Turns out the best guard in the Final Four is a bit of a mama's boy. Nothing wrong with that. When you grow up in New York City, as Arizona senior Khalid Reeves did, a protective parent is something of a necessity. After Reeves poured in 26 points in Arizona's 92-72 rout of Missouri in the West Regional final last Saturday, he and his mother, Denise, somehow found each other amid the bedlam on the court at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Their embrace was brief: The Wildcats needed Khalid's help to cut down the net. "You better hurry over there," she told him. "I'm so excited I'm going to cry."
Trying to forestall tears, Denise Reeves recalled her first trip to the Arizona campus in Tucson four years earlier. She was there for Khalid's recruiting visit because lie had asked her to come along. They stayed at La Paloma, a swank hotel in the desert. When Khalid returned to his room around midnight, he called his mom.
"I said, 'O.K., see you in the morning,' " Denise says, "but he said, 'No, come over here and stay in my room.' I said, 'Khalid, you come over here,' and he said, 'No way! There're javelinas [wild hogs] out there!' I said, 'Hey, there are javelinas in both directions.' In the end I went to him."
That has been the pattern. Last December, Denise. a graduate of the College of New Rochelle (N.Y.), quit her job as a social worker in New York City and moved to Tucson so she could watch Khalid play his senior season and serve as his personal secretary. She's doing some social work, but lately her biggest job has been fending off agents who covet a cut of the multimillion-dollar contract Khalid is certain to sign as a first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft. His suitors became so persistent that Khalid recently had to get an unlisted phone number. Denise took care of it.
Khalid bridles at the suggestion that his stellar play this season is due to the soothing proximity of his mommy. "If she was still in New York, the results would be the same," he says.
The results—he has averaged 24.4 points per game this season, including tournament play—have been sweet and redemptive. Reeves and junior point guard Damon Stoudamire, who has averaged 18.3 points, are the best collegiate backcourt in the country, and for Reeves, making the Final Four is the culmination of a sometimes unhappy tenure at Arizona.
Reeves rode the bench much of his freshman year, and things got worse after the basketball season when a female student accused him of sexual assault. Because of a lack of evidence, no charges were brought, but Reeves's reputation was damaged. He was also homesick and. having switched from subway riding to driving, was involved in several fender benders. He considered transferring closer to home, but his mother dissuaded him. "Stick it out, because you're not coming back here," she told him.
The following season Stoudamire joined the team, and things started to look up for Reeves. The nation's best pair of guards now room together on the road, even if they do resemble Felix and Oscar. Stoudamire rises an hour early to press his clothes. Reeves is more of a slugabed. Another contrast: Stoudamire is a hoops junky, while Reeves cares little for games in which he is not playing. The key matchup in Arizona's second-round game against Virginia was Reeves versus the Cavaliers' 6'7" guard Cornel Parker, one of the nation's premier defensive players. Asked at a press conference what he expected from Cornel, Reeves drew a blank. "Cornel?" he said. Reeves scored 30.
At the same press conference, he saw players from Louisville coming in to take the dais. "Who are they?" he asked. Louisville, he was told.
"Do we have to play them?" asked Reeves. Possibly, he was told. "Wow," he said. "This is a tough tournament." For some people it is. Reeves scored 29 against the Cards.
For his next trick he helped beat Missouri, then ascended a stepladder. Under the adoring gaze of his mother, Reeves snipped a strand of the net. Her apron strings he has yet to cut.