Joe Reed’s college basketball career to this point has taken him to gyms of all sizes to play in front of crowds of all sizes.

Tonight carries the potential to be exceptional on both fronts.

The 6-foot-8 junior forward and Center Grove graduate will be among the trees at Purdue’s Mackey Arena with the Mastodons visiting the twice-beaten Boilermakers.

Whether all of the facility’s 14,846 seats will be filled is still up in the air.

What is fact is it will be the most people Reed has performed in front of since 15,638 filed into Illinois’ Assembly Hall last season to watch the Fighting lllini edge the ’Dons, 57-55.

A lot has changed since then. Mainly that Reed, who at 220 pounds is 15 pounds heavier than as a Center Grove senior in 2011-2012, is part of a formidable front line that includes mammoth senior post Steve Forbes and senior swing man Joe Edwards.

The 6-9 Forbes, a space-eater deluxe at 295 pounds, averages a team-high 15 points. Edwards, a 6-5 product of the same Chicago high school (St. Joseph’s) that in another era produced Isiah Thomas, carries an 11.3-point scoring average for the Mastodons.

Through his first five games this season, Reed is averaging 27.2 minutes of court time, second-best on the team. He’s averaging 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds.

“Joe has had an exceptional offseason. He has probably been our most improved player over the course of the past six months both on the court and as a leader within our program,” said first-year ’Dons coach Jon Coffman, a former IPFW assistant elevated when Tony Jasick left in April to become coach at Jacksonville University.

“Joe and I have developed a great relationship over his two-plus years here, which has helped me tremendously with the team as I have transitioned to the head coach. His rugged play, energy, versatility, leadership and basketball IQ make him a vital part of both our team’s past and future success.”

Reed sat out IPFW’s first game this season, a 74-50 victory against Manchester College on November 14, due to back spasms.

He came off the bench to produce six points, two boards and a steal three nights later in a 74-71 win over SIU-Edwardsville and has been locked into Coffman’s starting rotation ever since.

“I came off the bench last year. Being a starter is really nice. I’m still not 100 percent (health-wise), because of the back spasms, but I’m doing better,” Reed said. “Honestly, the first couple of games I was worried about my back. Lately I’ve just been concentrating on basketball.”

Tonight’s game is the first time Reed will have played at Mackey Arena. Purdue is likely the tallest opponent IPFW faces, with 7-foot junior starter A.J. Hammons and 7-2 freshman backup Isaac Haas averaging 8.9 and 12 points, respectively.

“Purdue is a good team this year, so it’s going to be a test for us,” Reed said.

It’s IPFW’s first visit to West Lafayette in three years. Former Center Grove point guard Jonny Marlin was a freshman starter for the Mastodons in an 81-56 loss during the 2011-2012 season, scoring three points and dishing three assists.

Now it’s Reed’s turn.

Don’t anticipate IPFW taking the court intimidated. The Mastodons were 25-11 last season and runner-up in the Summit League Tournament after losing a 60-57 nail-biter to North Dakota State in the title game.

Nine members of Coffman’s 15-player roster are either juniors or seniors.

“We have a lot of good players back,” Reed said. “This should be one of our best chances to win our conference tournament.”

And if the ’Dons just happen to defeat or hang close to coach Matt Painter’s Boilers in a few hours, so much the better.

Joe Reed pullout


Name: Joe Reed

High school: Center Grove (2012)

Minutes per game: 27.2

PPG: 8.4

RPG: 4.4

APG: 1.8

FG percentage: .714

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.