Damien's Chris Reyes is Mr. Motivation

Damien's Chris Reyes is accustomed to teams taken him lightly, and he's just fine with that. Courtesy of Justin Rad

LA VERNE -- When discussions take place about some of the Southland's premier post players, the name Chris Reyes is not always included in the conversation.

The lack of recognition, however, does not bother the 6-foot-6, 205-pound senior from Damien. The perceived snub has served as plenty of motivation this season. Accordingly, Reyes is playing as well, if not better than most his peers in the greater Los Angeles area.

“Chris may not be ranked as high as the other guys, but he is just as good in my book,'' Damien coach Matt Dunn said. “He affects the game in so many ways, on both ends of the floor. Honestly, I think when people underestimate him, it's a mistake. I've seen Chris make opponents pay for taking him lightly in the past. He plays with this uncanny fire.''

As Reyes has gone, so have the Spartans (18-1 overall), No. 17 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings. They have a test Wednesday in a showdown with visiting Chino Hills Ayala. The winner will be in the driver's seat in the Sierra League standings.

The St. Mary's-bound Reyes is shooting 62 percent from the field and is averaging a double-double per game with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Never one to back down from a challenge, he has also blocked an average of five shots on a nightly basis.

“I'd like to be be compared to the best big guys around. Do I think about it all the time? No, not really,'' Reyes said. “Honestly, I kind of like being unknown.''

He is far from an unknown, rest assured. Thing is: La Verne Lutheran's Grant Jerrett, North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake's Zena Edosomwan, Woodland Hills Taft's Anthony January and Gardena Serra's Daddy Ugbede typically grab most of the headlines.

Deservedly so, considering each individual possess a well-rounded skill set and receives attention from college coaches and scouts from all over the country.

Reyes, on the other hand, goes about his business quietly. He's done so, in fact, since his days as wide-eyed freshman playing varsity ball for the Spartans.

As a sophomore, Reyes was given an opportunity to contribute more regularly. He took advantage and averaged 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

There was no holding him back a season ago. Reyes took the next step in his development and finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks per outing.

“He's one of the most underrated bigs in Southern California,'' said Dinos Trigonis, who coached Reyes during his time on the AAU circuit with Belmont Shore. “Chris had a fantastic summer. I think people saw how athletic he was, his bounce, and started to take notice of him. It will be interesting to see what kind if impact he makes at the next level, in college.''

Reyes signed with St. Mary's in late October. Before the decision to join the Gaels, he had received interest from a number of different schools.

Despite the fact his Southern California counterparts often times earned more recognition, Reyes had scholarship offers on the table from multiple schools in the West Coast Conference. Boston College and Colorado were among the others in contact with him.

“The whole recruiting process started a little slow for me, but then, it picked up really fast. That was because I didn't have one of those big reputations,'' Reyes said. “But things have always been that way. I've always been out of the spotlight and that's fine.

“I look at things this way, when people say that I can't do something, or that I'm not as good as some of the other players out here, it doesn't faze me. It drives me. It motivates me. My goal is to prove that I can play with the best guys around.''

Apparently so. The numbers rarely, if ever, lie.

Given his steady production rate thus far, odds are Reyes' name will be mentioned in the same sentence as his more high-profile peers by season's end.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.