Riding Wave Of Confidence, Reggie Hearn Earns Bigger and Better Roles with USA Basketball
After making his NBA debut last year, Hearn is chasing his dream of playing in the Olympic Games.
A tug-of-war between doubt and confidence is going on inside USA Basketball World Cup Qualifying Team guard Reggie Hearn.
It has been a constant theme throughout his basketball career, dating back to the very beginning when he used to pretend in his driveway in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that he was a member of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team or that he was thriving in the NBA.
Now 27, Hearn has experienced moments in his life where doubt got the upper hand, such as the time in eighth grade when he lost his spot on a youth basketball team to a sixth-grade player.
He doubted whether he wanted to even play high school basketball. He chose to risk failing and ultimately became one of the best players in the state.
He doubted whether he wanted to play in college. He chose to risk failure by walking on at Northwestern University in 2009 and eventually became the heart and soul of the team, earning Academic All-Big Ten Conference honors as a senior in 2013.
“In my career, all the way back to when I first started playing the game as a kid, it has taken me some time to believe that I belong,” Hearn said. “So, to still be playing at the age and the level that I’m at is incredible and a testament to God and the people around me who encourage me to keep going.”
As Hearn has achieved some career milestones over the past several years, it’s safe to say he’s feeling confident these days. After toiling for all or part of five seasons in the NBA G League, Hearn made his NBA debut last season with the Detroit Pistons, realizing one of his driveway dreams. Playing for USA Basketball also helped his confidence, having helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the FIBA AmeriCup in 2017.
Hearn earned a tryout for the USA World Cup Qualifying Team, and played for coach Jeff Van Gundy and USA Basketball during the November 2017 and June 2018 qualifying windows. He started all four games, averaging 12.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting better than 63.0 percent from behind the 3-point line.
He is back with USA Basketball this month as it prepares in Las Vegas for FIBA World Cup Qualifying second-round games against Uruguay at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion on Sept. 14 and Panama on Sept. 17 in Panama City.
“It’s definitely been a whirlwind,” Hearn said. “I think USA Basketball has definitely been a huge catalyst in taking my career to another level.”
Hearn’s confidence already had reached new heights even before he was one of three players from the USA World Cup Qualifying teams to be invited to the USA Men’s National Team minicamp in July. There, he found himself on the court with some of the elite players in the world, such as Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Competing against the very best, making plays and finding moments of success brought his confidence to a boil.
“It came out of nowhere and was not at all expected,” Hearn said of the opportunity. “To be in a situation where you’re playing with some of the top guys in the world, and have some of the top coaches in the world, and all sorts of people you want to be networking with and be seen showcasing your talent, it was a great experience and a great opportunity. It’s an opportunity I never could have imagined happening as a kid.”
Hearn’s recent successes have allowed him to open himself up to the possibility of achieving more of his dreams. He says his goals now are signing a full NBA contract and “somehow maybe sneak on to the Olympic team.”
What has made the past two years even more fulfilling for Hearn is reaching new heights despite an ongoing battle with anxiety, panic attacks and depression.
Hearn said seeing current and former NBA players speak out about their challenges with mental illness recently has given him the confidence to talk about his struggles as well. He said he is thankful to have the support of his girlfriend and family to help him find greater health and stability.
“People’s minds are very complex,” Hearn said. “I think we all would be very surprised to get inside each other’s minds to see how similarly we think and see how what kind of crazy thoughts that person has. ‘Oh, I have those, too. I thought I was the only one.’ I saw an article recently that said maybe a third of the NBA players are battling some sort of mental illness. I would say that’s probably an understatement. I would say at the very least, people and players deal with anxiety at varying levels.”
Hearn even has taken himself to a place he never thought he’d go on the basketball court — the coach’s chair.
During two recent summers, he returned home to Indiana to work out and decided to coach middle school girls and boys in local recreation leagues. He was uncertain about it first — that doubt pulling at him again — but he decided to go for it and found that he enjoyed being able to make an impact on kids.
“I found that I not only enjoyed it, but I was pretty effective with the kids that I coached,” he said.
Now with more confidence, Hearn will be looking to shine for the USA as it begins play in the FIBA World Cup Qualifying second round. Follow Hearn and the USA’s journey atUSAB.com and on USA Basketball’s social media channels.