'Guys like him just find a way': Chandler Reeck's journey from shoulder surgery to college hoops
Some of the 100 or so recruiting emails that Dan Weisse gets every week catch his eye more than others. A local player, for example — the Minnesota Crookston men’s basketball coach wants Minnesota players. If Weisse can tell the kid is emailing him specifically, rather than sending the same plea to every program in shouting distance, he’ll be sure to take a closer look. Maybe he can glean some of his values and makeup from the body of text. And if he likes the film he sees, too, he might just give him a call.
In late February or early March, an email from one Chandler Reeck arrived in Weisse’s inbox. The email didn’t describe some Mr. Basketball, some seven-foot athletic freak. It was a 6-foot-1 guard from Edina with shoulder problems who averaged 6.5 points per game his senior season.
Reeck was just being honest. Yes, the previous summer he had been unable to lift his left arm above his head; had needed his dad’s help to shower and brush his teeth. But Weisse saw beyond that. He saw what Reeck wanted him to see — a determined kid, knowledgeable about the program, just looking for an opportunity.
“That’s when the phone calls started to take place,” Weisse recalled. “ … We talked about his parents, brothers and sisters. Talked about what his goals are as a basketball player. Some guys (have) the attitude of, whatever you need me to do for the team to win is what I’m gonna do. And that’s the attitude that he has.”
That’s the short version of how Chandler Reeck became a Golden Eagle.
There’s a longer version, that gets going before Reeck’s junior year at Edina. During a summer game, he swooped in for a loose ball, overextending his arm in the process. His shoulder popped out. He didn’t think it was that big a deal until a week later, when at a different camp, it popped out twice in the same day.
It was a torn labrum, but it was too soon before the season to do much about, other than therapy and a shoulder brace. Reeck got minutes, but his coaches were wary about giving him too many, considering he was barely able to use his left arm anyway.
“I’m still not able to sleep on my left side,” he says. “You really do need your left arm. It’s kind of crazy when you don’t have it, the things that you’re limited to do.”
The idea was for Reeck to be fully healthy by the time his senior year started. That meant two surgeries right after his junior season ended. Two months of sleeping in a recliner so as not to damage his shoulder further, six months of daily therapy throughout the summer. But it meant that his goal of playing college basketball, previously on the back burner, was still alive.
“Once my shoulder started acting up, I really started focusing more on school and not as much on sports,” he said. “But then, once I realized that even with my shoulder I was still performing pretty well and doing as much as I can, I was like, this could be a thing.”
With only one arm, he had figured out how to compensate for his limitations: his game, at one point bordering on reckless, was more subtle now. Always a strong defender, he didn’t lash out on defense as much, instead playing back and waiting for an opponent’s mistake.
By his senior season, Reeck was, indeed, a full go. Schools like St. John’s and St. Thomas knew that, and started reaching out.
But Reeck knew that if he wanted to play collegiately, he had to reach out back.
“I’m a pretty outgoing person,” he says. “I make connections with people easily, I wasn’t shy about the whole recruiting thing. In school, I’d always be a good presenter and stuff like that, so I always wanted to put myself out there. I just used my personality to help with the recruiting stuff. … You wanna get recruited, you can’t just wait for them to recruit you.”
Here’s what Reeck was able to sell: he had overcome a debilitating injury and a lost season and was still competing in Class 4A ball in the Twin Cities. He was guarding the other team’s best player night in and night out and doing a little bit of everything else. He was averaging four rebounds, four assists and two steals per game. What coach doesn’t love that kind of hustle?
“He has been set back, but he hasn’t used that as an excuse,” Weisse said. “He’s a team-first guy. He’s a Steady Eddie. He’s gonna compete, and if the other guy takes it easy or has that little lull, he’s gonna make that guy pay for that. We need those guys that are gonna press the envelope every day in practice.”
Weisse says that Reeck’s freshman year will be particularly crucial. The Golden Eagles are guard and newcomer-heavy. When Reeck committed in April, it gave them 12 newcomers, and somewhere in the area of 10 players who can play at either the ‘1’ or ‘2’. Reeck is fully in that mix, but there’s work to do yet.
“I’m really looking forward to getting in the weight room and getting bigger,” Reeck says. “ … I’m really trying to be a true point guard, distributing the ball, getting out and running. Right now, I’m actually focusing on my jump shot the most. I’m a streaky 3-point shooter, but I wanna become more consistent.”
But the fact that Reeck is here at all, after all he’s been through already, leads to this conclusion: if he thinks he can do all that, who’s to bet against him?
“Guys like him tend to just find a way to get things done,” Weisse said. “He’s gotta stay injury-free, but with his attitude and how he goes about things, he’s gonna add to this team. If he can just learn how to play at this level with that type of attitude, he’ll have a chance to play.”
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