Published 12:00 am Friday, February 8, 2008

Averaging nearly a triple double, RCS’s Eddren McCain leads the Eagles


Sports Editor

As Reserve Christian scrimmaged during a team practice on Thursday, senior point guard Eddren McCain took the ball up the court, knowing his side needed one more basket to win.

All season, McCain’s taken over games when the Eagles have needed him. This was a chance to hone that ability again.

McCain took the ball to his left and rose for a potential game winning shot – while drawing two defenders. Immediately, he fired the ball in mid air to teammate Chris Roussell, who buried a 3-pointer for the winning points.

Such a play has been typical for McCain throughout his Eagle career. Find Coach Tim Byrd after a close game, and it never fails: he’ll tell you that Eddren took control.

The question then becomes – how? Was it Eddren scoring the ball? Did he hit the boards? Did he set up his teammates, as he did Roussell, for the plays that needed to be made?

The answer, usually, is all of the above. The numbers don’t lie: the 6’ guard sports averages of 19.6 points, 12.4 assists, and 9.2 rebounds per game, which means he’s a probable triple-double every time he steps on the floor.

“If we need him to get 35, he’ll get it. If we need 10 rebounds, he’ll do that too. It’s what makes him such a good player,” said Byrd. “He may be 6’, but he plays like he’s 6’5 at times.”

While few can hope to guard McCain one-on-one and stop him from filling up the basket, he takes pride in his ability to run his team, setting up others to help make the Eagles a constant threat to score from any position.

“If you want to win, it’s what you’ve got to do,” said McCain. “When you set everyone up, it takes the stress off of me. It makes everyone want to play with you. If you try to do it all yourself, it’s a lose-lose situation.”

Byrd says that when McCain got to Reserve, the coaching staff actually had to encourage him to shoot more often.

“Shoot more” was also the advice of McCain’s former teammate, Eagle star Demond “Tweety” Carter.

Carter’s arrival at the school helped lift Reserve to another level as a program, and McCain spent his sophomore season as a complimentary player, setting the table for Carter.

“I wanted to make the game more fun for him,” McCain said.

But now, it’s McCain who is the torchbearer for Reserve, the latest star Eagle to lead his team to championship glory – the Eagles defeated Athens, 61-59, in the 2007 Class C title game to secure Reserve’s second straight Class C championship and third straight state crown overall.

“It’s just a great honor to even be mentioned in the same breath as (Carter),” said McCain. “I’m just trying to fulfill what he left.”

None of this came by accident for McCain, a tireless worker both on and off the court. Two months before the season, you’ll find him hitting the weight room three times a week. In the gym, he’s constantly working on adding to his game. At home, he’s gleaning what he can from the pro and college game on television.

“You’ve got to learn about the past before you do anything. That’s life,” said McCain. “Michael Jordan, LeBron, Kobe, watching those guys and learning makes you better.

“There really is no offseason. If you’re not working at it, somebody else is and is gaining ground.”

That work ethic, Byrd says, comes from an inner toughness that few others his age can boast.

“He’s no nonsense when it comes to basketball. He’s serious about what he does and what he puts his mind to,” said Byrd, who dubs McCain a “quiet assassin” on the court.

His toughness was undoubtedly part of what drew Bradley head basketball Coach Jim Les to McCain, who committed to the Braves late last year.

Likewise, McCain sees a lot to like in Les, and at Bradley.

“First, there’s a great opportunity there. They also show lots of love,” said McCain. “Their coach has NBA experience. He knows everything I’m going to get into. Their system gives a lot of freedom, which makes it fun to be a part of.”

McCain said that Les’s similarities to Byrd as a coach also made it an attractive option.

“They’re almost exactly alike,” said McCain. “Each system uses a lot of ball screens, a lot of running, getting up and down.”

Likewise, it didn’t take Byrd long to know that McCain would be a standout in that system.

“After seeing him once or twice, and seeing how fast he moves out there, I expected him to excel in our style of play,” he said.

McCain and Reserve boast a 32-8 record and are preparing to defend their state crown in the Class C playoffs. Win or lose, it will mark the last time McCain will don Reserve’s red and white. Not long after, his time at the school will be complete.

And while McCain reflects on his time at Reserve with great fondness, he is prepared for when that final day comes.

“It’ll be a celebration of life,” said McCain. “I have lots of great memories here. It’s bigger than just basketball. It will mean that it’s time to start a new journey, turn a new page, and begin a new chapter.”