Nov. 5, 2013
Get to know Tra'Cee and Tyrese Tanner
AUBURN, Ala. - Basketball has been part of Tyrese and Tra'Cee Tanner's lives since they were toddlers back home in Birmingham. It came ever so naturally.
Their mother, Teresa, was a standout college player at the University of Montevallo and later coached at the University of Mobile and at South Alabama. Today, she coaches the Alabama Twisters, an AAU team that finished sixth nationally last summer. Their father, Tracy, played at the University of Mobile.
"Ty might have been two years old when her dad bought her a Nerf basketball goal," Teresa Tanner says. "She dunked. Forget shooting. She was tall and hung out of her car seat and everything."
And so it began.
When Auburn opens its season Saturday against Georgia Southern at Auburn Arena, Tra'Cee and Tyrese will begin their last season together. Tyrese is a senior forward. Tra'Cee is a sophomore center.
"It's like high school again," Tra'Cee says. "She's like my mom on the court. We have great chemistry together. We understand how each other plays. Even if she passes me the ball, I can pass it right back out. She knows my every move and I know her every move."
Tyrese signed with Auburn out of Hoover High School in 2010.Tra'Cee followed two years later. After this season, Tyrese will move on and Tra'Cee will stay behind.
"We get into arguments a lot, being sisters, but it's fun," Tyrese says. "She's really good. She's come a long way. When we were younger, she wanted to be a cheerleader. Now that she has the drive and the heart to play, she's gotten a lot better even from high school."
Teresa coached her daughters in AAU as soon as they were old enough. Tyrese took to the game from the first time her parents put her on a basketball court. Tra'Cee, whose family uses her middle name, Nicole, wasn't quite so quick to take to the game her parents loved.
"Nicole was a late-bloomer," Teresa says. "Ty wanted to follow in my shoes and wanted to play basketball. She liked it and adapted really quick. When Nicole came along, she was kind of used to being the little sister. She loved baby dolls.
"Nicole was content with being the water girl for the first couple of years. Then she wanted to be a cheerleader. She wasn't wanting to get sweaty and do all the hard stuff. She just wanted to stay cute."
But that soon changed.
"I aspire to be like my mom in every aspect of my life," Tra'Cee says. "The stories she's told me and seeing all her records and everything, I want to be just like her."
Tyrese says, without their mother as a coach and role model on and off the court, things would not have been the same for her and for Tra'Cee.
"Yes, she made us," Tyrese says. "When she coached us in rec ball when I was 5 or 6, we were playing with each other's hair while she tried to teach us drills. I'm fortunate to have had my mom for a coach for a long time. She's a wonderful person and a really good coach."
By the time Tyrese's high school career was over, she had ample college options. She quickly decided Auburn would be the place for her.
"As I started playing in high school, I came up here for a couple of games and liked how the crowd was," Tyrese says. "When I came on visits, I loved how friendly everybody was, how close this campus is and just everybody is so kind and treats each other like family."
Two years later, the decision was an easy one for Tra'Cee. She wanted to play with her sister again.
Auburn's leading scorer for the past two seasons, Tyrese moved from the wing to the power forward position during the offseason. Tra'Cee will be nearby as the starting center. At 6-foot-1, Tyrese is a smooth inside-outside player. At 6-foot-3, Tra'Cee is big and strong and powerful in the middle.
Second-year Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy says Tyrese's move to power forward has created an interesting dynamic between the two sisters.
"They are two different players, and they are both really good kids," Williams-Flournoy says. "With Tyrese in the post this year, I think she stays as far away from her sister as she can. Tra'Cee is a big girl."
Even in practice, Tyrese has run afoul of Tra'Cee's flying elbows.
"I love banging with people," Tra'Cee says. "I used to not want to be in the post. Then one day I was like `I've got the body to hit people.'"
Competitiveness comes naturally to both of the Tanner sisters. Like their mother, they are driven to succeed.
"I love to beat people by 50 or 60 points," Teresa says. "My motto is don't step off the porch if you can't play with the big dogs. I try to build teams where everybody plays well all the time. They don't like to let up. That's what they like about Coach Flo. She's always pushing."
With eight newcomers on the roster, the burden of leadership falls on Tyrese. Williams-Flournoy says she's accepted it willingly.
"Last year we needed her to step up and be a leader and this year we need her even more," Williams-Flournoy says. "She has really taken it on. She's helping them get where they need to be. You can hear her on the floor talking to them. Not only does she need to be a go-to player, she has a lot of responsibilities. We need her to score, rebound, play defense and lead on and off the court."
Teresa Tanner says she admired former coach Nell Fortner, but in Williams-Flournoy she sees a lot of herself. And she expects big things.
"I love that coaching staff," Teresa says. "I am kind of tough. I can appreciate a tough coaching staff. My kids didn't have the pleasure of having just a mommy. They had a Coach Mom. I'm nurturing and loving, but Coach Flo knows if a fire needs to be lit I am the one to light it. I am encouraged how those coaches motivated them and really challenged them to be the best they can be."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter:
Tra'Cee Tanner looks to score against Mississippi State last season (Anthony Hall photo)