December 6, 2017 10:13:32 AM
It's all about a mind-set for Tyler Stevenson.
At 6-foot-7 1/2, 180 pounds, the New Hope High School swingman has the athleticism, length, and quickness to be one of the top players in the state of Mississippi.
As a senior, Stevenson also has a different attitude to go with his new position on the school's boys basketball team.
Through five games, Stevenson's new mind-set is helping him settle in as "the man" at New Hope High.
Stevenson scored a game-high 20 points Tuesday night to lead a balanced scoring attack in New Hope's 62-35 victory against Caledonia.
"I just felt like I was underrated coming into the season, so I just knew I had to work harder and get in the gym and show people what I could do," Stevenson said. "I knew I had to be the leader on the team and get it done."
New Hope (3-2) built a 16-5 lead after one quarter and cruised to a 38-8 halftime edge. Stevenson played a key role by gliding along the baseline and wreaking havoc. Stevenson's quickness allows him to move in and out of tight spaces easily. His length enables him to twist and turn in the lane to get shots up. If Stevenson misses, he is able to jump quickly multiple times, if needed, for putbacks. Stevenson did that twice in the first half, beating defenders to second and third shot attempts.
New Hope coach Drew McBrayer hoped Stevenson would be able to step into and dominate after the graduation of players like Terryonte Thomas, JaQuante Bell, and Jay Shinn. He said he talked with Stevenson about assuming a bigger role on the team with seniors like Andrew Junkin and Kyree Fields. So far, Stevenson has scored 18 or more points in every game. Fields also was selected to participate in the event.
"We worked really, really hard this summer on him being the man," McBrayer said. "Last year, that wasn't his role, and he didn't have to ;lay that role. This summer, we knew we were going to have to get him in that aggressive mode, and he has really, really taken to it. He is being more aggressive than he has ever been."
McBrayer said part of Stevenson's new attitude is the result of him being in his final prep season. He said Stevenson has a goal to play basketball at the next level, so he knows he wants to make impressions on college coaches to earn a scholarship offer. McBrayer said Stevenson has done the work before and after practice to earn that chance.
McBrayer said the additional work has polished Stevenson's skills. He said the change in Stevenson's mental approach has helped him lift his game to another level.
"He is also our leading rebounder, averaging 13 1/2 a game," McBrayer said. "He has turned the corner and is heading in the right direction.
"It is a tribute to him. He has worked his tail off to get to where he is. He spent a lot of time in the gym in the offseason. He spent a lot of time in the gym after hours. There have been plenty of times he has called me and said, 'Coach, I need to get back into the gym,' and we come back here and work again. It is a testament to the other kids in our program what hard work does, where it can get you. He has seen it from kids in the past, and he keeps striving for more every day."
Stevenson also showed his explosiveness when he took an alley oop from Anthony Roland and dunked for New Hope's 47th and 48th points. Another dunk gave the Trojans their 49th and 50th points. He nearly added a third dunk to the flurry, but he grabbed the rim and back-rimmed the attempt. It was one of the few things Stevenson didn't convert to continue his hot start.
"My legs started cramping," Stevenson said. "I have to start drinking water more, stay hydrated, and stretch more, but I should have put that one in."
Stevenson said he has received interest from Tennessee State and Southern Mississippi as well as Northeast Mississippi Community College, Itawamba C.C., Hinds C.C., Southwest Mississippi C.C, and others. He said his goal is to get the best offer possible so he can continue to grow his game. Stevenson said he is focused on improving his ballhandling and shooting range in hopes of realizing a dream of getting a ring for winning a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State title.
"Even if coaches aren't there, I still want to play hard and show a lot of people what I can do," Stevenson said.
Tyran Reed had eight points, while Junkin and Fields had seven for New Hope.
Romeo Sanders had 12 points to lead Caledonia.
n In the girls game, Julia Franks had 10 points to lead the New Hope to a 57-32 victory.
Alaysha Jennings, Alex Melton, and Domari Simmons added eight points for New Hope. Imoni Harris had seven and Jada Jamison had six.
Maddy Suggs and Nenah Young had nine points for Caledonia.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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