Tanner rises to new challenges for Buffaloes
FLOYD – When Dustin Faulkner says Floyd County High School basketball teammate Caleb Tanner is a competitor, believe him.
The Faulkners and Tanners are family friends. The mothers were cheerleaders together when they went to high school there. Tanner’s father Shane coached the boys on an AAU team when they were barely old enough to heave the basketball at the basket.
The boys have come a long way since then, but some things don’t change. To illustrate his point, Faulkner was telling a story the other day about a long ago summer afternoon . When Faulkner’s mother worked, Tanner’s mother watched the boys. Daily activities included swimming and playing basketball – a lot of basketball.
On this particular hot afternoon, they were playing one-on-one. For some two hours that had been going on.
“We were getting into it, getting angry and he’d beaten me three or four times then the last one, I finally beat him,” said Faulkner, a senior now. “And then he wouldn’t quit until he could win the last game. So we kept playing he did win. That’s just the type of competitor he is.”
Tanner’s a junior and he’s always been the quiet type as he conducts himself in public. But when he’s playing ball, you can see his dark eyes burning as if they were lasering an opponent right in two if they only could.
“Offense or defense, all it was for him was just trying to win,” Faulkner said. “That’s all it was for us growing up, just trying to win.”
Not much has changed. Tanner capped a spectacular third season of varsity basketball by leading the Buffaloes into this week’s Group A Division 2 Region C playoffs. Floyd County played at Grayson County Wednesday.
Through the regular season, Tanner averaged close to 33 points per game, shot 52 percent from the floor and 87 percent from the line, while leading the area by a lot with 76 3-pointers while shooting 41.8 percent from distance.
All this has been accomplished despite the best efforts of every gimmick defense known to man. He’s used to it now.
“Freshman year, everybody pretty much classified me just as a shooter,” he said. “Sophomore and especially this year, I’ve developed my all-around game more. Now people have to take into account that I can do more.”
The result is a different defensive approach for most teams.
“Freshman team, they just denied me the ball and that was it, they shut me down, I couldn’t do anything else, ” he said. ” This year, they have to double team me and play me a whole lot different than they did my freshman year.”
Nobody’s been harder on him over the years than defense-minded Radford. One of the toughest games of the year for Tanner and the Buffaloes was the 63-43 loss to the Bobcats in Floyd Jan. 31, Tanner being limited to four field goals and 13 points.
“You just can’t let him get going,” Radford coach Rick Cormany said. “He’s too good.”
Tanner fared better in two other closer games with the Bobcats, particularly the one in Radford when he scored 31 points. He had another big game when Radford edged Floyd County 61-59 in the River Ridge District tournament last weekend, scoring 18. His last second shot was off or the ultimate result might have been different. Considering how they played him, any success was an accomplishment.
“Every time I touch it, they’re running two and three at me,” Tanner said.
He’s showed his maturity this season by letting the game come to him more and not trying to force it. It has also helped that he’s probably put on over 50 pounds since freshman year and grown to a lanky 6-foot-1. That has enabled him to attack the basket with more effectiveness as well as to operate inside instead of being limited to sniping from the perimeter.
“He’s really gone to work last summer on his strength and quickness,” Floyd County coach Brian Harman said. “His pull-up is lot better now. He’s finally maturing into what he can do. His defense has gotten a lot better. Does it need more work? There’s no question. But that’s all you’ve got to do is tell him once, but he knows it.”
A significant factor in Tanner’s development as been the AAU circuit. He played for a team based in Charleston, W.Va., last summer. He didn’t exactly see the world in his travels, but he did play in Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Tough competitions teaches many lessons. One is being able to find ways to get your shot when the defense is relentless.
“You learn to play through it,” he said.
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