his body, something that has paid off during summer workouts and while he may not always lead from a vocal standpoint, Reed certainly uses his knowledge and fitness prowess to set an example for his teammates.
"In this profession, your body is your livelihood and that's kind of what I'm going into, physical therapy," said Reed. "I just realize taking care of your body in order to be the best you can on any given day is important.
"I think some of the guys look up to me and know that I strive to do the best I can in the weight room," he added. "They ask for help and if they have a question they come to me."
While the Jayhawks continue to figure out who they are as a team post-Collins and Aldrich, seniors such as Reed can serve as guides for the younger, less experienced players. Most feel as though Marcus Morris will become the main leader and face of this team, but Reed, who has virtually seen it all while at Kansas, is one teammates who can provide stability.
"I've been here, I've seen the ropes and know what to expect and guys look to me for that," he said. "Just being more comfortable and more confident in myself, I'm not afraid to step in and say things when they need to be said.
"All of our seniors are doing a good job of that," he added.
His senior season looks vastly different from any of his previous three years at Kansas. The mainstays, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, are gone, leaving the Jayhawks without a proven leader, yet Reed and his teammates feel as though they have as good a shot as any previous team to continue , what has become a tradition, bringing home championships.
Kansas isn't picked as the favorite this year in the Big 12, that honor was awarded to Kansas State, but Reed likes his team and believes they have a chance to make some noise outside of the spotlight.
The loss to Northern Iowa is an obvious motivator for the Jayhawks but nothing to dwell on as a new season approaches.
"It still resonates in the back of our mind but its last year and we definitely have that fuel in our fire and want to do better this year," he said. "I think with the pieces we lost last year, a lot of people may not look to us as being as successful this year or maybe kind of have us under the radar and playing from the bottom up. Not having the target on us as much, being at Kansas there is still that target and guys are motivated and guys are hungry and ready to play.
"Just like our expectations for every year, we want to come out here, have a good preseason, have a good non-conference, and have a good run in the Big 12 like every year and hopefully have a chance to compete for the national championship," he added. "I don't really think our expectations really change here at Kansas; we want to be the best we can every year."
It wasn't long ago that Reed, Brady Morningstar, Conner Teahan, and Travis Releford were dominating the AAU circuit while playing for KC Pump N Run.
Now, all four of them are aiming for a national championship, something three of the four have, as Releford joined the team a year later.
Now, as a senior, Reed hopes to go out on top with a second national title, and a fourth conference championship.