Rebels’ Reed faces tough medical fight

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By Nikki Starks

Justin Reed faces a grim medical fight.

Editor’s note: Justin Reed passed away on October 20 at age 35.

Former Provine and Ole Miss star Justin Reed was one of the toughest, always-hustling basketball players I ever covered. He had some natural ability, but he had far more determination.

He. Never. Stopped. Hustling. No matter the score, no matter the stakes, Justin gave his all and always seemed to enjoy doing it. He was fun to watch – and to write about.

Then-Florida coach Billy Donovan, now coach of the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder, once told me this about Justin: “He’s not that tall. He’s not a great shooter. He’s not that great a handler of the ball. But he’s the best in the country at making plays. He makes hustle plays at crucial points. … He is a relentless warrior.”

Those qualities that made Justin Reed such a fantastic basketball player – four times All-SEC, for starters – are indispensable now. Reed, who is 35, is quite literally in a fight for his life. He needs all the grit, determination and will he can muster.

Melanie Thortis

Rick Cleveland

Your prayers wouldn’t hurt either.

Less than two months ago, Justin began having shortness of breath and went to the emergency room.  Two liters of fluid were drained from around his heart. Then, he began to have back pains. Doctors first thought it to be the result of inflammation from the draining of the fluid.

The pain worsened and Justin went back to the emergency room. After several scans and an MRI, doctors discovered Justin has cancer in his spine.  On July 7, surgery was done on his upper back and neck area to remove what they could.  He also has cancer in the lower part of his back, which has since paralyzed him from the waist down. He currently is receiving chemo at a Jackson hospital, hoping for transfer to M.D. Anderson for further surgery and treatment.


My favorite basketball memory of Justin Reed comes from the 2001 SEC Tournament in Nashville. Late in the Rebels’ quarterfinal victory over Tennessee, Justin took a vicious elbow to his mouth from Tennessee big man Isiah Victor. Justin hit the floor hard and rolled over on the floor onto his stomach. Blood pooled beneath his face.

A few feet away was one of his teeth, a lateral incisor, root and all. Jeffrey Moore, the Ole Miss trainer, alertly took the tooth, put it in a Save-a-Tooth solution and doctors later that night successfully implanted the tooth and stitched his gashed lips.

Yes, and then, the next day, Justin led the Rebels to a 74-69 victory over No. 5 Florida in the semifinals. All Justin did was score 15 points, grab seven rebounds and block a shot and make all the hustle plays that won the game for Ole Miss.

Doctors had suggested a special mouthpiece to protect the implanted tooth and Justin tried it. But he said he couldn’t breathe correctly or communicate with teammates so he took it out. A few minutes later, naturally, he was hit in the mouth, ripping out the stitches. Reed played on. With 20 seconds left and Ole Miss clinging to a one-point lead, he scored the biggest bucket of the game.

“Justin just brings it every day, no matter what,” Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said. “That’s why he is who he is.”


With all the complications, Justin’s medical costs are skyrocketing. Besides medical costs, he will have his day-to-day bills, travel, lodging, etc., etc.

A Go Fund Me – “Justin Reed’s Fight against Cancer” – has been set up. The link, should you decide to help: