Unassuming approach from player with impressive career

Otago Nuggets guard Tahjere McCall prepares for practice at the Edgar Centre yesterday. PHOTO:...
Otago Nuggets guard Tahjere McCall prepares for practice at the Edgar Centre yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Tahjere McCall is good at keeping things on court in perspective.

Those flashy passes he wowed the Edgar Centre with last Saturday — he was just playing basketball.

The lockdown defence that helped keep the Wellington Saints quiet — just him playing basketball.

The impressive stat lines he brought with him from the Cairns Taipans — also just a product of him playing basketball.

It is a pretty simple approach from the Otago Nuggets’ new import.

Any pressure, any big moments, they all come back to that one thing.

"I don’t even think about it, I just play basketball," the 1.93m guard said.

"I can’t do nothing I’m not capable of doing. It’s not really no pressure, I just do what I’m used to doing.

"Just play my game and whatever happens, happens. My team-mates and the coaches, they’ve done everything to make my job easier. I don’t have to do too much. As long as we’re winning and playing harder together, I don’t really feel any pressure at all."

McCall (27) has been in Dunedin for just over a week and has enjoyed it so far.

He brings an impressive career with him.

Originally from Philadelphia, he spent two years at each of the University of Niagara and the University of Tennessee State.

Time in the NBA’s G League, France and most recently with the Taipans, in Australia’s NBL, have followed.

Notably jammed in the middle was an appearance for the Brooklyn Nets, in which he scored four points.

He has been on the cusp of other NBA rosters at various points and getting back there remains his goal.

In the meantime, he is focused on one thing — you guessed it, playing basketball.

He impressed in his season with the Taipans, averaging 16.0 points, 5.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game — notably posting 42 points and 10 assists in his final outing.

Last weekend he had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes off the bench for the Nuggets — just two days after his arrival.

As good as all that is, it is on the defensive side of the ball that his real value comes.

He was the Ohio Valley Conference’s defensive player of the year in his two years at Tennessee State.

His ability to pick steals is notable, but perhaps less obvious to the casual viewer is the intelligence to make reads and adapt within a system.

"That’s just what I do. That’s how I’ve got this far — it just comes natural to me.

"It’s not so much me trying to think about it, it’s just something I do naturally. I’ve been around some great people, and some smart coaches and players that have helped me learn so much.

"Now it’s second nature that when I see things or hear things, I can tell what’s about to happen with set-ups and things of that nature. So it’s just natural for me. I just like doing it. That’s how you win — and I like winning."

That defensive ability will be key for the Nuggets tonight, as they attempt to slow a lethal Hawke’s Bay Hawks team.

The Hawks are coming off an impressive win over the Southland Sharks in Invercargill on Thursday night.

They have one of the league’s top shooters in Ethan Rusbatch, while also boasting an all-round threat in Derone Raukawa.

Forward Hyrum Harris is coming off a season with the Adelaide 36ers, while former Otago Nugget Jordan Hunt — who was the Finals MVP when the team won the 2020 Showdown — can score inside and out.

It will potentially be an under-strength Nuggets squad that takes the floor, the team having been ravaged by the flu this week.

 

 

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