As a high school sophomore-to-be, Jarelle Reischel took a bold step to change his life
Leaving his crying mother behind at the Frankfurt, Germany, airport, the teenager flew alone to Newark, N.J., to pursue his dreams of playing basketball — high school, college, and, he hoped pro — in the United States.
Looking back, Reischel, the Eastern Kentucky University basketball standout, remembers only one thing that scared him about going to high school in a second language.
“Trying to get to know girls,” Reischel said, grinning. “I was just so shy. My friends kept pushing me. ‘However it turns out, go and talk to them. Girls love accents.’”
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This basketball season, Reischel’s unique hoops journey — from Germany to New Jersey to Texas to Rhode Island — has found a happy chapter here in Kentucky. Given extensive offensive freedom under first-year EKU coach Dan McHale, the senior transfer has averaged 18.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
For a guy whose prior three college seasons yielded scoring averages of 5.7 (Rice, 2011-12), 5.6 (Rhode Island, 2013-14) and 3.0 (Rhode Island, 2014-15), that’s pretty strong.
What changed for the 6-foot-7, 210-pound wing?
“I would say the opportunity I got,” Reischel said. “I was always a good player, not being cocky or anything. I just couldn’t show it.”
Few players in Kentucky college basketball have a more interesting back story than Reischel.
His mom, Anna Reischel, is German. His father, Terry Carter, served in the U.S. Army. When Jarelle was growing up, his dad was stationed in Germany. In a soccer-mad Deutschland, Jarelle learned to love hoops by playing with his father in pickup games on U.S. military bases.
That is when the idea of coming to the states and pursuing his hoops dreams took hold. Though Jarelle is her only child, Anna Reischel let him come to America.
“The day I left, she was in tears, couldn’t stop crying,” Jarelle said. “That was a day I will never forget.”
In the U.S., Jarelle lived in New Jersey with the family of one of his father’s best friends. Through the challenges — “I did find the courage to go ahead and talk to girls,” he says — Reischel thrived at Point Pleasant Beach High School.
The forward became an ardently wooed college basketball prospect. His choice came down to Penn State, Rice and local favorite Seton Hall — whose recruiter was a young assistant named Dan McHale.
Rice won the recruiting battle.
“Seton Hall was too much of a commuter school for him,” McHale says. “But we built a relationship then and, four, five years later, it’s been able to come to a fruition.”
After seeing his role and production slip last season at Rhode Island, Reischel decided to look for an alternate locale for his final season of college eligibility. Because he was receiving his degree, he could transfer and play immediately as a graduate student.
Not long after, McHale was tabbed to become EKU head man. “It was just constant communication,” Reischel says of the new Eastern coach’s recruiting pitch. “I knew pretty much then and there I wanted to play for him.”
Given freedom to create in McHale’s up-tempo offense, Reischel got off to a scalding start at Eastern. He had 37 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in a win over Longwood. He flirted with a triple-double (24 points, 12 boards, eight assists) in a victory at Savannah State.
When the Colonels came to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky in the season’s 10th game, the forward was averaging 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and almost four assists.
In OVC play, Reischel’s numbers have not been quite as gaudy. Against conference foes, he is averaging 16.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
“He’s become the target,” McHale said. “He was dominating for so long. ... Then you get to conference play, and you become the focal point of the scouting report. (If opponents) take him out, (we) lose a playmaker, we lose a scorer, we lose a rebounder. So teams are shutting him down and that’s frustrating him a little bit. But, he’s still had a heck of a year.”
For Eastern (14-15, 5-9 OVC), the outcome of its season will be determined in the final week. The Colonels have lost six games that were one-possession affairs inside the final 30 seconds. “I’m just trying to get all those out of the system in the first year,” McHale jokes.
Still, if Eastern wins its final two regular-season contests at Jacksonville State (Thursday) and Tennessee Tech (Saturday), it will make the OVC Tournament.
If the Colonels don’t win both, then EKU’s fate is out of its hands and its season could end Saturday.
Whatever happens this week, Reischel’s multi-continent hoops odyssey should continue.
Given a chance to show what he can do by the coach he once said no to in recruiting, the forward should get an opportunity to play pro basketball next year somewhere — maybe even in the Basketball Bundesliga in Germany.
This season, Anna Reischel traveled from Germany to Richmond to see her son play in his final season of American college hoops. Over three games, what she saw confirmed the teary decision she made to let him leave for the U.S. when Jarelle was still a teen.
“She couldn’t believe how much I had improved and how much of a different player I am compared to my other colleges,” Jarelle Reischel said.