/State star Tea McCowan, once shy, now intimidates on the court

State star Tea McCowan, once shy, now intimidates on the court

Harris recalls Thursday’s moment McCowan first met her, saying, “I was like, ‘Wow!’” She was so tall and skinny, and so girly on the court back then. She was so taller than anyone else on the court. That’s something I will never forget.” Vic Schaefer and Harris were both assistant coaches at Texas A &M back then. They left Texas shortly thereafter to go to Mississippi State. They didn’t forget Brenham, Texas’ tall, skinny “girly” girl. That’s a good thing. McCowan, stronger and more mature than ever, will lead the 36-1 Bulldogs to the Nationwide Arena against Louisville in Friday’s first game of NCAA Women’s Final Four. McCowan, a 21-year-old junior has been playing some of the most exciting basketball she’s ever seen. McCowan scored 47 and grabbed 36 rebounds in two games against North Carolina State University and UCLA at Kansas City Regional. She was able to make 18 of 26 field goals and 11 of 13 free throws. She blocked eight shots, and altered the fate of many more. So you can now add N.C. State’s Wes Moore to the chorus of coaches who continue to say in one version: “We just didn’t have an answer for Teaira McCowan.” Unless McCowan gets in foul trouble, as she did against South Carolina, State’s only loss. State is home to many outstanding players, including All-American Victoria Viians. Make no mistake. Only one Teaira McCowan exists. The State has her. Nobody else does. McCowan is the reason State has a chance at winning its first NCAA team championship. Schaefer stated, “I think what really impressed me is how hard she plays basketball and her pursuit of the rebounding.” She is Bill Russell-like, and she understands angles and how shots are made. It is difficult to move her. Her strength, I believe, is really another dominant factor.” It was a long, difficult journey – in more than one way – from a small-town Texan “girly girl”, 13 years old, to arguably the most intimidating college basketball post player. No. McCowan first had to learn how the game works. No. 2. She had to learn how Teaira McCowan works. This second part was probably more difficult than the first. Few people understand what it’s like to be one foot taller than your peers. You get strange looks. You are called things. You are the jokester. You are so distinctive in the crowd that you are an easy target. McCowan stated, “I was teased a lot.” McCowan said, “I was bullied too.” She didn’t even fight back. She didn’t even speak up. She said, “I was shy and quiet.” “I just took it.” Brenham High School made her a Parade All American. But she will admit that this was mostly due to being the tallest player on the court almost every time. She didn’t know what to do. Vic Schaefer most credits Harris for McCowan’s rapid improvement. She remembers the first time she worked with McCowan. Harris stated, “OK Tea, we’re going on to work on your dropstep.” McCowan replied, “My what?” She didn’t know what a drop step was, which is the most common move for post players. McCowan stated, “I didn’t really know much about anything.” She was only 6-7 years old, but she had soft hands and was building a strong body. State has seen an improvement in her work ethic. Her endurance has improved. She is more confident. She knows the drop step, and many other steps. Harris says, “She has put in work.” McCowan deserves credit for her hard work. She has had 27 double-doubles in her first year as a starter. This means that she has rebounded and scored in double figures in 27 games. McCowan has been able to do that in the SEC, with Vic Schaefer describing it as “two or three players hanging onto her at all times.” Her game has improved, and so has McCowan’s persona. She said Friday, “I discovered who I really was.” I have become me. She smiles more. After games, she jokes with her teammates. McCowan recalled a day earlier in the season, when a high school team was training at State. One girl was taller than all the others on the team. McCowan was approached by the girl, who asked her how she handled the bizarre looks, barbs, and all that else. McCowan said, “Don’t be sad. I have been there. I told her to be herself and use her size. It takes time, I said to her. McCowan was right. It takes time. Tea McCowan is now happy to be 6 feet 7 inches tall.