By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
College basketball coaches can ill afford to miss on potential recruits because scholarship opportunities - and rosters - are so limited at their level.
Maryville men's basketball coach Randy Lambert believes he signed a can't-miss prospect when the Scots landed Cannon County forward Tanner Larson.
"Tanner is a motivated student-athlete who is a sure hit for the college and our program," said Lambert, who will be entering his 35th season as head coach at Maryville. "His post skills are solid and he is working to develop his perimeter skills. We are hoping he can play the four position."
Larson, the son of Marc and Cindy Larson, will continue his basketball career at Maryville this fall. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound forward was a two-time All-District 8-AA selection and showed tremendous improvement throughout his high school career.
He helped lead the Lions to a share of the District 8-AA championship in 2013-14 and a berth in the Region 4-AA semifinals.
"Tanner was a huge part of our success at Cannon County," Lions Head Coach Matt Rigsby said. "His work ethic is undeniable. He will continue to improve his game because he will never stop working. Maryville person. I am excited for Tanner to have this opportunity because he worked hard to put himself in this position."
Larson's play in the paint was instrumental in Cannon County's success. He averaged 12 points and eight rebounds during 2013-14 and had numerous double double performances.
"I am excited about this opportunity," Larson said. "I have been working all summer to make sure I am prepared. I have been working more on my outside shot and ball handling skills. The guard skills that I am lacking are what I am focusing on. I really need to work on my speed so that has been a focus."
Larson was a dominant center in his role at Cannon County; however, he will be expected to play as a small or power forward at Maryville. He has dropped 25 pounds since the end of his senior basketball season.
"I feel my best basketball is in front of me," Larson said. "I feel my skills have improved during this summer."
Rigsby said Larson's approach and his desire for success will be attributes at the college level.
"There are not many people who are going to outwork Tanner," Rigsby said. "He will do everything in his power to be the best basketball player he can be for Maryville. Young people work hard for these opportunities because they don't come easy. Tanner Larson is a young man deserving of a college scholarship so it's great for him to have this opportunity. He will make the most of it."
Larson says he is a perfect example that you should always work hard, not take plays off and do your best because you never know who may be watching.
Lambert first saw Larson when Cannon County was playing in a Christmas Tournament in east Tennessee last December. Larson had a strong tournament and it not only opened Lambert's eyes, but also opened doors for the Lions' aspiring college hopeful.
"Coach Lambert was at our Christmas Tournament at (Maryville) Heritage," Larson said. "He first called me in February. We had a conversation and he said he had watched me at the tournament and had been following me. That was a huge surprise. I had no idea so you always need to play your best and give everything you can while you are out there because you never know who may be watching."
Larson visited the campus and toured facilities. He worked out with the team and decided Maryville was the place for him.
Larson already has been working out with players at Maryville this summer.
"It is definitely a whole new game," Larson said. "Everything is faster and everybody is faster and stronger. I am playing with grown men now. I have worked hard to adjust. I'm used to playing at Cannon County where I was one of the biggest and strongest players on the floor. Now I am in the middle of the pack. I've been up there working out with them to be better prepared.”