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Hometown Heroes

October 09, 2013
 | 
Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

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HOMETOWN HEROES

Bryan/College Station products J-Mychal Reese, Alex Caruso
look to pick up where their stories left off as freshmen last season

by Griffin Bronson '16
AggieAthletics.com


It seems like the perfect plot for a sports fiction novel: two cross-town athletes growing up in the shadow of their hometown college basketball team go from local kids to hometown heroes.

Their story began as freshmen last season, but Alex Caruso and J-Mychal Reese look to write their second chapter as standout sophomores this year.

Caruso grew up in College Station watching Aggie basketball, even participating as a ball boy for the Aggies as a kid. Reese, meanwhile, grew up across the way in Bryan, looking up to A&M greats such as D’Andre Jordan and Acie Law IV during his middle school years.

As players at rival high schools (Caruso at A&M Consolidated and Reese at Bryan High) the duo competed on the court. As teammates at Texas A&M, though, they perfectly complement one another. Caruso brings strong defense and smooth passes while Reese adds a penetrating drive and a lethal jump shot. As they enter their sophomore season, the pair expects more playing time and bigger roles on the A&M squad.

Before they became freshmen phenoms, Caruso and Reese were on the rise as two of the most heavily sought-after high school basketball players not only in Texas, but across the country. Although heavily recruited by schools like Kansas, Texas and Memphis, Reese chose to stay home and keep his talents local.

“Being close to family was one reason [to stay],” Reese remarked. “I had developed a good relationship with the coaching staff and knew that I could play some good minutes as a freshman here, so I knew it was the place for me.”

"They are not freshmen anymore. We need them to lead on and off the court and be more involved in what we're doing."

- Billy Kennedy, Head Coach

Caruso soon followed Reese to A&M, ultimately deciding to wear the Maroon & White instead of playing at Colorado or elsewhere. The two enjoyed the idea of playing together after having to compete against each other every year in high school.

“Once he committed, I thought about all of those times I had to play against him in high school,” Caruso said of Reese. “I thought ‘that’s someone that I’d like to play with.’”

Then came their freshman season. Caruso established himself as a defensive monster, accumulating 61 steals to break Todd Holloway’s freshman season record for steals.

“I was grateful for the minutes I got on the court and the time I spent in practice,” Caruso reflected. “Once I settled in, I found my niche and just started playing.”

Reese spent much of his freshman campaign manning the point guard position for the Aggies while gaining valuable experience and regaining his form after missing much of his senior season at Bryan High due to a knee injury.

“I learned I can’t make some of the plays I made in high school at this level,” Reese said. “You have to bring it every night because you’re never going to have a weak opponent.”

The pair made an impact as rookies with each player seeing action in all 33 games and the duo drawing a combined 42 starts. Caruso ended the year with 182 points while dishing out a team-leading 112 assists and 61 steals. Reese, meanwhile, contributed 205 points while adding 63 assists.

Such big contributions in a small amount of time has led many to believe that the sky is the limit for the hometown tandem as their careers continue to develop.

Optimism surrounds the Aggie basketball program as it heads into the new campaign with a slew of talented underclassmen, highlighted by Caruso and Reese, who look to be an even more integral part of the Aggies’ game plan in the future.

“They’re not freshmen anymore,” Aggie head coach Billy Kennedy said of Caruso and Reese. “We need them to lead on and off the court and be more involved in what we’re doing.”

Caruso and Reese are ready to step up. Each has high expectations of their team this year and both of them will have to play a big part for the Texas A&M to reach its goals.

“I feel like this year we could be a pretty good contender in the SEC and the NCAA tournament,” Reese said of the upcoming season.

“We have high hopes and expectations,” Caruso added. “If we don’t make it to the NCAA Tournament we’re going to be disappointed.”

The story of the 2013-14 season is an unwritten book with so many chapters waiting to unfold: Cinderella teams, rivalries, overtime thrillers, and personalities. This year is the second chapter of the sophomore duo’s saga, and Alex Caruso and J-Mychal Reese are poised to take the lead in the story of Texas A&M men’s basketball.

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