Mealy Impresses With His Physicality
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 23, 2014, 23:06
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PETERSBURG — Tavon Mealy envisions himself strapping on the pads and buttoning his chin strap while eyeing an opponent's running back. He quickly glides to the open crease, lowers his shoulders and collides full-speed into the ball-callier, causing a fumble before returning it for a touchdown.
However, Mealy's vision remains just that as his future has not included taking snaps on the gridiron, but running the floor on the hardwood for Richard Bland. Yet, as Mealy discusses his love for football, it's not difficult to tell how he uses those skills within the game of basketball.
The Statesmen's forward uses brute physicality in the low-blocks, helping to control the paint with just his strength for No. 7 ranked team in the National Junior College Athletic Association. And it's his ability to affect the game with force on both the defensive and offensive ends of the court which have given Mealy a love for the game he is currently excelling in.
"When I was growing up, I really liked football," Mealy explained. "I just never really played because everyone kept putting me on the basketball court and as I got older, I realized I really liked basketball. I just love the contact."
And Mealy created a ton of contact when he's going at opposing players.
The 6-foot-3 forward is severely undersized at his position, but it does not limit his ability to produce. Mealy captured NJCAA Player of the Week honors last month for his performance, highlighting his importance to the Statesmen.
Mealy's ability to use his body as a shield helps him the blocks while his brute force leads to offensive put-backs after misses by teammates. However, Mealy is also driven by the perceived lack of respect from others because of his height. It fuels his game on the court and he enjoys the looks on opponents faces after the final buzzer sounds.
"It's been that way my whole life," Mealy said of questions on his height. "They see a 6-foot-3 forward and think it's not going to work. I work hard in practice and it shows in the games. I take it as like, I'm going to do this and I'm going to prove everyone wrong."
The Statesmen's forward is well on his way to doing just that with his importance to a Richard Bland team ranked No. 7 in the NJCAA polls. In fact, against Louisburg, it was Mealy's basket with 37.1 seconds remaining which put the Statesmen ahead for the eventual win.
On the play, Mealy never hesitated when receiving the bounce-pass in the post, immediately turning toward the baseline and rising for the hoop. It was a premeditated move set up by 39 minutes of pump-fakes and slow hesitation moves, making the lightning-quick spin all the more effective when the Statesmen truly needed it.
It's just a small microcosm of what Mealy has done all season long.
The forward is Richard Bland's second-leading scorer, averaging 17.1 points per game on 66 percent shooting from the field. In addition, Mealy hauls in 8.5 rebounds per game, helping solidify the board advantage for Richard Bland.
However, the success is something Mealy says he was confident would come from the start, noting how important confidence is to a player's performance.
"Yes, I was really confident because just like in high school, people took me as an undersized big man," Mealy said. "I knew that was how it was going to be when I came to college, so I took the same momentum I had from high school to college."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Although, Mealy has also spoke of the type of help he has been receiving from other forwards lining the Richard Bland roster.
Specifically, Melvin Gregory provides a mind to lean on for Mealy. Gregory has experience with a Division I program having red-shirted at Mount St. Mary's last year before leaving the program to attend Richard Bland. He's helped teach Mealy the finer points of defense he may not have known prior to arriving on campus.
Add that to Andre Stanley and Avery Ugba continuing to push him in practice and you have a player still learning to become better.
"Melvin helps me out a lot," Mealy said of Gregory. "Me taking charges, I'm not a shot-blocker, but I know I have someone behind me ready to swat the shot away."
However, even with the improving defensive, Mealy is not satisfied. He wants to expand his offensive arsenal by improving his ball-handling and ability to shoot from 3-point range.
"I'm working on expanding to the 3-point line and I can put the ball on the deck a little bit," Mealy said with a laugh. "But if I'm playing against a smaller person, I'm going to post you up."
It's his desire to prove to those who told him he could never have success on the basketball court wrong that gives Mealy a chip on his shoulder to always improve. The Richard Bland forward is never satisfied with his performance while always looking for ways to improve.
And it's that work-ethic which will keep Mealy successful while donning the white and green uniform in Statesmen Hall, eliminating doubters one at a time.