No rest for River Ridge grad Mitch Reaves

mwochnick@theolympian.comMarch 19, 2014 

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 program.

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. 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 at Seattle University as director of basketball operations after graduating with a degree in sports management. He followed Callero in 2009 to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

After four years as Cal Poly’s director of operations, Reaves was promoted 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 of the regular season, including a 71-55 loss to UC Santa Barbara. Five days later, it trounced UCSB, 69-38, then defeated top-seeded UC Irvine and, in the tournament title game, Cal State Northridge.

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