Talent is one thing New Albany does not lack on this year’s basketball squad. Leading the way is a senior, whose passion and emotion are easily spotted every time he suits up for the Bulldogs.
Tadarious Coburn is loud and energetic when he plays, but one-on-one is quiet and humble. It is hard to see this side when he is on the court, as he is often on the receiving end of numerous penalties and entertains fans with various dunks.
“I don’t mean to get the technicals, they give them to me because I’m too active, I guess,” Coburn laughed. “I’ve got to work on that and try not to get as many, but at the same time, keep the intensity up.”
Bulldogs head coach Brad Gray sees both sides of his leading scorer, noting his “Jekyll and Hyde” attitude.
“When he’s on the court, he’s fiery and passionate; shows a lot of emotion,” he said, “but off the court, you can’t get him to talk. Very extroverted on the court and introverted off, but I’d rather it be that way.”
Gray talked about Coburn’s development over the last three seasons, explaining the improvement of one of the area’s standout athletes.
“He’s been great to watch over the years,’ he said. “To see him start as a sophomore, a little rusty, but wanting to work hard and developing into the player he is now is great. He’s maintained a good attitude and has never stopped working to get better. He is well deserving of the recognition he’s received.”
The 6’6 forward thanks his coach for his energy on the court, as he feels the team feeds off of the intensity from the sideline.
“When he’s mad, we know we’ve got to work harder and get better. That’s it. He helps us so much, and we pick it up after that,” Coburn said.
Coburn and his fellow seniors have come a long way, according Gray. In three years, the Bulldogs have not only grabbed one division tournament championship, but have also placed themselves in position to make a run for a state championship.
“This is an excellent group that has weathered the storm the past three years,” he said. “They have worked hard and achieved much success, and I can’t say enough about them. They’re a special group, and I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to coach them.”
When the Bulldogs lost their first division game in two seasons last December, Coburn was quick to not only note the importance of that particular game, but also the turnaround of the team.
“When we lost to Shannon, we didn’t really need it, but at the same time, we needed it,” he said. “Every game, we went in thinking we could win, and they proved us wrong. We had to really concentrate on working hard and winning, and we’ve had that mindset ever since.”
The Bulldogs have done exactly that since the loss to the Red Raiders, going 13-1 to close out the regular season. This week, New Albany will make a run at a second-straight division championship, a feat Coburn hopes his team can accomplish.
“We’ve come a long way with people moving in and stuff, and we’ve been trying our best to improve,” he said. “We’re going to go in there and play hard and as a team, and hopefully we can win the championship again.”
Coburn and the Bulldogs are the number one seed in the Division 1-4A tournament at Itawamba Community College. New Albany will face the North Pontotoc/Itawamba winner in the tournament semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Thursday night.