TCC sends seven to next level of college basketball
By St. Clair Murraine
Don’t think for a moment that coach Mark White is still lamenting over his Tallahassee Community College men’s basketball team falling short in the state JUCO championship tournament.
Of course, that would have been the icing on the cake for him in his first season as head coach of the Eagles. But as far as he is concerned, getting all seven of his eligible players to the next level of college basketball is worthy of a championship trophy in itself.
Having seven players to move on; White one shy of the largest number of TCC players who went to the next level. It’s just what he set out to do when he came in last April to take over the program.
He seemingly had success, looking at what he achieved in a 21-win season that he didn’t have time to do any in-depth recruiting.
“We just don’t take anybody,” White said. “We try not just for talent, but we look hard for character, work ethic; all those things.”
Indeed, with academics at the forefront. Seeing that his players attending and passing classes is part of the daily routine for his assistant coach, White said.
“Our main goal here is for every player who comes through to get his associates degree,” he said. “It takes priority over anything we do basketball-wise. It always has and it always will.”
That much Jahvaughn Powell, a former TCC point guard out of Lincoln High School, knows well. When he got to TCC two years ago, he found out that the routine included study hall during the school hours, and in evenings after practice.
The players also had academic coaches who frequently checked their grades as often as every two weeks. They also were encouraged to sit in front of their classrooms.
“It was just like another job we had to do,” Powell said. “School was taken very, very seriously.”
Powell, who settled on Nicholls State in Louisiana after considering multiple offers, sat out 15 games with a broken right hand in his first year at TCC. It was upsetting for the then-freshman, but he took the time to hunker down in the books.
“It hurt because I wanted to help my teammates,” said Powell, who got a pass on joining Nicholls for the summer because of his 3.2 grade point average. “I had to build a mental toughness but I definitely had a lot of time to get my (class) work done.”
All of the players who will play for bigger programs this upcoming basketball season graduated in the spring. That made it easy for recruiters to give them offers and not wait for them to finish summer classes.
“All the credit goes to them,” White said, praising the efforts by his players in the classroom. “They are the ones putting in all the work to earn those scholarships. Then, I think it’s a credit to the culture of our program when you have every kid move on to the four-year level.”