Eastside example

Published: Tuesday, January 7, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 6, 2003 at 11:44 p.m.

Eastside's Tristan McCray hates coming out of basketball games.

The senior point guard is so determined to help her team advance past the first round of the Class 4A regional playoffs, she is not taking a breather at practice or during a game.

"I try and lead by example and I look at water breaks during practice as a time to improve," said McCray, who is averaging 10 points, seven assists and more than five steals a game for the Rams. "I'll work on my free throws and ballhandling during water breaks. I am just trying to be the best point guard I can be."

During games, McCray will be on the floor for all 32 minutes. Eastside coach Lonnie Turner calls McCray the brain of the team.

"She is the second coach on the court, she knows what needs to be done and there are times that I never give her a rest," said Turner, whose team lost in the regional quarterfinals last season. "She is the type of person that you don't hold down, she loves the game of basketball."

And that feeling for the game showed in the finals of the Osceola Holiday Tournament. Despite twisting her ankle in the championship game, McCray remained on the floor. The Rams actually were held scoreless in the first quarter before McCray helped rally her team to make things close in the second half en route to the runner-up finish.

"She never gives up," Turner said. "She is focused on her game and always gives you 110 percent all the time. She does it all."

And Turner is not the only coach to realize this.

"She is a well-rounded athlete," said Santa Fe coach Cindy Cox, who saw McCray score 14 points and make five steals in a 60-49 victory against her Raiders on Dec. 20. "She can take it to the hole or spot up, and she makes free throws."

McCray is beginning to penetrate more and find open shooters. She's reading defenses much better too, Turner said. While on the other side of the ball, Turner said McCray plays aggressively.

McCray, a three-year starter playing her fourth year on the varsity, has averaged 16 points in each of the last two seasons. Her points are down a bit from the previous two years, but that can be attributed to the double-teams she has had to face.

"I was open a lot more last year, but I am facing a lot of double-teams this year," said McCray, who averaged five assists as a sophomore and seven as a junior. "Teams are putting a lot of pressure on me this year, which opens room for my teammates."

McCray, who said she looks at her team as a second family, said she would like to make a career playing basketball. She has generated interest from Florida A&M, Alabama A&M and Central Florida - all Division-I schools - while Division II schools, Columbus State (Ga.) and the University of Tampa have both made scholarship offers.

"I want to go to a team where I can contribute right away," she said.

But right now, she is still a big part of the Rams and will be a major factor in how far they can go in the playoffs.

"My first goal is to get the victory and not to let a lead slip away," McCray said. "I am determined to get our team further than than we went last year."

Regardless of when, where and how Eastside's season ends, it is a safe bet to say McCray will be on the floor no matter what.

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