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Reggie Hearn thought he'd be playing basketball overseas this winter, living the life of an international professional player.
He never imagined his rookie foray into pro ball would instead lead him right back through his Fort Wayne hometown. But everyone knows how those best-laid plans sometimes go.
Hearn, the former Snider High School and Northwestern University standout, will start at guard for the unbeaten Idaho Stampede (7-0) when they play the Mad Ants (1-4) at 7:30 tonight at Memorial Coliseum.
“I had my heart set on going overseas, but God had different plans for me,” Hearn said Friday. “I've been able to embrace that and it's allowed me to get back into my relationship with God, which is something I'd been neglecting. He's been able to give me comfort and peace with where I am and I know I'm where he wants me to be right now.”
Hearn said he was in negotiations with a team in Cyprus, but those negotiations fell through and other overseas franchises decided to go other directions.
The stark reality of proving himself all over again in the pro world hit him when he was back on the Northwestern campus, he said.
“It was just a humbling experience for me,” Hearn said. “I had been a pretty prominent player at Northwestern and I was telling people I was going overseas. I had my life planned out and then it doesn't end up turning out that way.
“I was on campus when football started and there were signs for Northwestern basketball saying 'A new start, a new era,' and I had the realization I'm no longer 'that guy' on the basketball team,” he said. “I had a few people who would call me 'Mr. Northwestern' and 'Big Man on Campus' and as much as I tried not to let that stuff get to me, I think it did to a point. Being on campus made me realize college had moved on without me and I was just sitting around waiting for something to happen in basketball. It was kind of humbling.”
After those overseas opportunities dwindled, Hearn put his name into the draft, and was picked by the Stampede. The fit has been good so far. He's playing 24 minutes a night, averaging 9.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He had a high of 16 points with six rebounds in a Dec. 7 win over Maine.
Hearn has come to appreciate the life of the D-League player and understanding that it's the closest league to the NBA, with players frequently earning 10-day NBA contracts.
“With it being essentially the NBA minor league, there's that caveat that just the same as you can be called up by any team, somebody can be sent down and your minutes could dwindle,” he said. “It goes both ways. That's part of the gig. We're affiliate with the (Portland) Blazers, and they're doing pretty well, so there's not much talk about bringing anybody down. The Blazers and the Stampede are having a good year so far.”
As soon as Hearn was drafted, his mother Lisa called from Fort Wayne, saying she'd already had people contacting her, excited about the Dec. 14 game when he would be playing against the Mad Ants.
Hearn said he expects a sizable contingent of Stampede fans (Hearn fans, really) when he takes the court in the Fort for the first time since the days he helped Snider to a state-runnerup title.
“I expect I will be a little nervous, playing in front of my hometown friends and family,” he said. “That hasn't happened for me in a while. I'll have a lot of friends and family and coaches and teachers from the past coming out. There should be a whole bunch of people. I'm ready to go.”