Older German football fans will never forget the embarrassment of the 1978 German national team losing 3-2 against Austria in Cordoba, but for former Frankfurt Skyliner Tyrone Ellis, he will always have very fond memories of the Argentinean city. It was September third, 2017 as Ellis was hanging out in Cordoba as an assistant coach for Stan Van Gundy with team USA at the Fiba Ameri Cup and they were in the final against Argentina that had a very boisterous and rude fan base supporting them and not letting the Americans feel welcome. It was the second half, and it looked like Argentina would walk into the spring sunlight with the Gold Medal. Granted Argentina had a nice team with two NBA players Nicolas Brussino, and Nicolas Laprovittola and future NBA players Facundo Campazzo and Gabriel Deck not too mention legend Luis Scola, but he got a DNP in the game. Team USA was assembled with a roster of C type players, most with very minimal NBA experience like Darrun Hilliard, CJ Williams, Jameel Warney, or Marshall Plumlee. The only guy who had had real NBA experience was Reggie Williams who had played parts of seven seasons in the big show. It didn´t look good for Team USA in the waning moments in Argentina, but the Argentina squad hadn´t had a guy by the name of Reggie Hearn on their radar. The American actually wouldn´t make his NBA debut until February 5th, 2018 against Portland where he would sink his only NBA points with a trey and only two more games would follow. Team USA was down by 20 points, but Reggie Hearn turned the game around leading them to the Gold Medal with a 81-76 victory. “He was absolutely our main guy in helping us get the win. He played absolutely phenominal. I´m one of his biggest fans”, warned Tyrone Ellis. He scored 14 points in the win and hit key three´s down the stretch. He went on to average 10,0ppg in the competition and shot a whopping 47% from the parking lot. I reach Tyrone Ellis on a Tuesday night only 6 hours after 2004 BBL champion Fraport Skyliners announced the signing of Reggie Hearn. He last coached Hearn with the Stockton Kings a few years ago. At the moment Ellis is taking a break from coaching and giving back in other very meaningful ways. He is an inspirational teacher at the moment helping individuals get through difficult moments. “I´m so much more than just a basketball coach”, stressed Tyrone Ellis. After some small talk and mentioning I had beat cancer, we begin to talk about Reggie Hearn. At that moment, I didn´t know yet just how much of a connection that Ellis and Hearn actually had. “Reggie is very similar to me, just more mature than when I was with Frankfurt. He is a real class act. He will represent that organization very well. They will have absolutely no issues with him”, warned Tyrone Ellis. The Fraport Skyliners are in very good hands with Reggie Hearns as he is similar to Tyrone Ellis.
Reggie Hearn was born on August 14th, 1991 in Fort Wayne, Indiana and got his first connection to basketball at Fort Wayne Snider high school. He then played at Northwestern(NCAA) from 2009-2013. His first two years there must have felt like a total calamity as he played only 32 games and a total of 72 minutes. It seemed like he had nobody covering his back except for teammate Michael “juice” Thompson who would play for the Fraport Skyliners only a few years later. Thompson was a massive supporter of Hearn who saw the diligent and hard work that he would put in. He was playing his butt off on the second team and showing time in and time out that he could play with the starters. He finally got his opportunity as a junior as Northwestern suffered key injuries. Hearn played 61 NCAA games in his last two seasons and averaged 7.6ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 63.4%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 78.7% as a junior and took another step as a senior averaging 13.4ppg, 4.6rpg, 1.5apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 50.8%, 3PT: 33.6%, FT: 73.5%. In his junior year he scored 20 points in a 74-70 win over Illinois and as a senior had some big wins against Purdue netting 26 points and 23 points against Miss Valley State. He helped the school reach the NIT Elite 8 and NIT Sweet 16. It wasn´t only hard work that helped him mature and let his game grow, but it was taking advantage of the opportunity when injuries kicked in. “Making the most of the opportunity also helped him reach the NBA. He has always been ready for everything. No matter if he was a starter, came off the bench or mentoring players. He is always ready for whatever God has in store for him”, commented Tyrone Ellis.
