Celtics

After signing with the Celtics, Roxbury’s AJ Reeves aims to prove he’s here to stay

The Roxbury native will start his rookie year in Maine this week after signing an Exhibit-10 contract with Boston.

AJ Reeves will never forget the feeling of stepping into the lobby of the Celtics’ practice facility, the Auerbach Center, to sign his first professional basketball contract.

After all, he’s a Roxbury native who grew up playing basketball all around the city.

All those hours, from pickup ball at the Lee School to BNBL at Madison Park and the Reggie Lewis Center, and high school basketball at Brimmer and May led him to an opportunity with his hometown team.

Reeves signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Celtics in October and will begin his rookie season in Portland with the Maine Celtics this week.

An Exhibit-10 contract is a one-year minimum NBA deal that can be converted to a two-way contract as long as the move is made before the start of the season.

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For the former METCO student who began his high school career at Swampscott High before proving himself in the private school ranks and later in the Big East at Providence, this is a dream come true.

“It’s really surreal,” Reeves told Boston.com. “Any time I have the chance to put the word Celtics across my chest, I feel like I have the whole city behind me whether it’s in Maine or in Boston. Everybody wants to see the local guy win.”

Reeves, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound guard, did a lot of winning at Providence where he played four years and graduated. Last year, he played an instrumental role in leading the Friars to their first Big East regular-season title in school history and first Sweet-16 appearance since 1997.

He ended his college career the same way he began it, hitting seven 3-pointers in his first and last collegiate home games. It’s his shotmaking ability that earned him a chance at the next level.

Reeves impressed the Celtics during a pre-draft workout in May, where he said he hit 84-of-100 threes. After keeping in touch with the organization, he played with the Celtics’ summer league team in Las Vegas before landing in Maine.

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“He’s got to be a shot-maker for them,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “That’s his gift. He’s got to be able to defend multiple positions. Pros are not defined by one position anymore. It’s about can you guard multiple positions, can you make open shots, and can you make teammates better?”

A.J. Reeves (#11) of the Providence Friars drives against Ochai Agbaji (#30) of the Kansas Jayhawks during a Sweet Sixteen game of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on March 25, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. – Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Maine Celtics coach Alex Barlow said he’s familiar with Reeves’s shooting ability from watching him at Providence.

“He’s a kid that can shoot the ball, can really fill it up,” Barlow said. “He looks like he put on some real good, strong muscle since I last saw him. He’s a kid that has a chance, he’s just got to work hard and put in the time. He’s always asking questions and trying to get better.”

That’s why Reeves made a point to listen as much as he could to the 3-point specialists around him during summer league. Being able to learn from players like Sam Hauser and Matt Ryan made his time in Las Vegas a great experience, he said.

“I tried to learn from the guys who are knocking down shots in front of me and just pick their brain about spots, getting my shot off, and ways to attack,” said Reeves.

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Spending time in the gym soaking up basketball knowledge is nothing new for Reeves.

From the time he was old enough to dribble, he spent plenty of time watching his older cousin, Phoenix Mercury guard Shey Peddy, who is also his godmother.

She’s the Boston basketball player who inspired Reeves the most.

Peddy has a fascinating hoops journey of her own, starring at Temple and being drafted in 2012 by the Washington Mystics who cut her before she played a game.

She was cut from the WNBA several times and played overseas in Israel, Austria, Germany and Latvia before a breakout season led to her getting another shot with the Mystics seven years later, making her WNBA debut as a 30-year-old rookie in 2019.

The patience paid off and she ended up starting for the Mercury in the 2021 WNBA Finals.

At one point, she was ready to give up on her WNBA dream. But, she knew she had to keep going because Reeves and her younger brother were watching.

“I knew they looked up to me,” Peddy said. “I would come home and beat them 1-on-1 and they would get mad. But I would miss chunks of their lives spending 8-9 months overseas. They would get super excited when I showed them my stats and trophies. I saw they were wearing No. 11. I knew back home somebody was looking up to me and I couldn’t quit.”

There’s a similar competitiveness in Reeves, who is determined to prove he belongs in the organization he grew up watching.

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He knows how good the Celtics are and how much of a long climb making such a roster would be. It only makes him want to aim higher.

 “If you’re working to just make the cut, you’re not working for the right thing,” Reeves said. “You’ve got to work to surpass the bar and surpass your ceiling. It’s great that I’m here. I want to stay. I’m continuing to work so that they don’t have a reason to say no. I’m trying to do everything possible to keep it going and stay a professional as long as I can.”

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