Dec. 19, 2013
This is Leadership. This is Influence. This is Auburn.
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By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Tyrese Tanner has made an undeniable impact on the court for Auburn's women's basketball team. As a junior in head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy's first season, she led the Tigers in scoring at 14.2 points per game.
But her influence hasn't been limited to the basketball court.
After working with children with disabilities in an internship last spring, Tanner wanted to make a difference. She was further inspired by Auburn social work instructor Angie Burke, who founded an organization called Brave Hearts.
"Her son has Down Syndrome," Tanner says. "She made that whole organization up for kids to get together and interact with each other and care about them. She teaches social work."
Tanner came up with the idea of Brave Hearts of Basketball.
"For the summer, we made up a plan for them to come to the gym and shoot with us, for us to send them home with a basketball. We're with them for about two hours. It's a big brothers, big sisters sort of thing."
Williams-Flournoy has challenged Tanner, from Hoover High School in Birmingham, to be a leader on the court, in the classroom and in the community. It's a challenge Tanner embraces with enthusiasm.
"I've always been some type of leader since I've been playing basketball," Tanner says. "It's good for our senior class to be leaders this year and show the underclassmen what we want to achieve this year. That's especially true in the classroom, knowing that you have to set an example of how it should be, working hard in class, getting your study hall hours, studying on your own, coming into the gym and working out."
Williams-Flournoy says Tanner has had an impact on her teammates, especially the younger ones.
"She's really taken it on," Williams-Flournoy says. "She's helped them get where they need to be. She's talking to them. It actually makes her work hard. When you are put in position to be in control of people, you know you are being watched and it makes you work harder."
Tanner and her sister Tra-Cee, a sophomore post player, have big plans for the final season together.
"It's like high school again," Tra-Cee says. "She's like my mom on the court. I think we have great chemistry together. We understand how each other plays. It makes it a lot easier, because I know her every move and she knows my every move."
The Tanner sisters say they have been inspired since childhood by their mother, Teresa.
"She made us," Tyrese says. "She coached us in rec ball when I was like 5 or 6. We'd like play with each other's hair while she would try to teach us drills. I'm grateful to have had my mom for a coach for a long time."
Tyrese Tanner's will graduate from Auburn with a degree in criminology and sociology. She aspires to be an FBI agent.
"I watch a lot of CSI," Tanner says. "I'm taking a class next spring that is a murder class. I took a forensics class in high school. I just wanted to try it. It's cool trying to solve crime, who did what and that kind of stuff."
Choosing Auburn as her basketball destination, Tanner says, has made it possible for her to pursue her dreams.
"It just the family," Tanner says. "I used to switch when I was little. My friends and I would all go for Auburn or all go or Alabama. We'd switch back and forth. As I started playing in high school, I would come up here to a couple of games. I really liked it and how the crowd was. Watching DeWanna Bonner and them play, then when I came on my visit and how friendly everybody was. That's why I liked it.
"I wouldn't change it for anything. It's made a huge difference in my life."