Phone call leads Freeman to Eastern Florida as an Assistant Coach
Jeremy Shulman’s phone rang. And then again and again.
On the other end were Division I coaches telling the Eastern Florida State College men’s basketball coach that Reggie Freeman was a “home run” hire.
Shulman had more than 90 resumes for the opening as his lead assistant, many with experience and traits he was looking for. But while he narrowed his search, that phone kept ringing. The head coach knew the name. It was his brother’s favorite college basketball player growing up and he had seen him play numerous times.
But a coach at the JUCO level? Was he serious?
“That is one of the best college players ever, that’s Reggie Freeman!” Shulman remembers. “My thought was, can this guy who is one of the best college players I had seen and played 14 years professionally, grind and actually be a junior college assistant coach? Being an assistant coach anywhere is tough but being a JUCO assistant doesn’t have half the glamour that a Division I assistant has. Can he do it? I don’t know if he would want to.”
Shulman admits he wasn’t even going to call Freeman, but the coaches kept calling.
“Honestly, I didn’t want to waste his time,” Shulman admits.
But he did finally make that call and is glad he did. The University of Texas star has brought not only a knowledge of the game to the Titans bench, but someone the players can look up to as well as relate with.
“I want these guys to be better than I was,” Freeman said. “I played at every level, been through it and they respect it. I have done everything both positive and negative, they can’t hide anything from me. I already know what is going on and they know it.”
Freeman grew up in the streets of the Bronx where he has been called “High Five” since he was 15. Basketball has always been a big part of his life. After a successful high school career, he went to the University of Texas.
Freeman led the Longhorns in points, 3-pointers and assists as a junior and points, 3-pointers, assists and rebounds as a senior. He is still the only player in Texas history to record a triple double, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists on Feb. 11, 1996 against TCU.
Then the 6-foot-6 shooting guard bounced around professionally, playing in several countries on three continents over 14 seasons.
Even then he would come back to the Bronx and play on the streets every summer.
“Every year I played in the Rucker League, played street ball all my life,” Freeman said. “Even when I wasn’t supposed to in college. Every summer, that was the best. No matter what happened that season, I couldn’t wait to play in the city. When I was playing pro it was the same thing.”
So in 2009 when both knees swelled up after a street game, he knew it was time to stop playing professionally. He went back to Texas and got his degree in education and started an AAU basketball team – the Austin Rain.
But once he got his degree, he began talking to coaches about becoming an assistant. University of Houston assistant Talvin Hester saw Jeremy Shulman’s ad. Hester knew Jeremy from recruiting Kyle Meyer last season and told Freeman it would be a good place to start.
“Once I got the opportunity I was full throttle,” Freeman said. “I already knew what this would be like … doing laundry, driving the van. Nothing surprised me, I was prepared and ready to get to work.”
And he has done just that, actually hitting the court with the team during practices showing them how the plays should be run.
“He brings so many characteristics, he brings a wealth of knowledge. He has done it at every level. He brings a different perspective, from that of a big-time player. He is an unbelievable skills development coach … the work he does with these guys during individual sessions. The work he has done to help these guys improve is unbelievable,” Shulman said. “He brings a mentor figure. He is there for the guys no matter when it is.”
In fact Freeman is doing so well that Shulman is convinced it won’t be long before a Division I team scoops him up, but for now he is happy to have him on his side.
And happy that he made that phone call.