COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo — Cameron Reddish still remembers the hard lesson in humility he learned on his first trip to USA Basketball Junior minicamp as a baby-faced freshman back in 2014. Reddish’s opening assignment just happened to be the baddest player in the gym: A big, athletic senior wing out of Georgia by the name of Jaylen Brown.
“He was killing me,” Reddish said. “There was nothing I could do about it.”
Three years later, Brown is a starter for the Boston Celtics and Reddish is the senior star the younger players look at with awe. After coming here for four years, it was finally his turn to the do the humbling.
Reddish has grown three inches and gained 34 pounds from the first time he came to the U.S. Olympic Training Facility. His wingspan has increased from 6’8 to 7’1. In the process, he’s grown into something that looks like the prototype for the modern NBA player — a 6’7 wing with elite length and the type of versatility today’s game demands.
Reddish might be the best long-term NBA prospect here, but he’s also far from the most well-known. That makes him something of an oddity among basketball prodigies: He’s high on talent but low on hype. He isn’t a staple on SportsCenter and friends with Drake like Zion Williamson. He isn’t carrying a famous name like Bol Bol. He has accepted a scholarship to Duke, but still has only 7,000 followers on Twitter.
Instead, Reddish is described by the people who know him best as mild-mannered and introverted. While no one doubts his talent as a top-five overall recruit in the class of 2018, scouts have wondered why he sometimes seems a little too willing to blend in instead of stand out.
“Cam is probably the best overall talent here,” said assistant coach Penny Hardaway. “If he brings it every time he’s on the floor.”
Reddish is a natural in just about every way. He showed the ability to play both on and off the ball throughout the camp, Eurostepping around defenders one possession and hitting spot-up jumpers the next. He creates offense in a way that feels effortless, getting to his spots with little resistance and flashing a rare ability to make jumpers off the dribble at such a young age. His combination of reach and quickness gives him the ability to potentially guard up to four positions.
Reddish’s talent is so overwhelming that it has a way of leaving you wanting more. If the game comes this easily to him, why did he only shoot 40 percent from the field on Nike’s EYBL circuit? Why did his team only finish the season 7-9?
“Is he gonna be an every play guy? That’s what you wonder about,” said Jon Givony of ESPN (formerly of DraftExpress). “Everyone wondered that about Paul George coming out of college. Why isn’t he winning? Why doesn’t he play hard all the time? Guess what, the guy is so good that it doesn’t matter.
“I think Cam Reddish has a lot of Paul George in him, for better or for worse.”
Reddish grew up six miles outside of Philadelphia in Norristown, Pa. After spending his freshman season at Haverford School, he transferred to Westtown, a private boarding school with a burgeoning basketball program tucked away about 45 minutes from the city. That’s where his development hit an inflection point.
Coach Seth Berger knew he had the makings of a special team. He just had to figure out a way to make the pieces fit. At center he had Mohamed Bamba, a freakishly long, agile big man now at Texas currently projected as a top-five pick in the 2018 NBA draft. On the wing he had shooter Brandon Randolph, a top-50 recruit who will play for Arizona this season. Berger needed a point guard to get them the ball. That’s where Reddish came in.
There were growing pains at first as Reddish adjusted to a new position. The team’s turnovers tripled at the start of the experiment, and Berger saw Reddish’s confidence wane at times. That’s when he realized his biggest challenge with his new star would be keeping him engaged through his struggles.
“Cam’s an incredible perfectionist,” Berger said. “When Cam made one mistake that first year, I felt like I had to take him out of the game because he was going to shut down. Last year if he made two or three mistakes, I felt like he was gonna shut down.”
Eventually, Berger saw progress. Reddish started to get more comfortable initiating the offense, using his size to see over the top of any defender, and his vision to feed the team’s other stars. Suddenly Westtown had an oversized lead guard who was learning to strike a balance of when to score and when to facilitate. It culminated in back-to-back state titles.
Reddish is still trying to be a “next play” guy. Where scouts might see a lack of constant competitiveness, Berger sees a kind, gentle kid who demands excellence out of himself.
“When Cam shuts down, it’s when he’s frustrated with himself,” Berger said. “It’s not because he’s not interested in being the best he can be, or being disrespectful. It’s when Cam makes a few mistakes in a row, Cam gets really frustrated with Cam.
“Expect perfection, but accept humanity is one of our phrases. That’s what Cam’s still working through”
Reddish fits the ideal of what Duke was looking for on the recruiting trail. He’s next in a long line of multi-skilled wings that stretches from Jabari Parker to Justise Winslow to Brandon Ingram to Jayson Tatum. Each of those players went one-and-done out of college and became top-10 picks in the NBA draft. Reddish is expected to follow that path, too.
“I thought he was awesome,” said Givony after watching him at the camp. “He really eased some of the concerns people have about him being too passive. I thought he was really aggressive.
“He’s very much a prototype with his size, body, length, and athleticism. He should have no problem guarding fours with that length and body type. Offensively, he can play any position: point guard, the two, the three. He can do a lot of different things. I think he’s a really unique guy.”
Rivals recruiting analyst Eric Bossi was just as effusive in his praise:
“He’s like Jimmy Butler 2.0 to me,” Bossi said. “If you go in the lab and create a basketball player, it would probably look something like Cam Reddish.”
Reddish left zero doubt about his talent at the minicamp. Taking the time to learn point guard for his high school team has made him a confident ball handler and heady passer. He shot well from three-point range off the catch, but looked even better creating his own shot off the dribble. Defensively, there’s no mistaking that huge wingspan. It all goes into his case to be the most versatile prospect in the class of 2018.
Yet, Reddish remains soft-spoken and shy even as his reputation continues to grow. Traces of the timid freshman who was once dominated by Jaylen Brown still show up sometimes. Then he’ll unleash a hesitation dribble and uncoil those long arms to splash a pull-up jumper. If Cam Reddish questions his talent, he’s the only one.