By Evan Nicely
Tera Reed wasn’t like her classmates growing up in Auckland, New Zealand.
While they fixated on the country’s national sport, rugby, or other activities, Reed, a freshman guard for the VCU Women’s Basketball team, zeroed in on basketball.
Often prodded to play netball or volleyball because of her height or to try her hand at rugby with her athleticism, Tera was still determined to play the game that was first instilled in her at a young age by her mother, Justine. Now, thousands of miles away from where it started in New Zealand, Tera is a starting guard and standout freshman for the Rams and looks right at home in Richmond.
“Ever since I was like two years old, [my mom] would go in the gym to practice basketball, and I would be with her and that’s really how it started,” Reed said. “Everyone would always tell me to play netball because I was the perfect height, but you can’t touch the other players and it’s just not really me.”
Though she did participate in swimming, track and field, volleyball, touch and other sports popular in New Zealand, she always dreamt of being able to play basketball and go to college in the United States, just as her mother did.
Justine, a native of New Zealand, had also picked up the sport of basketball and eventually earned a Division I scholarship to play at the University of San Diego. While Justine was playing at USD, she met Tera’s father, O’ceen Reed, a Louisiana native and member of the United States Navy, who had attended one of her games with his friends.
Tera grew up in New Zealand, but the thought of the United States wasn’t all that foreign to her. A dual citizen, she would visit her grandmother in New Orleans, but it wasn’t until she made the move to the States when she was 15 years old to attend the Life Center Academy in New Jersey that she understood how different it would be living in America.
“In general, the diversity is way different. At first, it was a bit hard to adjust. It was a big shock,” Reed said.
Ultimately, she hoped that the move would provide a more challenging basketball experience and help her earn a Division I scholarship. Tera and her close friend, Michelle Nicholls, decided to explore the option of playing in the United States after getting the blessing of her parents, who would stay behind in New Zealand.
“Back home, the basketball community is so small that we were playing the same people every year and the same competition. We wanted to get better and have a different experience. We had a friend who was a basketball coach that had contacts at high schools here in the United States so we were like, ‘We want to go over.’ We applied to a few places and Life Center was the one school we both got accepted to so we were definitely going there,” Reed said.
After gaining acceptance, 15-year-old Tera packed her things and came over to the United States. At Life Center, she lived and played with other foreign girls including two from Africa and one from Spain in addition to her and Nicholls, who currently plays for A-10 foe La Salle. Being away from home at a young age did provide its challenges, but Tera navigated them and thrived.
“The people at Life Center were really caring and helped us out with everything. Having Michelle there really helped me and our parents were tough on us saying, ‘This is what you guys wanted to do so you have to deal with it,’ but we got through it and it was a great experience,” Tera said.
While at Life Center Academy, Tera also continued to play internationally, representing New Zealand at the youth level at the FIBA U17 International Qualifiers and serving as a co-captain of the team that competed in the U18 Qualifiers. Her time at Life Center Academy and her success playing at the international level caught the eye of the VCU Women’s Basketball coaching staff. Tera earned a scholarship offer and signed an NLI with the Rams last fall.
“VCU for me was the place that felt like home and I was the most comfortable with the coaching staff and definitely the facilities. It’s where I felt most comfortable and settled in. I didn’t want to go to a super big school,” Reed said.
After enrolling at VCU over the summer, Tera had yet another adjustment to make, this time to the pace of Division I play.
“Honestly I didn’t expect to be playing quite as well as I have. I got really nervous and high school basketball is completely different from college. I felt that way especially after my first game when I didn’t play as well as I wanted to. Since then, I’ve just been getting used to it and gaining my confidence. I’m real shocked and I didn’t expect it, but it’s going good,” Reed said.
As Tera has begun to thrive at VCU, her parents anxiously tune into every game, especially Justine. She speaks to both of her parents daily along with her brother, Jameer, back in New Zealand. Her mother, who coached Tera growing up, still analyzes Tera’s game and they talk basketball after every contest.
Tera claims to be a better player than her mother was in college, and she’s put up some statistics early in her career to back that up. She is currently on pace to join a short list of VCU freshman to lead the Rams in scoring, a list that includes just six names and was last achieved by Quanitra Hollingsworth, a 2009 WNBA draft pick, in 2005-06. Whether she achieves the mark or not, Reed is part of an incredibly youthful VCU lineup that features no seniors and is working to build something special.
“From the beginning, I knew it was a process. Having the six seniors graduate last year, we’re rebuilding and a lot of us are just freshmen coming in. We’re young and we’re still processing everything but I think, with the talent we have, eventually we can win the Atlantic 10 and make it to the NCAA Tournament, we’re just waiting for our time,” Reed said.
While working to achieve that goal of eventually leading the Rams to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, Tera has tried to take some time to reflect on achieving her first goal, the dream as a little girl in New Zealand wanting to play college basketball.
“I was thinking about that the other week in my room. I was on the phone with my mom, and she was telling me how I used to talk about going and playing in college and now I’m actually here. Even after all the trainings and being tired, to think that I’m actually here. It’s crazy to realize it and that I’m actually doing it,” Reed said.