Scottie Reynolds has seen a lot during his 10 seasons of playing professional basketball all over Europe, including bombings in Israel. But the former Villanova great never has experienced anything remotely related to the coronavirus and how quickly it spread throughout France, his current location, and the entire continent.
With the coronavirus officially a pandemic, Reynolds feels a responsibility to not only keep himself safe, but also to make sure his family members in the United States, most of them centered in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C, follow all the recommendations he has been heeding for a few weeks.
“I’m telling them, ‘This is going to happen in the States. You’re going to not be able to meet in large groups. You’re going to have things shut down.’ I’m giving them the answers to the test before the test,” Reynolds said Thursday in a telephone interview from his home in Strasbourg, where competition in the Jeep Elite Pro-A League has been suspended.
“I was telling them way before, and everything is happening now. You see the Navy coming in. You see the National Guard. You see cities preventing people from leaving their houses. So that’s the biggest thing for me is that I hope people don’t look at it like this is a European thing or something like that. No, this is a world thing and it needs to be taken seriously.
“Now I’m not like the guy that’s very safe, but I’m seeing this stuff happening and I’m like, ‘This is a serious thing.’ For me to be saying that, it means something. My family knows it, too, because I don’t really blow things out of proportion, but I’m really taking this pretty serious.”
Reynolds, 32, signed last November with SIG Strasbourg, also a member of the FIBA Champions League, a team that he said “is one of the best places I’ve been” in what has been a nine-nation odyssey through Europe. Strasbourg is a city in eastern France about 300 miles from Paris but, Reynolds said, just a 10-minute drive from the German border.
The 6-foot-1 guard, Villanova’s No. 2 all-time leading scorer with 2,222 points and a first-team All-American in 2010, said he first heard about a coronavirus case in Italy last month. The disease crept into France shortly afterward, but Reynolds said it didn’t appear serious.
The fallout from COVID-19 came to the team’s front door a short time later. Reynolds said team management notified players that because the crowd would have been more than the 5,000 limit recommended by government officials, the game was postponed. Strasbourg played its next game, but before it could play again, the league suspended play March 12, one day after the NBA, through at least March 31.
Then things got confusing.
“They said we can’t have any five-on-five contact,” Reynolds said. “So you’re going to do individual sessions, two people at a time, coming at different times. Then the next day they said, ‘You’re not allowed to come to the gym. You can’t go anywhere. You’ve got to stay in your house.’ Things were happening quickly.
“You saw the stores close. The only things open were the grocery store and the pharmacies. You couldn’t be out after 6 o’clock. Then the next day it was like, all right, they’re closing the borders and bringing in the army. Now you can’t be outside unless you have a signed permission slip to go to the store or to wherever. It was like a gradual thing that happened really, really fast. Now we’re here.”
U.S. players throughout Europe now wonder whether competition will resume or, if it doesn’t, will teams fulfill their contracts? As an elder statesman of the U.S. delegation, Reynolds is trying to advise them as best he can.
“You have to think about the contracts because if they cancel, do we get our money?” he said. “If we’re on suspension, how much of our salary do we get? I’m on the phone sometimes talking to other players because I’m a little bit older, ‘This is what you need to do, wait it out.’ I’m trying to give them the best information that I’m getting from my people, too. There are so many things that go into it. It’s like each day is something new.”
Should the season be canceled, Reynolds said he would be returning to the United States although he has heard horror stories of long lines at ticket counters and at customs. The prospect of long waits with large crowds does not appeal to him.
“Airports and planes are some of the dirtiest and germiest places you can be,” he said. “You’re going to be exposed to all that, and then you’re going to be in a confined area [on the plane] for 10 to 12 hours. Then you’re going to be [at customs] with all those people coming in from who knows where for five or six hours. So there’s a very, very good chance that you can get it, you know what I’m saying?”
Given all the unique challenges currently, Reynolds still can look back on his time in Europe with pride as he reaches what he called “probably the back end of my career.”
“Man, it’s been amazing, to be honest,” he said. “Looking back on where I was in college, that kid, I wouldn’t have imagined to be able to see and be exposed to so many cultures and ideas and people. Now I feel so comfortable just being able to understand all different types of cultures, all different types of people, all different types of thinking, and I can just adapt to whatever the situation is.
“On the basketball side, having a 10-year career, you get to double digits in this business, it’s a pretty big thing. I’ve made a living, I’ve made a career out of it. Hopefully I can play for another few years. I want to play until I’m 35. After that, I’ll take it one year at a time. As long as I can continue to stay healthy and continue to stay fast – which is the main part of my game, speed – then I’m going to continue to play.”
Reynolds said some of his “coolest” moments on European courts have come against former Villanova teammates Corey Fisher and Reggie Redding, both times when he was playing in Russia.
“We’re all still close,” he said. “We all text or stay in touch in some form or fashion.”
In the meantime, Reynolds will be spending time inside his house watching television and movies, and he’ll continue to follow the latest news on the pandemic, making sure his friends and family back home are safe.