ALBANY — His last name attracts plenty of attention on its own, but Aaron Reddish wants his game to speak for itself.
At this past week’s opening summer workout for the UAlbany men’s basketball program, the 6-foot-7 freshman perimeter player got an assist in sending that message in the form of the words written in gold across the front of his black T-shirt. “Prove yourself right,” in all capital letters, was printed across the chest of the shirt each Great Dane wore as they held their first full-team session with new head coach Dwayne Killings leading the way.
That slogan, Reddish said, fit his mood and outlook.
“Yeah, definitely,” Reddish said. “I mean, it says it on the shirt. We’ve got to prove ourselves — but not only [prove] ourselves [right], but everybody else wrong.”
As a freshman, Reddish wants to help UAlbany to its first winning season since the 2017-18 season, and to vindicate those who think the younger brother of Cam Reddish — a member of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks — was significantly under-recruited during his high school years.
Count Killings — whose reputation as an assistant coach was one of a top-notch recruiter — as one of those people.
“He got overlooked,” Killings said matter-of-factly of Aaron Reddish, a player the coach has known ever since recruiting the older Reddish brother who ended up playing his one season of college basketball at Duke.
A variety of circumstances played into that for Aaron Reddish, a player who possesses a combination of athleticism and length that’s atypical for a player in the America East Conference. Reddish’s high school years started in Pennsylvania and ended in Georgia, and he played at two different high schools in each of those states. The shifting from one high school to another, plus the novel coronavirus pandemic’s effect on AAU basketball and recruiting during the summer prior to his senior year, seemed to play a major role in keeping Reddish from developing more of a profile.
“He was in a different school each year of high school, which made things challenging,” said Zanthia Reddish, the incoming freshman’s mother. “He really did have quite the journey. His experience was a lot different than Cam’s.”
The Reddish family — mom Zanthia, dad Bob, and sons Cam and Aaron — had lived in Norristown, Pennsylvania, but moved to Georgia together after the Hawks selected Cam Reddish with the 10th overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
“We knew wherever he went, we all were going,” said Zanthia Reddish, who has a doctorate in education and previously worked as a school principal, but now operates a consulting firm along with her husband and sister called “Impoweredd” that specializes in helping families navigate sports and educational programs.
Zanthia Reddish, too, has recently written a book entitled “Alley-Oop: The Ultimate Assist for Parents of Athletes,” that’s meant to serve as a “guide written especially for parents of athletes of all ages and all sports.” When it comes to her younger son, one of the lessons Zanthia Reddish said she learned firsthand was how “it’s not always easy to be the younger brother of,” and she and her husband — who played college basketball at Virginia Commonwealth — always worked to make sure Aaron Reddish didn’t feel forced into playing basketball because of his older brother’s success.
“We wanted to make certain this was what he wanted to do,” said Zanthia Reddish, who said her younger son — besides basketball — played multiple instruments growing up and displayed a natural talent for music.
Aaron Reddish committed to play at UAlbany in May of this year, two months after Killings’ hire. Reddish referred to Killings’ hire at UAlbany as a “blessing,” and the first-year head coach said he likes the approach of the teenager with the easily recognizable last name in basketball circles.
“The cool thing about Aaron is he’s determined to make his own mark and have his own basketball story,” Killings said.
During UAlbany’s first summer workout, which included a healthy dose of conditioning drills, Reddish said he was “not going to lie; it was hard.”
But he didn’t mind that.
“It’s all about pushing yourself to get better every day,” Reddish said.
At UAlbany, that’s what Reddish wants to do. He wants to prove himself, on his own, and play a significant role in the Great Danes’ moving up the America East standings after the program produced a 20-24 mark in league play during the last three seasons.
“I think we can really do something special this year,” Reddish said.