Most Viewed Stories
Servite's Reale looks to make his mark on O.C. basketball
Otis Reale is a 15-hour flight from home, pursuing a childhood dream.
Born into an athletic family and raised in Rome, Reale now lives locally and attends Servite High School. He speaks fluent English, Italian, French and Spanish, and is taking a Mandarin language class this semester. He’s a basketball player by nature, and after sitting out all of December under CIF transfer rules, he started Tuesday’s game against Sonora High.
But Reale isn’t new to America.
He’s visited Southern California the past few summers, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear he grew up in the states. Other than his Italian accent and a contrarian opinion of spaghetti and meatballs, Reale’s no different than the teammates who’ve adopted him into what they call “the Servite family.”
“It’s been a long journey getting here,” he said.
Reale, 17, is the oldest son of Carmela Verardi and her husband, Oscar – exceptional athletes in their day.
Though Oscar later sought a career in the performing arts, Carmela at one time played point guard professionally overseas. Reale, as a result, can’t remember playing anything other than basketball as a child.
“I never thought of other sports," he said. “I always loved basketball’s passion, the competition and friendships. I love the sport. Nothing compares to it.”
Reale apprenticed for his mother, then joined Rome’s club circuit as a preteen.
In 2008, local basketball trainer Jason Wright held a camp in Italy, where he once played professionally and later served as a player development coach for pro teams. Reale attended Wright’s camp that year, and again in 2009. The following summer, Reale and his family vacationed in Southern California, where Reale tested his chops against Wright’s other players.
The Italian belonged.
“After that,” he said, “I started coming out here by myself.”
In 2012, Reale joined Tiber Basket Roma, a vaunted Italian youth team.
His play caught the attention of many, and Reale said he received an invitation to try out for Italy’s Under-16 national team. Coaches brought him on, and Reale later played one international tournament in France.
“It was a really high level,” he said, “but I would say the style of play wasn’t my type of basketball.”
Reale attended the American Overseas School of Rome, a private K-12 institution for which he played two varsity seasons.
He averaged more than 30 points per game as a sophomore, and nabbed the headline “Sophomore was Reale deal for new D-II champs” after leading his Falcons to the school’s first Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe basketball championship.
This summer, he moved to Orange County by himself, where he lives now with a Servite host family he knows through basketball.
Servite coach John Morris called Reale’s game, “very European.” Watch the kid play, and you’ll see what he means.
The ball often leaves Reale’s hands at funky angles, and though Morris prefers his point guard make conventional two-handed passes when he can, Reale loves zipping one-handed lasers to teammates. Ever the showman, Reale tends to make passes more difficult than they need to be. But when they find their mark, his behind-the-back and no-look dimes lead to easy baskets and land on highlight reels all the same.
“He does it all so casually, too,” senior captain Anastasios Marcopulos said.
Marcopulos and other Servite shooters will benefit greatly from the attention Reale commands as he knives through defenses. As long as 6-foot-11 Jacob Hughes keeps his head on a swivel, he’ll feast on Reale’s passes near the hoop.
Morris said Reale’s vision and willingness to pass set him apart from other guards.
“I’d say I have a little bit of the American style and a little bit of the European style in my game,” Reale said. “Here, it’s more one-on-one. But in Europe, it’s about being tactical, running plays. It’s good to have both.”
But Reale doesn’t just distribute.
At 5-foot-9, the kid can shoot with Orange County’s best. Reale wasn’t always a scorer, but he is now, and in the short time he’s been here, he’s earned the green light to launch from anywhere. Morris said he’ll live with the result because Reale’s shots come within the flow of Servite’s offense. He doesn’t shoot to show off.
The guard’s lefty stroke is a sight to behold, and when his high-arcing meteors begin ripping through nets, there’s no shot he won’t take.
In December, Morris pit his rotation players against his reserves, and Reale, still recovering from hand surgery at the time, hung 36 points on Servite’s starting five. The Trinity League is a gauntlet, but scorers don’t scare easily.
“He’ll open the court up,” said Pearson Parker, a sophomore dynamo who’s trained with Reale in the past, and averages a team-high 16 points per game. “He’s great at getting to the basket, and he’s crafty. He’ll create shots for other guys.”
As savvy as Reale is offensively, it’s his chops defensively that had Morris salivating this fall.
Servite’s zone defense has man-to-man principles, Morris said, meaning Reale will never stray too far from opposing guards. His hands and feet are plenty fast, and though he’s no giant, he’s built to bang with forwards. If Morris chooses to go small, Reale can hold his own below the free throw line until help arrives.
Plus, he and Parker will contest every shot within an arm’s reach and turn steals atop the key into fast breaks. Both guards are also willing rebounders.
Morris likens Reale to Sonora High’s Josh Rodriguez, a former CIF-SS champion, first-team All-Orange County guard now playing at Point Loma Nazarene. Others see a catalyst resembling Tustin High’s T.J. Shorts, who last season averaged north of 17 points per game for a 27-win Tillers team.
Reale has that ceiling, with this abbreviated 2015-16 season and next to adapt to high school hoops in the states.
“He can do it all,” Morris said.
When in Rome.
Contact the writer: 714-704-3790 or firstname.lastname@example.org