By Zachary Rome, CSUN Media Relations Intern
NORTHRIDGE, Calif.—Reggie Theus Jr. knows what it takes to be a leader on and off the court. He even sports a “C” on his chest which stands for the team captain, and he models his game after his favorite player, LeBron James.
One of the brightest spots on the CSUN Men’s Basketball team, Theus Jr. hit a new career high in scoring (16 points) in the Matadors’ latest win over Morgan State on Dec. 30, and giving CSUN a 2-0 record since Theus Jr. returned to the starting lineup. This season, Theus Jr. is also averaging career highs in points per game, field goal percentage and rebounds per game. And he also happens to be the son of former NBA great and CSUN head coach Reggie Theus Sr.
Theus Jr. grew up locally and played all four years of his high school basketball career at Los Angeles powerhouse Fairfax High. He was named first team all-league as a senior by averaging nearly 18 points per game and impressed scouts from all over the country including University of South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, who watched in person when Theus Jr. played a couple nights during his senior season.
“The thing about [Reggie Jr.’s] career is that he earned his scholarship on his own.” said his father. “I wanted Reggie originally to get away from Los Angeles. The coaches at South Carolina saw his work ethic along with his mentality, and they loved him. I knew that [Coach Frank Martin] was going to give him lessons as a man that he wasn’t going to get here. It’s really tough love. You grow up quick under Coach Martin.”
Dad also felt it was important for his son to get out on his own because he wanted him to learn how to be independent.
So, Theus Jr. committed to play in South Carolina starting the 2013-14 season. As a freshman, he still managed to make the Southeastern Conference First-Year Academic Honor Roll in a year where he was really just trying to figure things out.
“Going out there was really hard. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t,” Theus Jr. said. “Adjusting, leaving my friends and family for the first time, and not just going around the corner, but across the country. It was tough. But being out there and experiencing what I experienced with Coach Martin and the rest of the staff, it was a beautiful thing. The coaching staff helped me grow, helped me change completely and gave me a completely different perspective on life.”
Theus Jr. played his sophomore year at South Carolina as well, but after the season, he ultimately decided that South Carolina wasn’t the best place for him and came back to L.A. to play for his father at CSUN in 2015. He called the move “perfect.” But he does not consider his time at South Carolina to be a waste.
“I gave my all and everything I had out there, and I still keep in touch with a lot of people from there,” Theus Jr. said.
“Reggie is a glue guy and he has earned the respect of his teammates over the years,” Theus Sr. said. “He was the same way at South Carolina. Coach Frank Martin didn’t want him to transfer, I wanted him to transfer because I knew he was going to play more here. He went through a lot of emotional changes, but he survived it, grew and became a better basketball player because of it.”
The return of Theus Jr. to L.A. had a big impact on his father. The move meant that Theus Sr. would get a chance to coach his son for the first time since instructing him in AAU ball when Theus Jr. was transitioning into ninth grade.
“It’s very emotional for me, because I missed a large part of his high school career because I was coaching professionally or collegiately.” Theus Sr. said. “It’s the best because our relationship over the years has evolved. The thing between Reggie and I is that I think we have good balance. I don’t make any bones about how I feel about my son. I tell him I love him in front of everybody, but when it’s not okay, everybody knows that I get on him just as hard as or harder than the rest of the guys.”
Theus Jr. will be quick to tell you that while some sons hate playing for their dads especially at the Division I level, he is not one of those guys.
“I love it, it’s a great experience; he and I have had a close relationship our entire lives,” Theus Jr. said. “Having the opportunity to play for him like this at such a high level is a blessing. A lot of people would say that they hate playing with their dad, but people are always shocked by my answer. We have an unbeatable relationship, and it’s great.”
As a senior, he was named team captain.
“He couldn’t be the captain for my team unless he was truly the captain.” Theus Sr. said. “He earned that right by being a leader and by being someone I can count on to say the right things to the players. My understanding with Reggie is that his mentality has always been very solid. He has always been very good about speaking up in meetings with players. For me it’s a sense of pride, that somewhere along the line he’s learned the lessons of what it takes to pull people together in basketball and in life.”
“I came into my last year knowing that I was going to have to help young guys.” Theus Jr. said. “I’ve received a lot of great feedback from my teammates. Most of the time they mention how good of a senior I am and how helpful I am, and it feels good to hear that. It feels good to see teammates do well. I want to make sure that new guys get the things that they need and take it with them the rest of their careers.”
Theus Jr. will finish the rest of his collegiate career as the Matadors’ team captain, but the future after that is still unknown.
“There are a hundred different things that I am interested in,” said Theus Jr. “This is has been the hardest question that I keep getting asked. I could possibly be getting my master’s degree. There is a possibility where I could continue playing somewhere, but if not, I am sure I will end up in a field that I will enjoy doing and try to make a difference in the world.
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