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  • Zach Welch

Making the Most of Every Opportunity: Terrance McBride

Five seconds left on the clock. After a hard-fought contest against one of the best teams in the Ivy League, Princeton, the Big Red have the opportunity to finish their season on a high note. Four seconds left. Despite three lead changes in the last two minutes of play, Cornell has the chance to sweep the season series for the first time in ten seasons. Three seconds left. Up by two, incoming captain Terrance McBride and co. just have to shut down this last sequence for the Tigers. Two seconds left. Princeton sharpshooter and leading scorer Jaelin Llewellyn launches a three for the win, but the shot dances off the rim, and with that the Big Red secured a gritty victory over a talented opponent.

Having been the last time he was able to formally play, Terance McBride wistfully reflected back on the final game of Cornell’s 2019-20 season, as if it were a long lost memory.

This is unique. I’ve never had this much offtime – I haven’t played in a competitive or organized game since March 7 when we played Princeton. I haven’t played any pickup basketball or anything like that. The most I’ve played is 2v2 and 3v3, which has been crazy for me. It’s been four and a half months…

McBride, however, is no stranger to adapting to a situation and turning adversity into opportunity. He’s actually been doing so ever since his freshman year of high school, when he began his four year Varsity career at high school basketball powerhouse Sierra Canyon.

Growing up in LA, Southern California is a huge basketball community. There’s a lot of guys that come out and have great college and pro careers, so growing up here, it was really competitive… I’d say that my class was the founding of Sierra Canyon basketball so we had a lot on our plate. I experienced playing in lots of different areas and states in high school…

Terrance’s impact on Sierra Canyon basketball is undeniable. The season before McBride joined the team, Sierra Canyon was ranked 1468 in the nation. By the end of his freshman year alone, they were the 80th best team in the country. By his senior year, Sierra Canyon ranked 15th in the country, and three years later they’ve only become more dominant as they are now the 2nd best team in America. McBride and his class did nothing short of founding a basketball dynasty.

As the team performed better, the caliber of their opponents also improved. McBride did not shy away from the challenging competition, but actually attributes it to his collegiate success.

…It was really competitive, and I feel like that really geared me immediately to be ready for the college level. Going into different environments and hostile crowds, it’s something I’d seen at a young age so I was prepared for in college.

While McBride began making an impact on the Big Red from his first step on the floor in Newman Arena, this past year he had an opportunity to shine in the spotlight like never before. In what was undoubtedly his best season to date, McBride attributes his stellar play to his preparation and work ethic.

I think it was just my mindset. Usually, I’ve been kind of passive in the past years, but coming into this season, I really knew that I had to do a lot more and when that was presented going into the last offseason, I worked hard. Working out every day, making sure I was ready for the opportunity that presented itself, and I think I did a pretty good job preparing for it. When I got in the game, I knew I was one of the better players out there and I had to get out there and show it.

And show it, he most certainly did. Posting career highs in points, assists, rebounds, and steals, as well as finishing second on the team in scoring, first in assists, and second in steals, McBride made his mark. Even more impressively, he managed to increase both his output AND efficiency as he also improved his Field Goal % and 3 Point %.

McBride also underwent all of this inspiring progress while finding himself in a new leadership role on the team. The Big Red were in need of a leader on and off the court with the graduation of Cornell legend Matt Morgan. In his first season as captain, McBride saw himself as a player, certainly, but perhaps even more as a leader.

I learned a lot about myself this year. Coming from a pretty good high school, I was never counted on to be the person to be the captain of a team or the focal point of a team, so this year after our leading scorer, Matt, and a lot of seniors left, I had a much bigger role in this team and had to step up and not only lead by my play, but lead vocally so that was a big adjustment for me. And I was asked to do a lot more on a game-to-game basis, which I felt like I did a pretty good job embracing, and I just tried to stick to that role and do whatever my team needed me to do.

He undoubtedly quickly grew into his new role and took advantage of the new opportunity at hand last season. Since the pandemic hit, however, sustaining this growth has become even more difficult. Yet, Terrance has found ways to overcome the obstacles of the pandemic and the uncertainty by focusing on what he can control.

