Athletes are so preoccupied with repetition that muscle memory becomes second nature. Tatum Tellin may have taken her training to a fault. Now, she has to retrain her brain and body.
As selfless as she has been in Grapevine’s girls basketball program, head coach Lindy Slagle and her staff have pleaded and challenged Tellin to become more selfish.
They ask with the best intentions. A pass-first, score-second type of player throughout her career, Grapevine needs the senior wing to evolve into the go-to player for the rest of the 2016-2017 season.
It’s a work in progress. But it’s getting there.
“I’ve always seemed to embody ... being a team player,” said Tellin, a three-year starter and two-year captain. “I’ve never been one who has thought about trying to score 20 points per game. And it’s a fine line of knowing when to shoot and when to give it off. Coach Slagle has gotten on to me about taking shots when I’m wide open. Slowly, it’s been changing.”
Others saw the big picture. In November, Tellin (5-8) signed a National Letter of Intent with the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. She visited the school in October and was offered without ever being evaluated during a live recruiting period.
“I was really shocked when they told me that,” Tellin said. “But they liked how aggressive I was and that they could tell how well-rounded I was. At first, I was iffy about playing in college. But I talked to others who went on to college. They just told me that if I have the ability, I might as well try it.”
Part of this transition stems from Tellin being this team’s best defensive player. She has drawn the toughest of assignments in Hurst L.D. Bell star and UConn signee Lexi Gordon. Tellin didn’t ask why. She did it, because she had no fear. Tellin leads the team in taking offensive fouls with six.
But the energy expended on doing that has taken a toll. Not long ago, Slagle changed the strategy. Instead of being the primary defender, Tellin has become the help-side defender. It saves energy so she can expend more of it on offense. The potential is there. While Tellin is averaging only 7.8 points, she’s shooting 59 percent on two-point attempts. No wonder why Slagle is pleading for more shots.
“She flat-out has to score for us to be successful,” Slagle said. “There’s a lot of growth in her offensive game. We’re giving her the freedom off the dribble. She’s become a pretty good shooter on the 12-to-15-foot pull-up jumper. And when the shots are not falling, she can take it around find other ways to score.”
Now, it’s probably not going to be this way for the balance of the season. Matchups at the Mansfield tournament over the Christmas break may cause a different thinking. Plus, Tellin likely will get Colleyville Heritage’s prolific scorer in Bryn Gerlich when the Lady Mustangs and Lady Panthers meet in their two district contests.
As Grapevine climbs out of its rough start, Tellin and her teammates are in a better frame of mind. Exposed weaknesses have been addressed. Where Tellin can make the difference is consistently scoring in double figures. Repetitions will help.
“She could average a double-double if she wanted to,” Slagle said. “But the intangibles she brings to the game are things you just can’t coach.”