The difference between a character and a flake, according to Santa Clara center Ron Reis, who has had reason to give the matter extensive thought, is that a flake "does irresponsible things, like not showing up for practice. A character can be serious about certain things. I'm serious about basketball, for instance, but not too much else. I guess maybe I'm a character."
Maybe? Reis, a 7'1", 285-pound junior, regularly skateboards around campus and has even strapped a skateboard to each foot and used them as roller skates. He has refereed a fraternity's hot-oil wrestling match, found true love in a go-cart collision and announced his desire to form a professional wrestling tag team with his 6'8", 250-pound brother Clay, whom he admiringly describes as "a few beers short of a six-pack, too."
But Reis also has strength of character, which is something else entirely. There may not be a player in the nation who has improved more during his college career than Reis. Or has needed to, for that matter. Reis averaged only 2.6 points and 2.9 rebounds a game as a freshman, and he looked as bad as those numbers. "He couldn't score at all," says Santa Clara coach Carroll Williams. "He had no hook shot, no post moves; he couldn't face up to the basket."
Reis weighed about 320 pounds then, but through hard work he has brought his weight down and his stats up. Through last weekend, he was averaging 15.3 points and 11.3 rebounds for the 5-4 Broncos. "He's gone from not being a factor to being a guy you have to specifically prepare for," says San Francisco coach Jim Brovelli.
But success hasn't affected Reis's world, which is a bizarre place that gets stranger as he tries to explain it. About the skateboards, for instance. "I figured everybody in California roller-skates, so I wanted to join the crowd," he says. "But you'd be surprised how hard it is to find size 17 or 18 roller skates. Skateboards seemed the next logical thing."
The boards actually may be the best way for Reis to get around. "I have a car," he says, "but I had this little parking-ticket problem."
"About $300 worth. I figured, what are they gonna do, come and take the car? They came and took the car. And, of course, they couldn't be ruder to you when you go to pay up and get it back. I have a bike, but I lost the key for it, so it's been locked to a pole for two or three weeks. At least now I always know where it is."
Reis's favorite mode of travel may be the go-cart. He took his girlfriend, Jeanenne Wall, go-carting on their first date. "I got hit by this guy and he knocked me towards her cart," says Reis. "I figured this demure girl would probably swerve out of the way, but she rams right into my cart, really rings my bell. I knew right then that she was an M&Mer—marriage material."
Wall sounds as if she would fit right into the Reis family, which also includes Ron's mother, Kay—"She's where I get my toughness," Ron says. "I can go home and say, 'Mom, let's play some ball,' and she'll post me up, really school me"—and his father, Ron, a member of Cincinnati's 1962 national championship team.
Reis would like his playing style to remind people of Moses Malone's, but physically he more closely resembles Fred Flintstone. In fact, he dressed up as Fred for Halloween. When you're already a character, it's not that hard to become a cartoon character.