It’s been kind of tough not knowing if we’re going to have an actual season or what’s going on. I’ve been talking to my parents and family a lot; we just try to focus on the things we can control, like still finding ways to stay in shape, even if it’s not on the court; working out, getting different runs in. So I’ve been trying to do what I can – I actually have had access to a gym starting last month – so I just continue to work out and do what I can to stay ready. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I just have to stay ready.

Terrance’s persistent improvement and dedication to excellence has been mirrored by his teammates as they continually push each other to reach greater heights.

During quarantine, my team actually talks a lot… Recently in our group chat, we started to post different workout videos to show other guys and motivate ourselves… if you see someone else working out, it motivates you to get up and be like ‘Ok, I need to work out – this guy is working hard.’ Because, at the end of the day, we are still competing amongst ourselves for playing time, so you don’t want to get beat out for your spot, so I think that’s a way we definitely stayed in communication and made sure we’ve been working hard as a collective.

The Big Red have been adopting a winning attitude and unified as an athletic community and brotherhood during this elongated offseason. 2020 has been throwing us collectively through an array of difficulties in what McBride described as a year defined by uncertainty. Throughout the pressure of COVID, the ushering of an era of social change, and other major worldly events, McBride, just like most of us, has had a lot on his plate and has been balancing his priorities.

I try to have a nice balance between the two. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with what’s going on with the current status of the world, because it’s such a thing that can dwell on you. I try to have open conversations with whoever is willing to talk about those things, but I also want to have a balance of working out because that’s a peaceful place I can go to just focus on my craft and what I’m doing.

The Cornell athletic community has been proactive and unifying in reaching out to their athletes and engaging in these open conversations. As the team has been coming together for basketball, the entire community of teams has been supporting one another throughout everything going on.

The athletic community at Cornell has done a great job reaching out and talking to us. Recently, there was a Zoom call with all Cornell athletes on it, talking about what’s going on and the current state of the world, basically. We had an open conversation about everything that’s going on and we broke off into different groups to talk about the current status of the United States. It was really a great call to have.

The Big Red basketball family has also come together not only to challenge one another for workouts, but to also stand by and come to understand one another in life.

Within the basketball team, we’ve had multiple discussions about the current status of everything going on. Having those conversations is really important. Amongst people who may not know what black men or women go through on a daily basis, it’s great to have those conversations and it’s great to see people who may not know where we’re coming from listen and try to understand.

Now, coming into a season that’s still completely up in the air, McBride and the team as a whole are preparing themselves as best they can mentally and physically to make a splash. They’ve been working out, competing for lineup spots, and strengthening their bonds like never before. McBride said the defining word for this upcoming season is opportunity.

The fact is, he’s been making the most of every opportunity his entire life, so we can only expect him to continue doing so this year. What exactly does making the most of this opportunity mean to Terrance? A few things, actually.

He wants to help his younger teammates come into their own and make the adjustment to playing for an Ivy League team.

Going into the next season, I’m hoping to do even more and try to bring along the younger guys. We have a great incoming freshman class – I’m hoping they can do a lot for us – [so I want to] just bring those guys along because coming into the Ivy League, having to deal with all this school work and so much on your plate, it’s kind of hard to make that adjustment and play basketball at a high level at the same time. So I’m hoping I can come along and help those guys and leave something behind, like building a culture for our team for the upcoming years.

Clearly, as we saw in his stint at Sierra Canyon, he has experience building and sustaining a winning culture. He also wants to prove his worth and serve as a testament to the value of hard work for his younger teammates.

Since starting at Cornell, I’ve always wanted to consider myself one of the better players in the league. I don’t know what that means as far as First-Team, Second-Team, or anything like that. I just want to be considered one of the better players in the league and set an example for my teammates, showing that if you put in the work, you can be as good as you want to be.

And most importantly, he wants to win it all.

I definitely want to bring the Ivy League Championship back to Cornell. It hasn’t been done since 2010… I think that’s a goal we all have. Especially my senior class – that’s a goal we have coming in – something we wanted to do in our four years, and I think this is a really good chance for us to do that.

The opportunity is certainly at hand, and our Big Red, led by Terrance McBride, are primed to make the most of it. After all, that’s what he’s been doing his whole life. And I think we can be sure of one thing, Terrance has already made his mark as one of the best leaders Cornell has seen both on and off the court.


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