KALAMAZOO Western Michigan senior forward Steve Reynolds prides himself on being an avid student of the game.

This was evident than in what Reynolds did on his bus ride to the Mid-American Conference Media Day in Cleveland a few weeks ago.

All Western Michigan”s captain did was study his brand new playbook.

“You”d think that Steve just got a new bicycle,” McCullum joked. “He was so happy, so proud, that he didn”t let it out of his sight.”

All of Reynolds” cramming paid big dividends as he scorched the Wolverines Friday night for 28 points, including 4-of-9 shooting from behind the arc. This stud performance came just two days after Reynolds” recorded a career-high 32 points in a last-second victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“I put in the work over the summer and it finally paid off,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds (6-foot-7, 220 pounds) put in hundreds of hours over the summer in the weight room in an attempt to become a more physical presence. Under the direction of strength coach Nick Juday, Reynolds has developed into Western Michigan”s strongest player.

Reynolds” strength was put to the test in Friday”s game, as he matched up with preseason Naismith Award candidate LaVell Blanchard for most of the first half. It was something Reynolds said he anxiously anticipated.

“I probably made it more personal than he did,” Reynolds admitted. “Obviously he”s one of the best players in Michigan and I felt I could play with him.”

Reynolds certainly held his own against Blanchard, nailing his first three treys in sparking a 15-2 run to start the game. He also helped contain Blanchard to just eight points and 3-of-11 shooting from the field.

But McCullum says that”s nothing new for Reynolds, whom the Broncos not only depend on for leadership as their lone senior and captain, but also in everything they do on the floor.

“He”s our go-to-guy,” McCullum said. “The ball goes through him. Even on out-of-bounds plays, the ball goes through him. And if he”s not in the game, we don”t execute as well.

“I think he”s very underrated.”

Reynolds is not used to being a “go-to-guy.” The journeyman and junior college transfer spent his freshman year at Weber State before making the trek to Treasure Valley Community College in Oregon. That”s where Reynolds had a breakout year, averaging 19 points and seven rebounds per game.

But there was still a very important link missing for the South Bend, Ind. native, as he was never able to see his parents in the stands at any of his games. The homesick Reynolds wanted to be closer to home, and Western Michigan proved to be the perfect fit as it is only an hour from his hometown. His parents haven”t missed a game since.

When Reynolds took his first glimpse of the stands in University Arena on Friday night, he was pleasantly surprised for another reason.

He saw 5,649 rabid Broncos fans, the largest crowd in the arena since it was renovated in 1994, and a far cry from the average attendance of about 2,000.

“I came out and looked at the crowd and it was like a dream come true,” Reynolds said. “There were humans everywhere.”

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