After arriving at Tulane as part of a monstrous seven-man class, Cameron Reynolds will have senior night all to himself Thursday at Devlin Fieldhouse.
He took the road less traveled by staying put, and his bumpy but ultimately rewarding five-year journey will make the experience bittersweet when the Green Wave (14-14, 5-11 American Athletic Conference) faces No. 10 Cincinnati (25-4, 14-2) in a rare appearance on ESPN.
"I've seen this place change, this court change and everything change, but all good things have to come to an end," he said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity I had to come here — thankful to (former) coach (Ed) Conroy, my parents for helping me stay the course and coach (Mike) Dunleavy and his staff."
That positive attitude has been Reynolds' hallmark from the beginning, allowing him to persevere through the adversity of losing seasons (Tulane has yet to finish above .500 in his career), two frustrating thumb injuries and Conroy's firing at the end of 2015-16.
The payoff: If he reaches double figures against the Bearcats, he will climb into the top 15 on Tulane's all-time scoring list (1,345 points) with a realistic chance to crack the top 12 before the season ends.
It is not the quite the level his father, Billy, reached with 2,009 points in the 1970s at Northwestern State, where he remained the top scorer in school history for 40 years until his record was broken last season.
But it is impressive in its own right.
Reynolds, a versatile, 6-foot-6 native of Pearland, Texas, can hit 3s, as his team-high 136 in the past two years attests. He can drive to the basket, too, but what separates him is his midrange game, a lost art.
Lately, Reynolds has made a series of 8-footers from the baseline, exhibiting excellent touch on a shot most players never practice.
"I pride myself in scoring a lot of ways," he said. "It really starts with my dad. He knew I was going to be tall, and coaches would always want to stick me down low, so he just wanted me to be versatile and play all over the floor so I wouldn't be in a box."
His scoring average of 17.0 as a junior is the third-highest for any Wave player since the turn of the century, behind Josh Davis in 2012-12 (17.6) and Ledaryl Billingsley in 2000-01 (18.0). His numbers are down slightly as a senior, primarily because of junior Melvin Frazier's explosion, but he still ranks second on the team in scoring (15.4) and first in rebounding (6.4).
Dunleavy saw his potential right away, declaring Reynolds his starting power forward early in 2016-17 preseason practice even though he played guard in the past. That label means less with the interchangeable positions in modern basketball, but it was a testament to his confidence in Reynolds.
"He has a great low-post game," Dunleavy said. "He can post guys bigger than he is and is good with the ball off the dribble. He can make plays. He is very skilled for that position."
It took a while for Reynolds to display those attributes because of his hand issues during Conroy's tenure. After averaging 3.8 points in 18 minutes as a freshman, he broke his thumb nine games into his sophomore season and redshirted.
Less than a year later, he hurt the thumb again in a Halloween scrimmage at Iowa State, a moment he recalls with clarity.
"I was driving through the middle of the lane, and a guy tripped me, they called a foul and I landed on his foot," he said. "I knew what it was right away because it hurt so bad. It was frustrating because I felt like I was going to have a breakout year."
Instead, he missed the first four games and scored 10 or more points only three times in the first 20 as the Wave broke down in Conroy's final year, going 12-22. He showed glimpses of the potential he would realize under Dunleavy in rare back-to-back overtime wins against East Carolina and Memphis, sinking a go-ahead 3 in the second overtime at ECU and a tying 3 near the end of regulation as the Wave stunned Memphis at Devlin Fieldhouse.
With the exception of center Ryan Smith, who graduated last year, Reynolds watched his freshman classmates depart quickly. Mikael Herbert and Ray Barreno left after the first year. Jonathan Stark, Payton Henson and Josh Hearlihy transferred after their sophomore seasons.
Stark was named Ohio Valley Player of the Year this week at Murray State. Henson scored his 1,000th college point recently and will play in the NCAA tournament for the second straight time if top seed Vermont wins the America East tournament. Hearlihy is averaging 11.4 points at Seattle, his third school.
Reynolds stayed because he saw playing time opening in front of him. His resilience should get him a rousing reception during his ceremony.
"I think I made the right decision in the long run to stick it out," he said. "Even when things weren't going my way, I've always been a person who's tried to overcome and make the best of it."