Once you enter what is billed as "the world's largest resort town" and head down Kempsville Road, you see a building that vaguely resembles a pint-size sports arena, round with a dome on top.
But this is no sports arena, it's the Rock Church, with a big, white satellite dish on the roof. Inscribed on its cement wall is a biblical passage from Psalm 18:2, which reads, "The Lord is my Rock and my fortress, and my deliverer . . . "
Next to this spiritual haven is the road leading to Kempsville High School, catering to a mostly white, middle-class community, enrollment 2,117, including a young man many college basketball coaches around the United States consider a rock and a fortress in his own right.
That would be J.R. Reid, considered to be one of the nation's top two or three high school players. Reid has narrowed his choice of college to Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and UCLA but says he probably won't announce until April.
At 6 feet 10 and 247 pounds, he still may be growing.
Most important for the college coaches who have driven down that road past that church to try to woo him to their campus, he is the type of player who may be able to deliver a national championship.
In Kempsville's season opener, Reid hit 12 of 12 from the floor (including four dunks) and six of seven from the free throw line for 30 points, got 12 rebounds and blocked two shots in 23 minutes. Reid just missed outscoring the Bayside team, which lost, 61-31.
"J.R. was J.R. before that guy on 'Dallas' was J.R.," said Dick Ponti, the basketball coach at Kempsville, the school that sent running back D.J. Dozier to Penn State. Reid's initials come from Jr., as in Herman Reid Jr. The son loves the father dearly but decided he wanted to be called something other than Herman. His father said he doesn't mind.
Both his parents are teachers. Reid's mother, Jean, teaches fourth grade, and Herman Reid teaches physical education and coaches football and basketball at a junior high school. After graduating from St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C., Herman once tried out for the Baltimore Colts. When the son was in junior high at another school in the district, he played against his father's teams in both sports.
The Reids' home in a comfortable neighborhood near the school is a sign of their professional success. They are proud of J.R. and his 11-year-old sister Crystal, and they are proud they can provide for them.
They decided J.R. was mature enough to have a car that they own. There are no fancy wheels in the driveway or butler at the door, but this is definitely not the typical story of the star recruit coming from an impoverished background.
As one college coach said, "The parents have been working since they were in college and you're not likely to see (any questionable recruiting lures succeed) with this kid, where you might otherwise."
J.R. said there have been no offers that violate NCAA rules. "I haven't seen any of it," he said. "The five schools I'm looking at now are all class organizations and I don't think they deal in that sort of thing. I know it happens all over, though. I've heard guys talk about it at camps.
"But I think if they get to know my parents and get to know me, they'll know we're not like that, and that it's best for them that they don't bring that subject up. There's not too much that they can give me that I can't get from my parents. And if I can't get it from my parents, I don't think I need it in the first place. It would bother me (if someone offered). It's not right and it's really given basketball a bad name. It would be a slap in the face."
Herman Sr. agreed that it would be considered an insult, adding, "I'd turn them in to the NCAA."
Jean Reid said she has been dismayed and disturbed by reports of former college stars talking publicly about payoffs received or offered, as if disclosing it now would somehow cleanse their conscience.
"All those people talking about it makes it harder on the people trying to do it right," she said.
Jean and Herman Reid are trying to do it right. They took control of their son's recruitment from the start, drawing names from a hat to decide in what order the coaches would visit the home and in what order J.R. would visit campuses. They have told him he will be cheated if he does not earn his degree.
"Sure, I hope to play in the NBA," J.R. said, "but I've already told my parents that I'd get my degree, either in advertising or public relations."
Reid said his grades for the first quarter of his senior year were "an A, a B and three Cs, which is a 2.6 on a 4.0 scale. I took the SATs (college boards) in the spring and got 840. But I'm going to take them again because I know I can get higher."
He sees something wrong with placing young athletes on lofty pedestals.
"I'm getting so much attention and I really don't think that much attention should be put on basketball," said Reid, who got his first recruiting letter in eighth grade. "There are other things not having to do with athletics that should have some attention, also. Athletics are fine but I know academics come before that. Sports are okay but I think society should put some of that attention toward other things."
Most of the attention focused on Reid has to do with his skills on a basketball court.
