Feeding the family: How Steph Reid’s team-first approach is paying off
By Daniel Herborn | The Pick and Roll
“Feed the family first before you eat”. That was what Steph Reid’s college coach always told her, and they’re words that continue to shape her game. “That’s something I hold very close to me,” she tells The Pick and Roll.
The 26-year-old Townsville Fire point guard is leading the league in assists per game (7.4) going into round eight, driving hard and kicking out to open shooters and using her vision and guile to find cutters. “Our team has a very talented offensive lineup, so I make sure I’m getting them into the game,” she explains. “We’re really happy for each other’s success. We don’t mind who scores on the day as long as we get the win.”
After a breakout season in WNBL22 that saw her get a taste of playing for the Opals, Reid has levelled up again this year and has arguably been the best Australian point guard in the competition. Her averages for points per game (15), rebounds per game (3.3), and assists per game are all career highs, but her approach coming into the season was to work on the intangibles and trust that the statistics would look after themselves.
“It’s about getting comfortable in the starting point guard role and being a leader,” she says. “It’s (my) job to run the team and be a second coach on the floor, so I’ve been trying to make sure our team executes well and is consistent in our energy. I’m trying to bring a positive presence to the floor and make sure my teammates are feeling good and are confident heading into games.”
Despite her pass-first mentality, Reid can score in bulk when needed. Against the Perth Lynx, she had 27 points, expertly utilising on-ball screens and drawing on her craft as a ball-handler to get herself open mid-range shots. The game underlined how teams can’t simply sag off Reid and ask her teammates to make shots.
There may have also been some gentle cajoling from a teammate behind the scoring explosion. “Mikaela Ruef has been on me a little bit at training, saying “Stop passing me the ball and shoot it!” Reid laughs. “She made a deal with me a couple of weeks ago; she said, “If you shoot the ball, I promise I’ll do everything in my power to get the rebound,” so that gave me confidence going into the game.”
On the defensive end, Reid has been her usual tireless self, pestering ball-handlers and making a nuisance of herself in passing lanes. She is averaging three steals per game, tied with Kelsey Griffin for the most in the league. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given her team-first attitude, being the steals leader was news to her, though she gives credit to her teammates for pressuring the ball and putting her in a position to pick up steals. “Defence is controllable,” she says. “It’s something I can bring to every game no what. It’s all energy and effort.”
Reid is now in her third season with the Townsville Fire and also plays with the Townsville Flames under head coach Shannon Seebohm during the NBL1 seasons. She says being able to continue her skills development with Seebohm year-round has been “invaluable” in her development as a player: “He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and he’s so dedicated to every one of us. What he’s done for my game has been unbelievable, and it’s purely because he’s been invested in making me a better player.” In news that will warm the hearts of Fire fans, she has no plans to go anywhere else. “I’ll definitely be staying with him next season to hopefully continue that upwards trajectory,” she says.
Reid’s continued improvement and stellar form have seen the Fire go into Christmas in third place with a 5-2 record; their only losses have been to the two sides above them, the Melbourne Boomers and Bendigo Spirit. In one of the most hard-fought games of the season, the Fire went down by two points to the latter team. But the Fire are hard markers of their own form and weren’t content with a close loss to a fellow contender. “We didn’t shoot well at all, and we were really disappointed with ourselves defensively,” Reid says of the Bendigo loss. “Next time, we’re going to have to come out a lot more aggressive. The defensive end is what we hang our hats on as a team. The offence will come, but we didn’t play hard enough or tough enough on defence, and we got bullied and outplayed.”
As well as refusing to settle for ‘good enough’ results, an unselfish approach is a vital part of the Fire ethos. Reid says this season’s new import additions, forward Tianna Hawkins and shooting guard Karlie Samuelson, have proved a great cultural fit. “Sometimes imports can be hit or miss, but we’ve struck gold with both of ours. They’re unbelievable players and unbelievable people; they’ll do absolutely anything to win. It’s not about them; it’s about the team.”
This approach is winning fans over, with a season high 2107 pouring into the Townsville Entertainment Centre for the team’s win over the Lynx. Shortly before talking to The Pick and Roll, Reid was out shopping and was recognised by an older lady who had become a convert during that clash with Perth. “It was her first time coming to a game, and she’s absolutely fallen in love with our team.” It was a nice moment, but Reid and company aren’t settling for nice moments; sustained success is the name of the game. “The community have really become a part of (the team’s success). People are going to start bringing their friends and family. I think we play an exciting brand of basketball, and it’s only going to get bigger.” It seems good things happen when you feed the family first.