The American began his professional career in 2013 and in 8 professional seasons played 284 G-league games and three NBA games for the Detroit Pistons. He remained 4 years with Reno, but also got further experience with the Idaho Stampede, Grand Rapids Drive, Stockton Kings, South Bay Lakers and G-League Ignite. He shot 40% or better from down town four times including twice with Reno and once with Stockton and South Bay. In his eight year career in the G-League he averaged 11,0ppg and shot 40% from outside making 619 three´s in 1540 attempts. Tyrone Ellis got a front row seat seeing his game progress and mature more under his guidance. I would of expected Ellis to describe him to another type of player, but for him Hearn plays like a Harrison Barnes. “Reggie is a jack of all trades. I played him 1-4 when he was with me. I even had him at the 5. He is so strong and is a sacrifice player. He knows when to make the big plays whether it is getting a stop, hitting a big three or taking the charge. Reggie is just very solid”, warned Tyrone Ellis. Hearn´s biggest strength is his shooting, basketball IQ, defense and playing the pick and roll, but he has more. “He makes mistakes, but the big difference is that he learns from them. He has great leadership qualities on and off the court”, expressed Tyrone Ellis. He will definitely put up points this season, but also will help Frankfurt on the defensive end as he can be an impact defender. “He can guard all positions. But he defends best at the positions three/four. He is really strong which gives him an advantage on offense. He is shorter than most bigs, but they won´t bully him. They can´t guard him on offense”, stated Tyrone Ellis. It is no secret that a hidden strength in his game is his rebounding. He averaged 4,2rpg in his 8 year G-League career being only 196cm. “He gets in the paint and really bangs. He is really good at frustrating guys and getting them out of their comfort zone”, said Tyrone Ellis. It will be a lot of fun to watch Hearn as he is a real three point sniper. Frankfurt last had a real lethal sniper with Andrew Rautins in the 2013-2014 season. Frankfurt will see a lot of that swish sound this season. “He is most valuable when he plays at the four. He slips out of screens so quickly and shoots the ball so fast. He can catch the ball and shoot it right away. He won´t come down. He can stretch the floor and create so much space. He is so lethal shooting”, warned Tyrone Ellis.
Tyrone Ellis doesn´t only marvel about his game, but also about his character as that is even greater than his game. His character allowed him to have such a strong G-League career as he was able to make the most of every situation. It is never easy trying to be consistent with a team and get in a healthy flow when you have teammates left and right playing only for their stats and that NBA contract. “Reggie started games, but also didn´t. When he came from the bench that was because I got directions from management. He never complained but was always a total professional at all times. It is really difficult to average a lot of points when your not an NBA or assignment guy. He found a way to be consistent and that had to do with his charachter”, warned Tyrone Ellis. People in basketball Frankfurt may be a little skeptical that Reggie Hearn can make an immediate impact because he has no prior overseas experience, but Ellis is very confident that his ex player will make the adjustment without difficulty. “The whole process will be easier for him now then it was for me. He is married. I pushed him already a long time ago to go overseas. I hated to see him take so long. But I understand that he wanted to keep trying for the NBA. It is everybody´s dream to get to the NBA. He had had a taste of the NBA and wanted more. He will adapt with no problems”, stressed Tyrone Ellis. One has to wonder why Hearn didn´t play more than 3 NBA games or had a longer NBA stay. In Hearn´s season he was teammates with Gabe Vincent who averaged only 8,0ppg and wasn´t better than Hearn, but he is in the NBA now with the Miami Heat. There are simply too many excellent players and too few NBA spots. “Yes that is how it is. Every player´s journey is different. It worked out for Gabe. He had the perfect coach in me to help guide him. When Hearn was there, Gabe averaged only 8 ppg, but the season after 23,0ppg coming off the bench. I attacked his mind. Gabe was the perfect player. Why didn´t Chris Williams or I make the NBA? We all had our own destiny. Reggie is good enough for the NBA. It´s all about timing. Look at Mike James. He destroyed the Euroleague for three years. Now he is looking for a NBA job. We cut him when he was in Phoenix. Every journey is different for each player. It is the same with coaches”, commented Tyrone Ellis.
There are three experiences that Ellis will never forget having with Reggie Hearn. The first was his incredible showing in 2017 in the final of the Fiba Ameri Cup game win over Argentina. The second and third times had nothing to do with basketball. “I don´t remember if it was in Toronto or Chicago, but Matt Jones and Reggie invited me into their room for a Bible study. That was profound. We had incredible conversations about God and marriage and the third was when Reggie invited me to hear him preach a sermon. That meant a lot to me. He knows how much of a strong believer I am in God. I don´t remember my clutch three´s or dunks in my career, but winning the title with Frankfurt and these experiences with Reggie I do”, warned Tyrone Ellis. The Fraport Skyliners don´t only have a gem with Reggie Hearn´s game, but off the court, the guy is the real deal. He got the ultimate compliment from Tyrone Ellis, a compliment that many brothers of sisters will never dare to say. “He is the type of guy that if you have a sister, you would want her to marry. How great of a character he is shows that I speak even more highly of that then his game. He is very consistent of being a great teammate and being a student of the game. He is every coach´s dream. He is a phenomenal person”, warned Tyrone Ellis. What can go wrong for the Fraport Skyliners when you have a second Tyrone Ellis?