Ponti said that Reid -- with a physique "a bit like Wayman Tisdale, only a little taller" -- has a unique style of playing.
"He can take the ball the length of the court and handle it well," Ponti said. "He passes real well and he can step out and shoot the 15- to 18-foot jumper. But to me the part of his game that I like the best is when he gets it inside. Once inside, it's over."
"The thing I like best," Ponti said, "is that he'll take a charge on a guy. If a guy's already in the air, there's not much chance you can go up, block the shot and not get some body. So, J.R. will just stand there. Last year he averaged four blocks, but he also averaged two charges."
As a seventh-grader, Reid stood 6-3. By his sophomore year -- the first he was eligible for varsity -- he was 6-7, 205 pounds. Last year Reid was 6-9 1/2 and 220, while averaging 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds and four blocked shots as Kempsville went 19-5. This season he is averaging 22.3 points and Kempsville is 8-2.
"He's just a horse," said Ponti, who suspects Reid will play at 245 in college. "He's just a big human, but he has the softest touch to be so big and powerful. But inside, he's got that upper body strength and he has so many moves. A jump hook with either hand, a great turnaround jumper, a crossover step or drop step and a dunk."
Ponti, Reid and a number of college coaches say Reid is likely to spend most of his career at power forward. "He could play as a spot player at small forward, and I'm sure that wherever he goes he'll be a spot player at center," said Ponti. "But his ticket is at strong forward."
Besides the basketball skill, Ponti thinks whichever college coach gets Reid will grow to love his attitude.
"He keeps things loose," Ponti said. "It's just personality. He's usually smiling and has an upbeat personality. On the court, he's all business. But he knows when to be serious and when you need a little fun, a little diversion."
At Kempsville's first game this season, Virginia Coach Terry Holland, Maryland Coach Charles G. Driesell and Terrapins assistant Oliver Purnell were in the stands. The second game, North Carolina Coach Dean Smith came to watch.
All of these men have seen Reid play before. He played at most of the top summer camps the past three years. As Howard Garfinkel, who runs the Five-Star Development Camp, put it, "He's cleaned up in the trophy department."
They continue to pay visits because Reid has yet to make his final decision. He still has two campus visits left -- Virginia on Saturday and UCLA some time in February -- and said he probably won't make his choice until the national letter-of-intent week in April.
"We think he's as good a player as there is," said Holland.
"He's a fine young man and we'd love to have him," said Driesell, who spent his wedding anniversary, with wife Joyce along, watching Reid.
Purnell joined Driesell's staff this season after spending 10 seasons as an assistant at Old Dominion. ODU is about a 15-minute drive, in traffic, from Kempsville High, and Purnell has spent considerable time tracking Reid's development.
"I know people want to say that Lefty hired him for that reason, but Oliver paid his dues," Ponti said. "He's been in line for several bigger assistant jobs, and he's recruited in D.C., Philly, New Jersey and he's from Maryland. Coach (Paul) Webb runs a first-class program at Old Dominion, so you know you're getting a guy that wasn't going to do illegal things.
"J.R. knows Oliver and likes Oliver and the family. But it's not like he and Oliver saw so much of each other. As a matter of fact, in the last year (while he was at ODU), Oliver only came over a couple of times. Coach Webb was doing all the recruiting of J.R. Oliver knows him from meeting with him and casually talking with him but people are talking as if with Oliver there Maryland's got a lock on J.R., and that's not the case."
Purnell thinks it unfair to imply that Driesell hired him solely because he has known J.R. for years.
"To make that inference doesn't take into account my ability to scout, recruit and help on the bench, and I've been a full-time assistant for 10 years and have been approached by other schools about jobs," Purnell said. "Those were the reasons I was hired, and not because I know J.R."
Given her maternal instincts and the fact she and her husband have seen most every game their son has played, it isn't surprising that Jean Reid has a slight preference on where he will attend college.
"As a mother," she said, "I'd like him to go to Virginia. It's the closest to home. But then Maryland and North Carolina aren't that much farther, and all of them are on TV a lot. But I realize he has to make the decision that's best for him.
"The other day, I asked him where he would go if he had to decide today. And he laughed at me and said, 'No way. You aren't getting any inside information.' "