Controlled burn

Reilly knows when to heat up, cool down competitive flames

Posted: Friday, June 07, 2002

Diving for the finish line with no concern for cuts and scrapes. Playing soccer and football despite cramping calf muscles. Scouring the basketball floor for loose balls.

Josh Reilly

In sports

Helped Nikiski to two small-schools state football titles by playing quarterback and linebacker.

Scored 24 points on 11-of-12 shooting to lead Nikiski to the District 3/3A title this year.

Won two state titles in the 300-meter hurdles and one state title in the 110 hurdles in track and field.

Out of sports

Carried a 3.98 grade-point average at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, earning him salutatorian honors.

Was involved with National Honors Society.

Works in contracting with his dad, Patrick, in the summer.

Time and time again during his high school athletic career, 2002 Nikiski Middle-Senior High School graduate Josh Reilly put his fierce competitive drive on display.

But the thing that makes Nikiski basketball coach Reid Kornstad the most proud of Reilly is not that competitive drive, not Reilly's immense physical gifts and not the smarts that Reilly used to get a 3.98 grade-point average and salutatorian honors at Nikiski.

Kornstad's pride stems from Reilly's ability to control that competitive drive when it matters most.

This year at the state basketball tournament, the Bulldogs were locked in a battle with Monroe Catholic for fourth place.

After putting the Bulldogs up 49-48 late in the game, Reilly appeared to make the game-winning steal when he was whistled for a questionable foul.

It was Reilly's fifth foul, meaning that play ended his high school career. The foul also nullified the steal, which allowed Monroe to keep the ball and notch a 50-49 victory.

With all that competitive desire, did Reilly blow his top? Did he run toward the ref, arms outstretched, pleading for some sanity?

No. Reilly did nothing.

"I was so proud of the way he dealt with that," Kornstad said. "He didn't cuss out the ref. He didn't storm off the floor. He didn't slam a chair.

"I know he was very upset because he is so competitive. But he saved it until the locker room, where we vented as a team. After that, I never heard another word about it. There was no, 'It's not fair. Poor me.'"

Reilly led the Bulldogs to two small-schools state championships as a quarterback and linebacker. He was a key part in Nikiski's District 3/3A basketball championship this year. For good measure, Reilly also won two state titles in the 300-meter hurdles, and one in the 110 hurdles.

But he was able to accomplish all of the above with the integrity of character of which Kornstad is so proud. Kornstad said that character comes from Reilly's family -- not just his parents, but people like Patricia and Robert Reilly, Reilly's grandparents.

"When you get a job later, it's the kind of character, person and leader you are that counts," said Kelly Reilly, Josh's mom. "Everyone forgets about the game and points. What they know is what kind of person you are when it's over."

One of those lifelong categories Reilly impressed people with is the qualities of leader and team player.

"It doesn't matter if he's hurting, throwing up or too busy to do something," Kelly Reilly said. "He will do his best to make sure he's loyal to his team until the end."

Reilly's desire to be a good teammate was especially evident in basketball, a sport for which he never developed an affinity.

"Basketball is a sport that takes a lot of skill, and I never put in the time to develop any of those skills," Reilly said. "I never really liked the sport that much.

"I like my coaches and my teammates. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't have played."

Reilly just didn't play, he became a major contributor on the team. When Nikiski defeated Anchorage Christian Schools 69-45 for the District 3/3A title this year, Reilly paced the Bulldogs with 24 points and went 11-of-12 from the field.

But while most appreciate Reilly's desire to be a teammate, what coaches come back to time and time again is his competitive fire.

"There's something burning inside of him," said Steve Gillaspie, who got to know Reilly as a coach and physical education teacher. "It's a rare thing. It's something you don't see in a lot of kids today."

Reilly said a good part of his competitive desire developed from playing with all of his cousins when he was younger.

That competitive desire, mixed with Reilly's work ethic, was making him stand out even as a freshman in football.

"I had him for three of four weeks as a freshman in football," said Gillaspie, who used to help out with Nikiski's junior varsity unit. "Ward (Romans) and I tried to hide him as long as we could.

"Once (former varsity head coach) Scott (Anderson) saw him hit it was like, 'See you later.'"

Despite early success, Reilly was never one to rest.

"His work ethic -- good Lord -- to me it seems like every guy has peaks and valleys," Gillaspie said. "He never has a valley. It's another level, another level, another level. When does that stop?"

It certainly didn't the summer before his junior year, when Reilly got together with his father, Patrick, and receiver David Holloway to work on pass routes.

Holloway would become the first Alaska receiver to get over 1,000 yards in a season as Nikiski rolled to a state title Reilly's junior year.

"Just watching them that summer, I knew those two would be a combination that's hard to stop," Patrick said of his son and Holloway. "Even before the season started, I was mentioning to people, 'This is going to be something to watch.'"

Reilly's competitive flare also was evident in track.

"I don't know how many times during his career he would come to the finish line and dive for it," said Nikiski track coach Jim Arness. "He would end up on the track with scrapes and bruises.

"He knew what that felt like, but he was never afraid to go back and do it again."

That included that state finals in the 300 hurdles this year. Reilly was leading the race by a comfortable margin but plowed through the last hurdle and crawled to the finish line just ahead of the other competitors.

Despite all his accomplishments, Reilly remains humble. For instance, would you guess that starring at quarterback for state championship football teams wasn't exactly his cup of tea?

"I never really enjoyed quarterback because if I threw one bad pass, I felt I ruined the game," Reilly said. "And I threw a lot of bad passes."

Reilly also isn't afraid to mention his shortcomings.

"I really wish I would have gotten into drama and debate," he said. "When I got up at graduation to give my speech, I didn't know what I was doing.

"I just went through it quickly because I figured people didn't want to listen to the jock. I'm more of a math and science guy."

Reilly will take his football, math and science skills to Western State College in Gunnison, Colo. Due to football, Western State, an NCAA Division II school, will take care of in-state tuition, books and fees for Reilly.

Reilly, who will move to running back in college, said his main concern is his size. When he was on a recruiting trip to Western Washington, he saw a 185-pound player bench press 405 pounds.

"Those guys at that level are pretty thick," said Reilly, who played football last year at 185 pounds.

Gillaspie, however, thinks Reilly can make the jump.

"His genetics, if you take a look at his cousins, show that he's not done developing," Gillaspie said. "He's also such a hard worker.

"When they get him in the weight room, and start doing various things to get his body ready to roll, he's gonna be a specimen. He definitely hasn't matured as far as his frame goes yet."

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