MORRIS – Tanner Sampson leads the Morris varsity boys basketball team in no major statistical categories this season, but he has contributed in plenty of ways.
The senior was averaging 5.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game heading into Friday’s game at Sycamore. He has regularly started at forward and was, before Friday, fifth in minutes played.
Before practice Wednesday, the day after the Redskins dropped their third straight game (57-47 to Ottawa) and fell to 16-8 overall, the Morris Daily Herald caught up with Sampson.
Q. How has your role changed this season?
A. At the beginning of the season, I was gonna be the trailer spot, which is at the top of the key, and then me and my coach both decided that we needed a post player to step up, so I became a post player. That’s basically all that’s changed.
Q. Do you feel comfortable down there?
A. Yeah, I like it. I feel like it’s more of a battle in the paint to get rebounds, find open teammates, that type of stuff. And I can’t shoot 3s.
Q. What’s this conference race been like? Have you enjoyed the battles that you’ve had with these other teams?
A. Yeah, it’s been really tight with all the teams, basically, except for Rochelle. I think they’ve been in last the whole way. Recently, I’m pretty sure, like three teams were tied for second, and now we’re in first. We could have a three-way tie for first if we lose Friday, but I like it like that. More competitiveness.
Q. What’s the attitude of the team been like for the past few days as you guys have hit a bit of a rough stretch?
A. We just know that we’ve had our first losing streak all year, and we just gotta stay mentally and physically ready for the next games that are coming up, ‘cause they’re very important.
Q. Going that far without a losing streak is a pretty good accomplishment. What allowed that to happen? What kind of resiliency did you guys show by bouncing back every time you had a loss?
A. Hard work in practice is probably the main thing. We’d come back the next day at practice and work our butts off pretty hard, have a good week of practice, get a win.
Q. What have you tried to do for this team in terms of being a senior, as a leader?
A. Mainly, I try to keep my attitude positive, which is hard at times, but I feel like if my intensity is up, and I get my teammates pumped up, then we work better together.
Q. It’s been probably the most successful season for Morris basketball since you’ve been in the program, if not far before that. Why? What’s different this year?
A. Last year, when I was playing, we had the same amount – like seven or eight people – that would play, with a decent amount of talent. I feel like this year, we have a lot more heart and pride in what we do, honestly.
Q. An injury was the reason you didn’t play baseball last year. What happened? What was the injury, exactly? How did it happen?
A. I had a ganglion cyst on my wrist with like a bunch of scar tissue on it, and the first time, they cut the cyst out and I guess they didn’t get all of the stem. There was like a 28 percent chance it would come back, and it came back. There was like a big ball right here, and it would mess with my shot, so I got surgery again for that, and I thought I was playing baseball, and it caused elbow pain when I pitched.
Q. Has it affected you in basketball at all?
A. I don’t do push-ups still. If a ball hits it like that pretty hard, it hurts, but other than that, no, not really.
Q. Anything you really have as a goal left before your athletic career here at Morris comes to an end?
A. Regional champions. That’s the main goal. That was our team goal from the beginning – 15 wins and regional champs. We got the 15. Now we gotta get regional champs.