The One-Man Swarm
Defense wins basketball games. Generally this axiom refers to a team of individuals investing on defense.
Thursday the defense of the Tahjere “One-Man Swarm” McCall gave Tennessee State (6-2 vs. D1) a win and his career high of 31 points didn’t hurt either.
Eventually, a long, arduous climb to the summit concluded in an 89-86 victory.
Tahj regularly matches up against opposing leading scorers. The 6-foot-5 guard is wonderful moving laterally and he has the length to be a real deterrent. Nobody had a bigger impact on the Lipscomb game than McCall, even the coaches, refs, or Lipscomb’s J.C. Hampton. Though Hampton finished with 25 points, he did not create turnovers or inspire grown blue-clad men and women around the Gentry Center.
Late in the first half, McCall poked the ball free from a driving Hampton. McCall’s teammate collected the loose ball.
Hampton finished with two turnovers. His backcourt mate Nathan Moran fumbled up four turnovers.
“Tahjere McCall is the best defensive player I have ever been around,” said Head Coach Dana Ford. “I mean, he can sit down in a stance. He has got great lateral quickness. He has unbelievable basketball instinct. Unbelievable instinct.”
McCall can lock up jet-quick guards or defend physical, bruising guards equally effectively.
“I tell people all the time, it is almost like cheating having someone that can defend like he does,” said Coach Ford. “That is why tonight when the kid Lipscomb was giving us alot of fits it just proved how good of a player he is because McCall has been able to shut down the opposing team’s guard game after game after game.”
The defense was not surprising. The scoring by McCall was a little unexpected though.
“I am calling him Baby Russell Westbrook man,” said Keron DeShields. “He is 6-foot-5. Can do-it-all. He is very versatile. If he keeps his confidence up we are going to be tough to stop.”
McCall was in Nashville last season, sitting out and watching the losses pile up for Coach Ford’s debut.
“I wish I could put it into words,” said McCall. “For real for real I just want to do it for Coach Ford because you know last year it was really rough for him. And the team we had was rough.”
Coach Ford and his Tigers of 2014-2015 finished 3-26 against Division One opponents last winter.
“Winning games right now, it just feels like we are finally getting some results from what we have been preaching and what we have been practicing,” said McCall. “Last year practicing with those guys and going through war with those guys and not seeing it pay off it kind of was heart-breaking. So, it took a tough mindset to keep pushing through it. Now we are seeing results. Now we have to keep pushing because now we know we are going to get results.”
The Tigers were staring in the face of two certain losses this week. Both times they summoned that deeper spirit.
“I went in at halftime and said ‘Do you guys believe you can beat Lipscomb tonight?,” said Coach Ford. “The guys said, ‘Yeah.’ (Tahj) was the loudest one.”
McCall scored 26 points in the second half. He got to the free throw line over and over and over. For the game McCall finished with 7-11 free throws.
After every steal or score he beamed in delight. McCall slapped the floor when DeShields earned a trip to the line late.
“He is the most energetic guy we have,” said Coach Ford. “Off the court he is really goofy. He is the perfect babysitter for your kids.”
Despite his 11-17 shooting, McCall was forced to sit and watch once again. Just like last season when McCall was sitting out as a transfer he was forced from this game with a painful left calf cramp.
Unlike last year he was able to change the game, change the entire trajectory.
“These kids got a lot of fight in them,” said Coach Ford. “They have a lot of grit. It is not just about the team. I am telling you. For years, we are not winning these type of games in double overtime and in-town versus Lipscomb, and the Belmonts. These kids are determined to change the program. That is kind of what I am finding out about them.”
McCall was more than gritty though.
“We knew everything that he had done to this point, which was nothing close to 31 points and 7 rebounds,” said Lipscomb Head Coach Casey Alexander. “Yeah. He was 5-20 from 3 going into the game and was just…a contributing player. I give him a lot of credit. Take nothing away from the game that he had, but he is not a guy that had done anything in their first nine games.”
You have been swarmed!