Up Close: Reggie Bullock, Part III

Inside Carolina's Matt Morgan traveled to Kinston to put together a three-part feature story on North Carolina signee Reggie Bullock. Here's Part III ...

Part III

KINSTON, N.C. --- Kinston High's Wells Gulledge has seen Reggie Bullock do a lot of things over the last four years.

But the one thing the coach has never seen Bullock do is ask how many points he scored. Not once.

"After every game it's not 'Coach, how many points did I score?' It's 'Coach, how many rebounds did I get?'" Gulledge said. "To me, that says a lot about him."

Some of Bullock's team-first mentality came pre-packaged. The rest was learned early in his career at Kinston High.

Bullock was the first freshman to play varsity at Kinston in over a decade and joined a team full of talented upperclassmen like future Gatorade Player of the Year Donovan Ingram and North Carolina football player Quinton Coples. Unlike most budding stars who see teams and systems change for them, Bullock had to wait his turn.

There wouldn't be 30 shots out there for any player, let alone a freshman. Bullock had to earn his minutes and he'd earn them by playing his role.

After a solid freshman year, Bullock exploded on the national scene as a rising sophomore, earning a ranking in the top 10 in his class and interest from top colleges. But when Bullock took the court for the Vikings, he still played within the Kinston system and helped the Vikings win a 3-A state title.

This year Bullock is still one of the top players in America, averaging 24.5 points per game with 16 double-doubles. He was recently named to the USA Junior National Select Team and will be a McDonald's All-American selection, but he's still just a cog in the Kinston machine.

"Reggie could probably shoot the ball 38 times and score 40 points a game but we probably wouldn't be as good of a team as we are," Gulledge said. "I think he's really going to fit in with the system at the University of North Carolina."

Some players talk about letting the game come to the them but Bullock actually backs it up. The smooth swingman will go minutes, sometimes quarters, without stringing multiple shots together.

"That's why we're one of the top teams in the state, we just all play together," Bullock said. "I don't go out with a goal like I'm trying to get 40 tonight. If I come out with 14 and I played very well and had boards, I'm cool with that."

Bullock's philosophy shouldn't be mistaken for passivity or timidness. He just has a great understanding of ball movement and space. Bullock is big on reading the defense and playing the odds. If he's seeing extra coverage, someone else is open. If someone else is getting the double, he's open — and he's not afraid to shoot.

"If a player has his hands down, it's automatic to me, I'm pulling that shot," Bullock said. "My coach always tells me: hands down, man down; hands up, go to the cup. That's how I feel about the game of basketball."

While his offensive philosophy hasn't changed this season, his impact has. Not only is he finishing stronger around the rim, but he's also rebounding more. Both of which have a lot to do with Bullock's introduction to the weight room last summer.

Earlier in his career, Bullock was notorious for his aversion to lifting weights.

"That weight room was like 220 volts of electricity," Gulledge joked. "He felt like if he touched the door, it'd singe his hair."

But Bullock was coaxed into lifting by an unexpected source, Kinston High football coach Battle Holley.

"He always stays on me saying ‘Reggie, if you want to play when you get into Carolina, you've got to get in the weight room,'" Bullock said.

Bullock finally listened to Holley and started lifting last summer. Since then, not only has his play on the court improved but he's also handling injuries better.

"Basically I know if I want to continue playing basketball in college and hopefully the NBA, I've got to stay in the weight room," Bullock said. "I know I've got to get my body fit to take all the pressure and all the pounding on the hardwood with my knees.

"I'm actually loving it right now."

Gulledge said after a few months of lifting, Bullock no longer walks around the locker room in an under shirt. Instead he proudly goes shirtless with his new physique.

"I knew he had it when he started flexing," Gulledge said. "When he started flexing and there weren't any tweetie birds coming out of there any more, I felt like he was there."

After strength coach Jonas Sahratian gets his hands on Bullock at Carolina, Gulledge said, the wiry wing should put on another 12 pounds before the season. But he also said Carolina fans shouldn't worry about Bullock getting too big. Nothing could mess up that shot.

"You can put a piano on his back and he could shoot," Gulledge said. "That kid has a God-given stroke. It's heavenly."

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