"He's still growing," Ellison said in the dressing room after Life Center won easily. "The one thing I like about Trayvon is that he understands potential, and he has goals. What I'm trying to get him to understand is the level of work it takes to achieve what he set his goal out to be."

The next afternoon, matched against Westtown School and highly rated Georgios Papagiannis, a skilled 7-1 center from Greece considered among the top players in the Class of 2015, Reed appeared both more mobile and more motivated.

The improvement for Reed also has come in the classroom, said Rebecca Boudwin, a local attorney who tutors Reed and previously worked with two former Life Center stars, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters and Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross.

Boudwin said Reed is not taking his studies lightly.

"It's been leaps and bounds since he got here," she said. "One of the big things I've learned with Trayvon is keeping his focus. ... He has said that if he had stayed down there [in Georgia], he would have been lost in the system, and I don't think he would have qualified."

Reed, who still needs to get the requisite score on his upcoming ACT exam to qualify academically at Maryland, said that coming to Life Center Academy has been "tremendous" for his academic preparation.

"Because we're in a small classroom and there's not that many distractions, I can get my work done and the teachers want to help you and I can bond with them," Reed said. "It's been a better situation for me."

Reed said he still has "a big relationship" with his brother, who is expected to be released after seven years in March. Jacoby Reed was a 6-5 forward as a sophomore in high school when he fell into the wrong crowd.

Travyon Reed said that his brother has mentored him from prison, and his stepfather Daniel Moore has also been a positive influence.

"[My brother] basically is telling me to be the opposite of him, don't do what he did, keep positive people around you, and just go hard," Trayvon Reed said. "When I don't go hard, he yells at me. He tells me, 'That's the only way you're going to get out.' He said, 'You see the struggle I went through. Follow your dreams, the sky's the limit."