Arkansas basketball preview:

Chaney's work ethic instilled at young age

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2018
Reggie Chaney of Arkansas reacts after a basket in the first half vs Tusculum Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, during an exhibition game in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Reggie Chaney of Arkansas reacts after a basket in the first half vs Tusculum Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, during an exhibition game in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas freshman forward Reggie Chaney is no stranger to playing in big games. He was a centerpiece in many over the last two years at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., located just a half hour south of Las Vegas down Interstate 15.

At an early age, Reggie Lee, Chaney’s father, knew his son had a chance to be special with a basketball in his hands. As a second-grader, Chaney played up a level on a third-grade elite team, showcasing his potential throughout challenging practices and games. Even then, Lee marveled at Chaney’s footwork and how quickly he picked up on the ins and outs of the game.

Lee played basketball at Muskogee High School in Oklahoma and later had a brief stint at Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla. He had solid footwork of his own during his playing days to go with a consistent but seldom-used jump shot and good speed. He preferred defense and used his strength and aggressive nature to his advantage.

Growing up, Lee didn’t have a father figure around, and although his game allowed him the opportunity to play junior college basketball, he often wished he’d had someone by his side and in his ear to continue to push him toward his goals. It always resonated with him as he watched Chaney grow through the years.

When he got his chance, he more than made the effort to be around.

“I think that’s real important because I know a lot of kids Reggie played with over the years that didn’t have a father around and I could just see that they were going the other way. It just makes a big difference,” said Lee, who works for a restaurant supplier in Garland, Texas. “I just knew getting him started that if basketball is what he wanted to do, I told him I was going to push him, so I kept pushing. I did a lot of off-the-field, off-the-court stuff with him, just showing him, ‘Hey, I’m there for you.’

“I tried to teach him a lot of stuff about respect for coaches and how to deal with certain situations. I just had to make sure I was always there, and still am to this day.”

A local park in Tulsa, Chaney’s hometown, is where much of their training took place. Running up hills, around the park and around strategically placed cones, and push-ups in the dirt were the norm. As was waking up at 7 a.m. on weekends to put up shot after shot in the driveway.

Lee certainly had his hand in a lot of Chaney’s early development, but he also recognized his son’s independent desire to be great. As a kid, Chaney watched his father’s men’s league pickup games and took mental notes.

“All my life, I feel like I’ve had a chip on my shoulder trying to prove people wrong and be physical,” Chaney said. “My dad always ingrained in me to work hard all the time. That’s where it comes from. My dad always pushed me and had me doing a lot of stuff, working out at a young age and playing against older guys. They used to push me around, so I had to get bigger.”

Chaney began playing football in kindergarten and played both football and basketball until his sophomore year of high school, Lee said. Once Chaney’s football days came to an end, Lee approached Chaney about the possibility of attending a prep school, a place where he could flourish academically and on the basketball court. Chaney gave the prep school route some thought, and soon enough, the two were at Findlay Prep for a workout, where Chaney faced current Kentucky star forward PJ Washington.

“After that workout, they were like, ‘Hey, we’ll offer him a full scholarship,’” Lee said. “I told Reggie to think about it and sleep on it. I think by the time we got back to the hotel, that’s what he decided he wanted to do.”

Chaney averaged better than 11 points and seven rebounds per game as a junior at Findlay Prep, and upped his scoring average to 13.8 per game as a senior while leading the Pilots to a 32-5 record. He totaled seven double-doubles and dished out at least four assists in seven games. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson hopes Chaney can be part of the solution to the Razorbacks’ past issues at the power forward spot on the offensive end of the floor.

Arkansas ranked 346th nationally in scoring at the 4 last season, and has not finished in the top 100 in that category since the 2012-13 season. Only 12.7 percent of the Razorbacks’ offensive production came from the position in 2017-18. Chaney has the potential and skill set to change that narrative.

“I’m ready for big minutes, man. I’m in the gym every day and preparing for that,” said Chaney, also a gifted artist. “I’m just looking forward to being an impactful freshman and helping this team any way I can. I want to come in here and help these older guys win some games and better my game, as well.”

Chaney described playing alongside sophomore forward and potential lottery pick Daniel Gafford as an honor. The freshman has been impressed by Gafford’s mobility and work ethic, and Chaney not been shy about picking Gafford’s brain about the physicality of the SEC and the ups and downs of his freshman season. When put on the floor together, Chaney believes he and Gafford will complement one another.

“I’m going to feed him the ball and we’re going to feed off of each other real well. We’re both hard workers and we like to get the job done,” Chaney said. “It’s been fun. He’s told me it’s going to be challenging, but it pushes me and hopefully it’ll all pay off.”

The physical nature of the league is something Chaney is excited about. Meanwhile, his father will be eagerly watching. He knows Chaney will have the confidence to step right in and make a smooth transition to the college game. He exudes confidence, Anderson said.

“Reggie is going to be an outstanding player here. I think he’s going to have a tremendous, tremendous career here in a Razorback uniform,” Anderson said at Arkansas’ media day on Oct. 1. “He’s kind of soared. Defensively, I think he has the chance to be a really good player. He has a long wingspan. He’s very, very athletic and very quick.

“He can step away from the basket, so he gets us, hopefully, in that position where it’s a tough matchup for people because he can step out and shoot it and he can get it inside. I think he’s going to be a tremendous open-court player.”

In Arkansas’ annual Red-White scrimmage, Chaney finished with nine points on 4 of 11 shooting, six rebounds, four turnovers and a pair of blocks. Against Tusculum, the Razorbacks' first exhibition opponent, he recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, six offensive, as well as two assists and three steals.

He then wrapped up preseason play with four points and five turnovers against Southwest Baptist. He did, though, come away with four rebounds, three blocks and a pair of steals.

“That’s the freshman for you,” Anderson said. “They’ll show you something (positive), and then they’ll turn around and you’re like, ‘Whoa, OK.’ But I think it shows the potential that’s there. And I think the more you do it, the better you get at it. I’d rather them make their mistakes right now.”

While Chaney is expected by many to bring a scoring presence during his freshman season, his best asset is his ability to rebound, which Gafford certainly took notice of during the summer months.

“Reggie is going to bring that dog mentality when it comes to crashing the boards,” Gafford said. “He’s a dog, and that’s basically what Coach Anderson wants. He wants some dogs.”

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