Tay Drakes' career did not go as planned but given one last chance, the 6-4 senior from Airport has made the most of the opportunity.
Drakes moved to Columbia from Kansas before his junior season. Before the season was over, he was dismissed from the team; Airport coach Jimmy Kinard said Drakes "had some problems being responsible."
But coming back to the team this season, Drakes has assumed a leadership role. He is averaging a team-best 18.7 points per game and 4.3 rebounds for the Eagles.
"To his credit, he came back as a senior and he's been everything and more than I expected from him," said Kinard, whose team will miss the playoffs this season. "We gave him an opportunity and he's made the most of it."
Drakes understood the reasoning for his dismissal. He did not let that deter him and played AAU basketball last summer for the Edmund Express, where he learned more about himself and what he needed to do on and off the court.
"Playing AAU gave me more confidence in myself," Drakes said. "I think I learned a lot about basketball and what needed to be done on and off the court from coach Steve Stewart."
Drakes has always been a deadly outside shooter, but added the dimension of penetrating to the basket this season. Stewart witnessed the transition over the summer and is not surprised by the numbers Drakes has produced.
"He's a very good outside shooter and quick off the floor," Stewart said. "Once he makes a few from the outside, guys have to come out and guard that, and he's able to get around them and go to the basket."
Even though Airport's record has not gone to Drakes' liking, he has managed to make the most of his final season. He should be an All-Region selection, and Kinard said he is going to nominate him for the North-South All-Star game.
Drakes has put the misfortunes of last year behind him. He wanted to make this season the best possible situation and has talked with Allen University about continuing his career there.
Kinard feels one of the things that sets Drakes apart is the way he's reacted to things since coming to Airport - from the dismissal to this season's losing record. He said many kids might not have come back after being dismissed, but Drakes has used it as motivation.
"The bottom line is he's been a star on a team that has struggled from a standpoint of winning and losing," Kinard said. "But he has remained pretty positive considering the adversity he has dealt with and the lack success of the team. He's been a quiet leader. He's been a hard worker for us and we're tickled to have him."