January 8, 1999
EAST LANSING, Mich. -
Maxann Reese is simply one of a kind.
On the basketball court she is one of the most exciting and talented players ever to wear a Spartan uniform. Off it, she is a fun-loving, happy and caring person who draws strength from the love of her family, friends and God.
She talks with pride about her mother's quiet support and her father's dedication to becoming a minister. Her face lights up when she mentions her younger brother and sister, while her voice becomes soft when remembering her 24-year-old brother, who passed away a little more than two months ago.
The 20-year-old Highland Park native has big dreams for the future. Her top priority is to become the first of Kenard and Deborah's six children to earn a college degree. Then there is professional basketball, followed by a career in the clothing business.
And if Reese's creativity with fashion is anything like the magic she creates on the basketball court, she should have a successful career.
"I love clothes," the apparel design major says. "So, whether it's designing or making them I want to have a part in it."
While Reese works hard to make fashion statements off the court, she has been making statements with her play on the court ever since she arrived in East Lansing as a rookie in 1996. Even in a supporting role on the talented Big Ten title team you could tell she was a special player. Fans, opposing coaches and players are still finding out how special.
Reese showed steady improvement in each of her first two seasons, but inconsistency was more her trademark. As the 1998-99 season unfolds, Reese is proving that her game can be just as consistent as her swagger.
"I feel my teammates are more confident in me now than they were last year," Reese admits. "I would have a big weekend, then I wouldn't show up for a month. I think Im doing a better job this year of being more consistent and giving my teammates offense and defense when we need it in every game."
Through 12 games, Reese leads the team and is fifth in the Big Ten in scoring with a 16.5 points per game average. She has scored in double figures in all but one game and is averaging 20.2 points per game over the last five contests.
Just as important, are the other numbers Reese is putting up, proving that she is more than just an outstanding scorer. She leads the team and is among the conference leaders in steals per game (1.75), is second on the team in assists (2.83) and is the team's third-leading rebounder with a career-high 3.9 boards per game average.
All of this is not lost on her coach.
"There is no doubt Max is one of the most exciting and talented players that I have ever coached," Langeland said. "The biggest difference in her game this year is that she is under control offensively and she has a better understanding of good shot selection. Those good decisions have resulted in a higher shooting percentage and a higher scoring average."
It has also resulted in more fun for the Spartan tri-captain, who loves to celebrate after a big play on offense or defense.
"I didn't really have fun last year," Reese admits. "I'm finally playing the way I like to play. A lot of times last year I was thinking too much and I would mess up. Many times I had already made up my mind what I was going to do at the other end of the court instead of letting my natural instincts take over and that got me in trouble. This year, I still do it sometimes, but not as often as last year and that is a big difference in my game."
In the first three contests of this season Reese was forcing the game, resulting in a lower scoring average and a poor shooting percentage. Since then, she has been on a roll and doesn't plan to look back.
"I think I was just worried too much about what I had to do, instead of letting things fall into place," Reese said. "I was stressing too much about what Max had to do for us to be successful. Now, I'm just having fun and not worrying about it."
Reese's fun has been noticed by opposing coaches as well this year. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw singled out Reese's play following the Spartans loss to the seventh-ranked Irish at the Breslin Center last month.
"I think the most impressive player on the floor was Maxann Reese in the second half; she played an outstanding game," the Notre Dame mentor said following Reese's 15-point performance. "She was very difficult for us to guard."
While her game has reached a new level, drawing raves from her own coaches as well as opposing coaches, Reese maintains it's all about having fun.
"I have fun every time I step on the floor, just because I love the game," she says. "I'm just letting things happen and not getting frustrated.
"I'm better because I've learned more and I have more experience," Reese added. "As each year comes and goes I think I get better in terms of the knowledge of the game."
The knowledge she is gaining as a player may come in handy down the road.
"I wouldn't mind being a coach," she said. "But I want to keep playing until I cant play anymore. I've coached a couple of times over the summer at camps and that's frustrating. I know what the coaches are going through when they are out there teaching us.
"I would like to give back in that way, though" Reese added. "That will probably be one of the first things I do when I get done playing."
As a coach, Reese may come face-to-face with a player just like her. But she insists she would love the opportunity.
"If I were a twin coaching me, I would be saying 'Max you just need to be focused'," she says. "If you're telling me you can hot dog and do all this stuff and have fun and it's legal in the game, then go ahead and do that. I'm letting me go, cutting me loose."
And when you ask her current coach to talk about her star player, her first reaction is to shake her head. The second is to smile. Langeland is well aware of the talents Reese possesses, yet she sometimes would like to harness her exuberance on the court.
"Sometimes Max does some crazy things," Langeland says. "But you have to accept that. You get the total package with Max.
"She is very coachable, though," Langeland added. "She wants to do what's best for her team."
Two of Langeland's most memorable Max moments truly define the player and the person.
"Her most memorable game was probably two years ago at Northwestern when she was just unstoppable," Langeland said of Reese's 28-point effort against the Wildcats. "I will never forget Don Perrelli screaming, 'will someone guard her'.
"Then there was her freshman year when we had just lost a tough game and everyone thought maybe we were out of the Big Ten race," Langeland recalled. " I got all the players together on the bus on the way to the airport and gave this emotional speech about how we could still win the title and that I really enjoyed coaching that team. As we were coming together for a huddle, Max says 'come on everybody, feel the love'. Needless to say, everyone lost it."
Keeping everyone on their toes is simply Max being Max. While she has matured as a player, she insists she will never stop having fun.
"I just look more mature, but I don't think Im ever going to 'grow up'," she says with a laugh. "I'm still going to play around, that's just who I am. I know now when I can do things and when I can't."
Simply - that's Max.