News

FEATURE

McCall Much More Than Defensive Stopper as He Falls in Love With Cairns

Written for nbl.com.au by Chris Pike 

Damian Martin quickly identified him as a potential winner of the trophy with his name on it, but Cairns Taipans star Tahjere McCall is showing he is much more than a defensive stopper and has taken no time falling in love with the Tropical Far North.

McCall was signed by the Taipans for #NBL22 with an impressive reputation as a gun defender starting with his college career at Tennessee State and since playing throughout the G-League with the Long Island Nets, College Park Skyhawks and Lakeland Magic before a stint in France.

It's fair to say that two games into his NBL career and it appears they have struck gold with McCall.

The 27-year-old from Philadelphia originally has had no trouble living up to his defensive reputation. It started when Forde gave him the challenge on Vic Law in the season-opener in Perth against the Wildcats with him fresh off 37 points two nights earlier.

McCall did an impressive job before having to switch onto Bryce Cotton who caught fire before he had another big defensive task ahead of him in Saturday night's home opener against the Tasmania JackJumpers with their strength with import guards Josh Magette and Josh Adams.

It turned out to be a much bigger role than being a defensive force that McCall had to play, though, in his first game in front of the Orange Army with the Taipans returning to play at the redeveloped Cairns Convention Centre with a packed house.

When Scott Machado went down injured, it was McCall who was called upon to take over the majority of the ball handling and playmaking duties for the Snakes while not only being looked at as the team's main scoring threat and biggest disruptive defender.

He drove himself into the ground in 36 and-a-half minutes on the floor but he proved a match-winner for the Taipans. His numbers only tell part of the story and they were impressive enough with 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal but most importantly he was a major factor in the 69-62 win for the Taipans.

Damian Martin's legacy speaks for itself as a six-time NBL championship winner and six-time Best Defensive Player award winner. His defence is so legendary that immediately upon retiring the league named the Best Defensive Player trophy in his honour.

He knew that what he saw on the floor in terms of a defensive maestro with McCall was the real deal.

But what has now blown Martin away even more is the all-round game McCall is showing with Cairns.

"He is quickly becoming one of my favourite players in the league and he is a two-way player," Martin said on Hoops Heaven's Basketball Hustle where he is a co-host.

"I know he came out here with people asking if he was a Bryce Cotton stopper and that he's a defensive machine, but he can play flat out at both ends. 

"His real strength is at the defensive end and that generates easy points the other way. He was just everywhere with defensive rebounds, deflections steals and blocked shots. He can do a bit of everything."

McCall was more than willing and able to pick up the extra responsibility for the Taipans against the JackJumpers on Saturday night after Machado went down hurt, but what is already standing out is what an incredible teammate he is and how much he puts his team first.

That's why he was quick to pay tribute to his teammates for getting that win.

"I don’t know if it was so much the responsibility, it was just that my teammates, the city and the coaches deserve a team that is going to compete and will give their all because they give us their all," McCall said. 

"The fans out there was outstanding with their support so it was more so about the team. I think I played not so well if you ask me, I've got to be a lot better for my team but my teammates did a great job. 

"Everybody picked me up and Scott is a big piece of what we do, but the team and the coaches did their thing and that's why we got that win."

While McCall has received strong praise for his performance in Cairns getting their first win of the season, the man himself is a hard marker on his own performance and feels he has much more to give.

Shooting 6/17 from the field and 0/6 from three-point land to go with six turnovers are areas that McCall will focus on trying to fix up this week ahead of another home clash this Saturday night against the Adelaide 36ers.

That, in itself, should be fascinating should McCall be given the defensive job on Adelaide sharpshooter Dusty Hannahs, but overall the new Taipans fan favourite is focusing on improving the chemistry with his new teammates.

"I still had too many turnovers so I've got to do a better job and watch some film, but my teammates especially the bigs Nate and Zim, and shooters Kouat and Djeric, we're starting to build that chemistry," McCall said. 

"We had a long pre-season but we didn’t get to play a lot against them other teams. Now obviously we are playing against other teams and we are building that rhythm. We are still having some turnovers that are not even forced turnovers, they are just us not being on the same page. 

"But the more we play and continue to play and practice together, and get Scott back, then I feel like we're all going to adjust each other. Most of the time they are getting the hang of my passing and I'm always looking for my guys."

You only need to see the giant smile that comes on McCall's face when asked about how he is finding life in Australia and in particular Cairns, and to be playing in the NBL to know how delighted he is to be down under.

McCall has quickly fallen in love with the city of Cairns, the Orange Army and his new teammates and coaching staff in a way that's infectious. That flows through to the energy that he plays with out on the floor.

As a result, McCall has one and only one mission now for the rest of the season with the Taipans, and that is to help them win as many games as he possibly can.

"I'm loving Australia and especially my teammates, Fordey and this feels like home for me right now already. I just want so much for the guys. They have welcomed me with open arms and have made me just feel like I'm from here," McCall said. 

"They have never made me feel like an outsider and that has started with the coach and GM. I just want so much for this city because they show so much love just when you are walking around. 

"Just from being in this city, they show you so much love and I feel like we owe them so much when we come out on the court. Coach is putting us in the position to succeed no matter what is going on and we just have to be better for the fans and for us.

"I am loving it right now but I just want to keep building and keep getting better, and hopefully we get more W's."

NEWS

Jack White Joins Denver for Summer League

2 days ago

NEWS

“Speechless” Travers Explains NBA Draft Emotions

2 days ago

NEWS

3 NBL Players Selected in NBA Draft

2 days ago

NEWS

Luke Travers Drafted by Cleveland Cavaliers

2 days ago

NEWS

Hugo Besson Drafted by Bucks

2 days ago

NEWS

Dieng to Start NBA Career in OKC

2 days ago

NEWS

JackJumpers Sign Milton Doyle

3 days ago

NEWS

Wildcats to “Move Quickly” on New Coach

3 days ago

NEWS

Scott Morrison to Depart Wildcats for Family Reasons

3 days ago

NEWS

Travers Outperforming Fellow Draft Hopefuls

3 days ago

LaMelo Ball Leads Hawks, Taipans Beat Bullets Again

16 September 2019

Fourth Place Frustration for Boomers in China

15 September 2019

FIBA World Cup Bronze Medal Game | Australia v France Preview

15 September 2019

Prather Shines In United's Big Win, Taipans Smash Bullets

14 September 2019

Starting Five: World Cup Heartbreak

14 September 2019

Spain Again Breaks Boomers Hearts in Double OT

13 September 2019

Watch Live | Illawarra Hawks vs Melbourne United

13 September 2019

FIBA World Cup Semi-Final | Australia v Spain Preview

13 September 2019

Starting Five: Boomers Two Wins from Gold

12 September 2019

Australia Advance to World Cup Final Four

12 September 2019

NBL Partners

Naming Rights
Major Partners
Broadcast & Media Partners
Profile Partners
Suppliers
Associates