IN FOCUS: Duop Reath
Communications Student Assistant
Duop Reath is no stranger to change.
Born in South Sudan during a continuous period of civil unrest and war, Reath and his family relocated to Perth, Australia, when he was just nine years old.
Reath found himself to be a natural athlete, effortlessly picking up soccer and Australian rules football before finally settling on basketball in high school because of his size advantage.
The next step in the big man’s journey led him to Lee College in Baytown, Texas, where he spent two years playing basketball before transferring to LSU.
Reath instantly proved himself to be an outstanding addition to the Tigers’ squad, both as a fan favorite and as a teammate.
Starting in 30 out of 31 games (he sat out of the starting lineup on LSU’s Senior Night), Reath averaged 12 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game and 1.5 blocks per game while playing in more than 27 minutes per contest.
Reath is the team’s returning leader in points scored, field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks, so to say he’s an integral part of the new-look squad under first-year head coach Will Wade is an understatement.
“He’s going to have a really good year for us,” Wade said. “He’s a phenomenal kid. He wants to be so good and he’s one of the hardest workers for us. I absolutely love him as a person and as a player.”
Wade has reiterated several times that Reath and fellow senior Aaron Epps have been two of the most impressive players on the team this offseason, and Reath was quick to credit his teammates for their hard work as well.
“It means a lot, I’m just happy he’s recognizing us for the hard work we’re putting in,” Reath said. “I also feel like the rest of the team has been working really hard, too, and they deserve the same recognition.”
Since Wade took over the men’s basketball program, defense has been the point of emphasis in each and every practice, and no one is looking forward to improving their defensive prowess more than Reath.
“That was one of our weaknesses from last season, we were probably one of the worst defensive teams in the NCAA last season,” Reath said.
After going through a 2016-17 season in which the Tigers went 10-21 and gave up 83 points per game, Reath and the rest of this year’s squad are ready to put the defensive struggles of last season behind them and focus on improving this season.
“Last season was disappointing, but at the same time you use it as a lesson,” Reath said. “It was really motivating for us, just to make sure that we’ve turned around this year and we’re working really hard to make sure we don’t feel that same feeling from last year again.”
Wade has completely reshaped the practice regimen for the team, incorporating meditation before each practice and instilling his relentless approach to both physical and mental toughness as well as perfecting all the miniscule details that often get overlooked.
“He’s very analytical, every little thing matters to him,” Reath said. “There’s a very fine line, he’s very detailed with everything.”
Reath has also spent the summer focusing on his body, putting on weight in order to combat the rigors of playing a lengthy schedule in the post.
“Getting in shape has been tough, but that’s what it takes to get into the shape you need to be in,” Reath said. “It’s really important, especially in the SEC. You need to be able to hold your ground. We’re more conditioned this year, so we’ll be able to play a little longer this year and run a little harder.”
His offseason transformation, along with those of his teammates, was capped off with a brutal three-day boot camp courtesy of Coach Wade.
“It was interesting to see how hard it was,” Reath said. “I feel like if we would have tried that before, we would have really struggled. It was good to see that everybody could do it, we showed a lot of improvement in our strength and conditioning.”
Reath has added nearly 20 pounds to his 6-foot-10 frame, making him the heaviest eligible player on this year’s roster by nearly 30 pounds.
“I’m at 244 right now. I played at around 225 last year,” Reath said. “I’ve been eating a lot and working out. I’ve been eating everything I can get my hands on. Pizza is my favorite.”
Reath has been recognized on several occasions for his accomplishments both on and off the court, being named SEC Player of the Week for his 23-point, 14-rebound performance last year against Wofford — one of his seven double-doubles on the season. Reath recently picked up his second LSU Student-Athlete of the Month recognition for the month of September.
“I’m just happy that they recognized that I’m putting in work in the classroom,” Reath said. “Whatever you do in the classroom translates to the court. If you’re working hard in the classroom, it’s going to show that you’re a hard worker on the court, too.”
With hard work and physicality becoming the new normal under Wade, change is coming for the LSU men’s basketball program. And no one is a better student in dealing with change than Reath.