His pants came from a Big & Tall catalog. So did his dreams. The pants could be delivered in six to eight weeks, but the impossibly large dreams took longer to find him. A dream could pass through Gans, Okla., (pop. 346) without ever knowing it had been there. How did Bryant (Big Country) Reeves describe his hometown? "There's a schoolhouse," he said. "Drive a little further and there's a post office. Drive a little further and you're out of town."
His dreams were too big for his oversized britches. Reeves became convinced of this in the hours before his second college basketball game at Oklahoma State—against Purdue in the preseason NIT two years ago. Big Country paced a country mile in the Cowboy locker room. When his coach, Eddie Sutton, told him not to be nervous, Reeves replied, "I'm not nervous about the game, Coach. But when we beat Purdue, we have to fly to New York City, and I've never been on an airplane before."
Before Big Country saw the Big Apple as a freshman, before he became the Big Eight Player of the Year as a sophomore last season, before he toured Europe with a team of All-Americas this past summer, the farthest he had strayed from Gans was a recruiting visit to Creighton University. Omaha may as well have been Beijing to this small-town boy from a high school graduating class of 15. What was it Reeves said when he was still a Gans Grizzly, when Oklahoma State assistant Bill Self informed the recruit that he had to play in the city to improve his game?
"I've been playing in the city," said Big Country.
"Oklahoma City?" asked Self, now the head coach at Oral Roberts. "Or Tulsa?"
Quoth Country, "Sallisaw."
There are but 7,122 stories in the naked city of Sallisaw, Okla. Imagine Big Country's astonishment, then, when he flew to New York that November night two years ago. As the twinkling skyline of the great metropolis suddenly appeared beneath the airplane, Big Country whispered, "It sure is big." The plane was over Tulsa.
"We're flying," recalls Sean Sutton, a former Cowboy guard who is now an assistant to his father at Oklahoma State. "Country's really nervous. He heard somewhere that gum will unclog your ears. He's sitting next to me, and he says, 'Sean, can I have a piece of gum?' I say, 'Sure, Country.' Twenty minutes later I'm sleeping, and Country wakes me up. 'Sean,' he says. 'Can I have a piece of gum?' I tell him, 'Country, I just gave you a piece of gum.' 'I know,' he says. 'But I need one for my other ear.' "
Sutton allows the image to emerge—the 7-foot, 288-pound Country, a wet wad of Juicy Fruit plugged into one ear, earnestly asking for another stick—before he smiles diabolically and says the story is apocryphal. Sutton told it at a postseason basketball banquet, and nobody laughed louder than Big Country, whose Big & Tall smile is as ubiquitous as his Big & Tall blue jeans. "He likes Wranglers," says Country's father, Carl. "He's got no behind so he can't wear Levi's."
He's got no behind, but so much ahead of him. "People just naturally like Country," says Sean Sutton. "Fans like him. Coaches like him. The media like him. On top of that, he's a very good basketball player. He can make a lot of money someday. If he doesn't get hurt, he can't miss."