25 August, 2023
10 September
Austin Reaves _ USA
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King James' unlikely heir: Reaves-mania taking over the World Cup

MANILA (Philippines) - Basketball is beautiful. What else can take a kid from a 1,000-population small town all the way to global stardom halfway around the globe?

Austin Reaves cherishes this whole FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 experience.

It's not just about showing up and listening to the 11,000 people in the stands of the Mall of Asia Arena go nuts any time he does anything. Reaves is one of the leaders of this United States generation, and he's already caught his LA Lakers teammate in historical terms at the World Cup.

"I WAS ONE OF THOSE KIDS WATCHING THE WORLD CUP, THE OLYMPICS."- Austin Reaves on cherishing his moments at the World Cup

He scored 12 points in the game against New Zealand to start the competition, then backed it up with 15 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in just 17 minutes of work against Greece, earning TCL Player of the Game honors and becoming just the second USA player with a 15/5/5 stat line since 1994.

No wonder the Filipino fans are crazy about him.

"Yeah, I've kinda seen it coming," Reaves said of the fans' reception.

"I was talking to (LA Lakers assistant coach) Phil Handy, he was telling me that they love the Lakers out here, so I've kinda seen it coming. It's special to me. I'm from a super small town obviously, not a lot of people expected me to be here, representing our country. For them to accept me the way they accept me, it means a lot to me."


His career has really gone off since being undrafted in 2021, and opting for a two-way contract with the Lakers. It took him less than two months to turn it into a standard NBA contract, and he entered the summer with a contract extension.

With growing contracts, there are also growing roles. The Lakers don't expect him to relax and be complacent, and the same goes for the national team, too. Coach Steve Kerr is not worried about Reaves' lack of international experience.

"This guy kicked our butt in the NBA Playoffs few months ago. He may be young, but we've got guys who can play, who have proven it in the NBA and the NBA Playoffs, they are fearless. I love watching them play," the playcaller expressed his faith in Austin's abilities.

The 25-year-old won't back away from the pressure moments.

"I love it! That's what you play for, every kid wants to be at this stage, and I was one of those kids watching the World Cup, the Olympics, every day I wake up and I cherish those moments, I don't take them for granted. I get to play with this much talent, it makes it for me. Everybody's selfless, there's no ego on the team, it's been really fun for me."

The starting lineup had their share of struggles in the first two games, off to slow starts. The second unit has been on point, though, with Reaves and Paolo Banchero leading the charge.

"The second unit really likes to get out and run. That starts on the defensive end, the intensity has got to be super high on that end, and once we have that, it makes the game easy because we're able to play in transition.

The United States will play another group game against Jordan on Wednesday. They already know they are through to the Second Round, where the challenges get tougher and tougher - two European teams await in a 3-0 Lithuania and a 2-1 Montenegro, posing much bigger tests than the First Round for the USA.

Austin Reaves doesn't mind. If anything, he's ready to learn some Lithuanian and Montenegrin trash talk and continue his worldwide rise.