Mitch Reaves felt just fine when he woke up Sunday morning despite being deprived of sleep.
That’s because he and the rest of the Cal Poly Mustangs – with their 13-19 record – are in the Big Dance as the 68th and final seed.
“I woke up after my hour-and-a-half sleep and thought, ‘Wow, we’re Big West champions,’ ” Reaves said. “It’s crazy that we’re here.”
Reaves, a 2004 River Ridge High School graduate, is in his fifth season with Cal Poly and first as an assistant coach.
The Mustangs earned the Big West’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament as conference tournament champion. They face Texas Southern (19-13) at 3:40 p.m. Wednesday (truTV) in a play-in game in Dayton, Ohio.
The winner gets Wichita State (34-0), the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, on Friday in St. Louis in the round of 64. This is Cal Poly’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament as a Division I
As a student at Washington State – Reaves admitted he failed to attract a basketball scholarship offer in high school – he got the itch for coaching because he knew his playing career was done. At River Ridge, Reaves was a three-year starter at point guard for coaches Chris Spivey and Dennis Johnson. His stats weren’t jaw-dropping; he labeled himself as a “glue guy.”
“I helped guys understand their roles, and played mine,” Reaves said Monday from the team hotel in Dayton.
Once at WSU, he emailed then-coach Dick Bennett about becoming involved with the program. Reaves was a student-manager for three seasons, including 2006-07 and 2007-08 during the Cougars’ back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.
He jumped on board with Enumclaw’s Joe Callero – older brother of former South Puget Sound Community College men’s coach Marc Callero – at Seattle University as director of basketball operations after graduating with a degree in sports management. He followed Joe Callero in 2009 to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
After four years as Cal Poly’s director of operations, Reaves was promoted by Callero to assistant coach this season. The 27-year-old is now in charge of player development for wings and the defense.
Cal Poly entered last week’s Big West tournament after losing seven of its final nine games to end the regular season, including a 71-55 loss to UC Santa Barbara in the finale. Five days later, it trounced UCSB, 69-38, then defeated top-seeded UC Irvine and, in the tournament title game, Cal State Northridge.
Senior forward Chris Eversley was tournament MVP, and Reaves commended him and the play of two other seniors for helping the Mustangs get to the NCAA tournament.
“Their leadership skills and endurance – mentally and emotionally – is how we got to where we are,” Reaves said. “The good part is we peaked at the right time and hope to continue playing good basketball this week.”
MCDONALD HELPS SAINT MARY’S TO WNIT
Samira McDonald, a 2012 River Ridge graduate who helped the Hawks win the 2010 Class 2A state title as a sophomore, is a redshirt freshman on Saint Mary’s women’s basketball team.
The Gaels (22-9) accepted a bid to play in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).
Saint Mary’s will face Cal State Bakersfield of the Western Athletic Conference on Friday. McDonald has played in 25 games – including one start – for the Gaels this season.
SAINTS DUO HONORED
Saint Martin’s pitchers Sam Munger and Josh Moss were selected the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s softball player and baseball pitcher of the week, respectively. Munger hit .458 over eight games, including three multihit games. In the circle, she went 3-2 with a 1.97 ERA over 39 innings. Moss, a Rochester High graduate, allowed one earned run on four hits while striking out a season-high seven over eight innings in a 3-2 win Friday over Montana State-Billings.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/ southsoundsports @megwochnick