It was Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, exactly three weeks and three days before COVID-19 officially shut down live sports for months.
Tuskegee was hosting its final home game of the season before a three-game road trip before the SIAC Tournament began.
The Golden Tigers ended up beating the Lane College Dragons 86-65 in an environment that impressed a future Tuskegee combo guard who was in attendance.
Reco Hallmon traveled more than 150 miles to Tuskegee — all the way from Loganville, Georgia — in order to visit the school. After seeing the atmosphere and connecting with head coach Benjy Taylor, Hallmon realized that it was a place where he could see himself.
Ever since committing to Tuskegee one month after that visit, Hallmon is truly in a good place right now. The Golden Tigers are currently in third place in the SIAC West and 15-6 overall. Hallmon is currently averaging 6.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game. He sees himself as being in the perfect situation.
“In terms of playing style, they were aggressive, upbeat, quick, physical, energetic,” Hallmon said. “That was the type of scheme that they were playing with and I liked that.”
That has been the kind of player that Hallmon has been since he was in middle school, always enjoying playing at a fast pace in an up-tempo offense. He played that way when he attended Grayson High School under head coach Geoffrey Pierce and as a member of former NBA player Derrick Favors’ AAU team.
Prep hoops molded Hallmon
Both of these experiences brought valuable fundamentals to him as an athlete. At Grayson, Hallmon had his first real taste of playing at a high level as the Rams won Region Eight of Class 7A in 2019 during Hallmon’s senior season.
While also at Grayson, he was able to take great advantage of his 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame. Hallmon, who was named a co-captain, would always take the opponent’s best perimeter player on defense during his junior and senior years.
“He put me in a position in front of a lot of coaches,” Hallmon said of Pierce. “We had a good schedule. We were in a good region. We probably had the best region in Georgia, so it was definitely an advantage playing for him.”
An even bigger advantage was being on the AAU circuit and competing against some of the best young basketball talents that the nation has to offer. There were the Mobley brothers, Evan and Isaiah, who both currently play for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
In addition to high school and AAU, another key element of Hallmon’s development as an athlete has been the Skills Factory Prep School.
“If you feel like a year of prep school before college will help get you ready, it can, but just like with any situation, if you don’t get in the right situation or take it seriously if you are the right situation, you won’t get anything out of it, but that’s with any situation,” Pierce said.
‘Its been a good connection for us’
Hallmon definitely got a lot out of the situation being coached by Rob Johnson and skills coach Eftim Bogoev at the Skills Factory. Johnson had a prior relationship with Taylor, who currently has two players on Tuskegee’s current roster — Hallmon and Kusamae Draper.
“Really, on-ball defenders aren’t that great at playing on-ball defense,” Hallmon said of what he learned during that time at Skills Factory. “That’s why help defense is so important, so it’s just reading help defense like seeing the extra skip to the other side of the court or just coming off of the screen seeing a look from help side defense, so you just gotta read it, the defense, really.”
Tuskegee assistant coach Kevin Sims considers Hallmon to be one of Tuskegee’s most versatile players who can play all five positions and do whatever his team requires.
Taylor will utilize him based on who their opponent is and what mismatch they can exploit. Hallmon has played him mostly at shooting guard, small forward, and power forward. Occasionally, he has been at point guard, too.
Taylor goes to the Skills Factory whenever he is looking for a certain position for his team and the year that Hallmon was recruited, he was looking for an athletic wing who was strong and could score. Hallmon was that guy on Johnson’s urging.
“It’s been a good connection for us,” Taylor said. “We’re going to continue to try and recruit from over there and we know they play a really strong prep school schedule and they have a good program over there.”
Hallmon credits Tuskegee with giving him confidence and pushing him to play hard and bring energy. Coaches push him hard every day to not slack off and work on becoming a better overall player. These forces have helped him to improve his shooting percentage from 37.5% to 44.2%. Hallmon’s assists per game from 0.8 to 1.1 and steals advanced from 0.5 to 0.9 per game.
“Going forward, just buying into what we’re doing, being a good teammate, doing a little bit of everything for us,” Sims said. “He’s a very important part of what we do. So everything that he does, it helps us. We’re going to need him down the stretch just to buy into what we’re doing — defend, rebound — do the small things that we need that will help us be successful.”