Tahj Tanksley knows how to win. He has won 81 basketball games and lost only 10 during his first three seasons at Laney. And his football squads won a combined 15 games his sophomore and junior seasons. The senior's talent extends to the classroom, where his 3.4 GPA and 1110 "two parts" score on his SAT prove he meant it when he told me Thursday that his "education always comes first."
Tanksley is one of a handful of top area basketball players I've noticed recently whose academic accomplishments match their on court prowess. During our interview, he repeatedly mentioned his coaches, or "mentors," who set a great example for him. I saw that first hand while on Laney's campus for a couple hours. I saw my friend and current JV coach William Cunningham, who played basketball at Temple, professionally all over the world, and even in the NBA. And Shiloh Robinson, who has coached all of Laney's elite athletes the past several seasons, is the mentor (Tahj's teacher and coach) who brought Tanksley's academic record to my attention. (I already knew he can play!)
Check out the brief interview (above), along with some hoops highlights, with Laney's busy baller, who is currently focused on helping his football Wildcats get into the win column in their region opening home game in eight days against powerhouse Jefferson County. Tanksley caught 8 passes, gained 136 yards, and scored a touchdown in last Saturday's loss at home against Evans. The Wildcats enter region play winless at 0-3.
During our discussion, Tahj answered questions about his goals in the classroom and on the field and the court. Of special note to me for a student like Tahj, and hopefully many others reading this, are the milestones students need to mind. The checklist is simple:
- Get great grades and maintain a high (well over 3.0) GPA.
- Take the SAT early and make sure if you don't have a very good score, you are either planning to get one or planning to figure out how to get one.
- Apply early (this time of year in 12th grade, like Tahj) to schools that you want to go to and that have low "net prices" that you think you can make even lower by piling up enough merit and need based scholarship.
- Know the qualifications, meet the qualifications, and apply for as many merit based scholarships as possible (Hope, Watson Brown, Zell Miller, etc).
- Take advantage of the need based grant aid (not student loans) that is available. (A key date is 1/1/17 for FAFSA
That list is neither exhaustive, nor fully explained. But because it is on my mind after talking to Tahj, I wanted to share it. I'll try to add more details in future posts and share them with Tahj, students like him, and their parents.
I ask you to please share with me stories about local basketball players who excel in the classroom and who have similar goals as Tanksley. I have a few athletes in mind who I will be seeking out. But there can never be too many of these stories.
Bonus interview and video
It's too early to talk about the basketball season... except for people like me. If you are the same way, you may enjoy Tahj and my conversation about Laney's prospects for the 2016-17 hoops season: