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PROGRESS 2024: Where are they now?: Creek grad Reed claims early starting role as freshman for Truett McConnell

Mar. 29—Brinkley Reed left Coahulla Creek High School as the all-time leading scorer in the history of the girls basketball program, but the 2023 graduate still wasn't sure exactly what to expect in her first year of women's college basketball.

The former Lady Colt arrived on campus in Cleveland ready to work, and that hard work paid off pretty quickly once the season started.

"I'm not really sure what I expected. I figured I'd get to play some, but I didn't know how much," Reed remembered. "As we started in the preseason, I knew that just working hard and staying committed was the best thing I could do."

Reed started as a contributor off the bench for the Bears when the season began in October.

In just her third collegiate game, Reed played 22 minutes and cracked double-digits in scoring for the first time with 12 points. By the sixth game, she started for the first time. By the eighth, she was a full-time starter.

"It was lots of extra hours in the gym shooting and working on conditioning. I knew that I could start, just because I could work hard and get there," Reed said. "I was a little shocked when I had the meeting with my coach and he told me to be ready, that I would be starting in the next game."

As a freshman guard, Reed was in the starting lineup for the team's final 23 games of the season. She scored in double-figures nine separate times in her first collegiate campaign, including a career-high 18 in a January game against Bluefield.

Reed ended the season averaging 7.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and one assist per game in her 23.1 minutes per game.

"It was a little bit of a shock, but I knew I could do it, because it's just all about your work ethic and how hard you work," Reed said.

Because of that hard work, Reed said, she was able to adjust to the differences in the high school and collegiate game.

"Man defense is much different than it is in high school. Everyone is just bigger and faster, and everyone is just as good as you. You have to stay disciplined on yourself and on your game," Reed said. "The pace of the game just goes a lot faster than in high school. It was challenging, but after a while I got used to it."

That started to show as Reed settled into the starting role. In a four-game stretch starting in early December, Reed scored 12 or more points in four out of six games, and one of the other two games was a nine-point outing.

Reed was a freshman surrounded by a lot of other young players, and Reed said she could feel the whole team getting more comfortable as the season went on too.

Truett McConnell started the season 2-9, but the NAIA program started to turn things around midseason.

"At the beginning of the year, as a team, we were really young and we weren't really clicking. We came back after Christmas break, we had a fire under us," Reed said. "After that, we were ready to roll."

The Bears ripped off a 7-4 stretch and claimed a spot in the Appalachian Athletic Conference Championship tournament. Reed said it was a goal of the team to make the tournament and to win a game, and Truett McConnell did just that, beating Columbia College 55-44 in a first round game.

"It was good to realize that goal," Reed said.

Truett McConnell met up with top-seeded Bryan in the second round, and Reed's freshman campaign ended with a 75-49 loss on Feb. 29, leaving the Bears with a 12-18 record for the season, a big jump from a 7-20 mark the prior year.

With a year of college basketball behind her, and those adjustments from the high school game out of the way, Reed is now locked in on returning to the gym and improving her skills ahead of next season.

"My biggest focus is getting better with my left hand," she said. "That's always been one of my biggest struggles, driving to the basket left-handed. Because the girls are all so big and strong, I really need to develop my left hand even more."

Reed also said she wants to improve her shooting percentage, which she plans to accomplish with lots of shots over the summer and some work on off-ball catch-and-shoot practice.

While working on her game, Reed is also getting started with some of the introductory classes for her education major.