The school bell rings in Chapel Hill in less than a month, and after what he has read and heard this summer J.R. Reid is more certain than ever of his decision to attend North Carolina.
"The problems at Maryland and U-Va. have made my decision to go to Carolina that much better," this season's most highly recruited high school basketball player said today before practicing with the U.S. Olympic Festival South squad.
A 6-foot-10, 240-pounder, Reid led Kempsville High of Virginia Beach to a 22-3 record last year and averaged 24.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.0 blocked shots. He chose North Carolina over Maryland, Virginia, Iowa and UCLA. He announced his decision long before the June 19 cocaine-induced death of Maryland's Len Bias and subsequent grand jury investigation, and the cocaine-trafficking charges brought against three Virginia football players.
At one point while he was being recruited, Reid was close to choosing Maryland, he said today.
"I would go on a visit, come back and say to my mom, 'I want to go there.' She would tell me to wait. If it wasn't for my mom, I would have signed with Maryland early in the late signing period. I was leaning toward Maryland, but my mom said to wait and see the other schools. And it turned out that she was right."
At one point, Reid's mother Jean had said she would like her son to go to Virginia so he could be close to home. Ultimately, though, Reid said she was as pleased with his selection as he was, "especially after all the problems at Maryland and U-Va."
Although some of the better high school players are not at the festival, Reid said Tar Heels Coach Dean Smith encouraged him to play. It is expected that some of the 1988 Olympic team will come from players who are competing here. Georgetown Coach John Thompson, who was expected to watch some of this week's play, will coach the Olympic team.
"Georgetown was one of the schools in my final nine," said Reid, who would like very much to play in the Olympics.
"But I didn't feel like I would fit in well with Georgetown. Coach Thompson stressed academics and really pushes players into going to class. I didn't think I needed that. I've always gone to class. My parents are teachers, and I didn't think I needed that guidance. But I still like Coach Thompson. I just didn't think that was best for me."
Reid, who will major in communications and said he will go into advertising or public relations, said he graduated with a 2.6 grade average.
He thinks random drug tests for athletes are a good idea. As far as being pressured by peers to try drugs himself, he said his own intelligence and the fact that his father is 6-5, weighs 270 pounds and once tried out with the Baltimore Colts have served as preventive measures.
"People always ask me to try it," he said. "I know what my dad would do if he found out I tried them. But I know what the problems are and what can happen.
"I just want to prove, that I'm not a media all-America, and that I really can play with anyone."