Normally, Joe Reed would have spent most the offseason refining his game.
Instead, he spent much of it seeking relief from a sore back.
Now that he’s found a reprieve, the former Center Grove standout is making his presence felt on the IPFW men’s basketball team.
Pain-free and re-energized, Reed is a full-time starter for the Mastodons (7-3), who travel to Assembly Hall tonight for a televised showdown against Indiana (6-3).
Limited last season by a bulging disc in his back, Reed has started all 10 games and is averaging a career-high 10.1 points per game. Equally important, he is a veteran leader on a team that has welcomed a host of new players.
“We’re doing real well,” said Reed, a four-year player whose team is off to a 7-3 start. “I thought it was going to be pretty hard for us to transition and (would) have a little bit of a slow start, but we’ve really come out playing well together.
“We’ve shown a lot of heart.”
So has Reed, who was limited with the back issue last season but still played in 30 games, started 17, and averaged 4.5 rebounds and a career-high 8.2 points.
Although he missed a few early games and wasn’t always a full participant in practice, he made it through the majority of the season — despite chronic pain — and helped the Mastodons finish 16-15 and advance to the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament.
Afterward, his offseason goal was to get healthy and save his best basketball for last.
So far, he’s on track.
One of four Mastodons averaging double figures, Reed is shooting 48 percent from the field and averaging 3.8 rebounds despite spending as much time in the trainer’s room as he did in the gym.
“My biggest focus this offseason was physical therapy and getting my back better,” Reed said. “Last year I was struggling and wasn’t able to practice (regularly), so this year my focus was just being able to be on the court as much as possible, and that’s helped a lot. As far as my game, the offseason was pretty much spent on a lot more perimeter play, being able to work with the (new) personnel that we have and being able to come off more pick-and-pop, and more stuff like that.
“Coming down the stretch (last season), mainly I was saving up everything for a game and was not able to practice as much.”
Now that he’s a regular practice participant, he has recaptured — and enhanced — his starting status.
An on-again, off-again starter throughout his career, Reed is a fixture in the regular lineup. He averages a career-high 27.8 minutes per game and lends versatility to a balanced team that likes to spread the offensive wealth.
“My role really hasn’t changed much. The personnel around me has changed a little more,” he said. “I play a lot of swing (forward) and (center), depending on matchups … just being able to guard a lot and be able to post up players or step around the outside and shoot a little more.”
Reed looks forward to the opportunity to display his skills tonight against the Hoosiers. The Mastodons are playing IU for the first time in school history.
“It’s a great opportunity for our program, and i(Assembly Hall) is a real great atmosphere,” Reed said. “I think it will be a big game for us to be able to play in an atmosphere like that.”
A psychology major, Reed plans to attend graduate school to study physical therapy. He is on track to receive his bachelor’s degree in May.
“It’s honestly flown by. I’ve just been thinking about how quickly time is going,” he said. “Honestly, it’s just kind of flown by. I’ve enjoyed all of it.”
Name: Joe Reed
Size: 6-8, 225 pounds
High school: Center Grove (2012)
2015 stats: Started all 10 games; has per-game averages of 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds; shoots 48 percent from the field
2014-15 highlights: Played in 30 games with 17 starts; had per-game averages of 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds.
2013-14 highlights: Played in all 36 games as a backup; scored in double figures 13 times; averaged 8.1 points and 5.3 rebounds
2012-13 highlights: Played in 32 games with 11 starts; averaged 4.5 points and 3.6 rebounds.