Tatum quietly turning Lady Bruins into winners

Toccara Tatum has her team ranked 9th in Division I of the NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association).

Tatum quietly turning Lady Bruins into winners
January 30
10:38 2020

The Piedmont International University (PIU) Lady Bruins basketball team is having a very successful season. In only her second season at the helm, Toccara Tatum has her team ranked 9th in Division I of the NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association) with a 13-4 record overall (at the time this article was written).

“It is a surprise for me; I say that because we (coaches) have always come in with the mindset of one game at a time, so to be where we are now and knowing we are only going one day at a time and everyone else now gets to see it is awesome,” said Tatum about her expectations for the year.

Before PIU, Tatum, a North-South Carolina native, coached at several high schools such as Lexington, Glenn and Parkland. Tatum is a graduate of Ferrum College and holds several records at the school and was a Division III All-American while there. She has recently been nominated to the Ferrum College Hall of Fame. The opportunity for the Lady Bruins job came about following a recommendation to the athletic director from Carver High School, the great Porsche Jones. Coaching on the collegiate level has always been a dream for Tatum and now that she has her chance, she is putting her all into it.

“Coaching is my calling and I have always known that’s what drives me,” she said. “It has always been a career goal of mine to coach on the college level.”

Year one at PIU was very challenging for Tatum, she said. “I had the coaching part of it down, but it was still a lot for me to learn as far as recruiting and managing of the time that was outside of the court.”

The Lady Bruins finished last season 16-12 overall and lost in the South Region Championship. Tatum stated that her first year was a success in her eyes, even though they had to fight through injuries and teaching the young ladies how to be student athletes on this level.

With the success Tatum and the Lady Bruins enjoyed in her first year, the expectation level for this season was higher, she said. 

“My expectations were definitely to get back to the South Region Championship,” she continued. “We are doing a little better than I expected, ranked number 9 in the country, so if we can maintain that status, we can possibly be looking at an automatic bid to nationals.”

Tatum credits much of her success to her coaching staff, her ‘sisters’ in the coaching field, and returning players such as Malayah Montgomery, Ashley Lane and Zyniah Kesler. Tatum also wanted to build team chemistry by implementing several team activities for her players to enjoy, especially since the PIU campus is so small and thin with activities. Tatum also had high praise for Leonzerrae Grubbs, the team’s leading scorer, and Lexius Houzer.

Taking it one game at a time has been key to the Lady Bruins’ success this year, according to Tatum and staff.  

“One game at a time, that’s what’s got us this far,” said assistant coach Darnell Wallace. “We don’t look ahead and I think that works for us. We have to focus on the current opponent, then we will deal with the next one.”

With this being the first time the Lady Bruins have been ranked in the top 10 in the country, confidence is high with the team. Tatum said she keeps her team grounded by pouring over film to analyze things they could have done better, even in victories.

“Even though we may beat a team by 60 points, we always find a way we can get better,” she said. “Yeah, we beat them by 60, but I like to show them what they can do to get better. We also need to focus in on what we have going on and not everything around us, because at the end of the day, one loss can change how they feel about our program.”

Tatum said she likes to play fast, so her teams work a lot on pressing and playing up-tempo.

“I think good basketball should be entertaining, so we try to coach them up that way,” she elaborated.

Another perk to Tatum’s coaching style is that she is a different coach with every player. She knows which players to be hard on, while others need a more loving hand to get them motivated.

“I am whatever they need me to be,” Tatum said about her coaching style. “One of the things that we do when they first get here is we ask them, ‘How do you like to be coached?’”

As a female in a male-dominated profession, Tatum is pleased with her quick start in the coaching ranks. She doesn’t like to compare herself to other coaches and lives by the saying, ‘If God calls you to it, he will make room for you.’

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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