It has been a tumultuous season, to say the least, for Whittier Regional High basketball player Justin Reyes.
There were high expectations for the junior forward as the season began, but he ended up on the bench early in the campaign for disciplinary reasons.
But after he watched two games from the sidelines, the Wildcats are off to one of their best starts in years — and Reyes is one of the players leading the way.
"When you're not playing, you have the feeling that you can make a difference," Reyes said. "I feel like I could have made a difference. I decided that instead of complaining or not doing what I'm supposed to, I need to do what is good for the team."
Reyes responded immediately to being benched for two big conference games against Chelsea and Shawsheen — games which Whittier was able to win without him. He came out against Pentucket on a mission, scoring 26 points in a season-defining win over the non-conference foe. Reyes has scored in double digits in every game since his suspension, including four 20-point games.
"He has responded well (to the benching) across the board," said Whittier head coach Tom Sipsey. "No one's perfect, but he's certainly come a long way.''
Sipsey said he wasn't concerned with the relationship between him and Reyes after the benching, but Reyes did have to mend another relationship.
"He had to do some work with his teammates," Sipsey said. "They trust him now and they know that he's a guy they can go to war with."
Sipsey cautioned that Reyes wasn't the only member of the Wildcats having individual problems. With a 12-1 start, players have started to look at what they can accomplish as a team, rather than what they can as an individual.