TOLEDO — Three shots off the dribble to the left, three shots off the dribble to the right, around the world and back, and a swish three.
Cumberland's Tyson Magee never leaves the gym without completing his process. If he’s having a good day shooting, he can be in and out of the gym in a hurry.
If he’s off, he can work himself into a lather.
“Sometimes when I’m off I’ll be in the gym until I make that three, then I’ll call it good,” Magee said. “If I’m not making shots, I could be in the gym for I don’t even know how long.”
Magee developed his process as a freshman and he’s evolved on the basketball court ever since. This season, as a senior, he's averaging 22.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3 assists in helping lead the Pirates to a 10-5 start, which is their best start since the 2009-10 season.
For most small schools, Cumberland played in the Class 2A boys basketball postseason last year, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Magee would be considered a big man.
But Cumberland coach Justin Roedl never saw Magee as a traditional big man.
“I put him out on the perimeter immediately,” Roedl said. “He wasn’t necessarily comfortable with that at first, but he did what he could and I think for obvious reasons he needed to be out there.”
The transition wasn’t seamless for Magee. He went to clinics in the summer between his eighth grade and freshman year to work on his ball handling skills, practicing one- and two-ball dribbling drills every day.
Magee admitted it was a struggle, but he sees the merits of putting in the work.
“It was horrible,” Magee said of the summer workouts. “But as I look back now it helped so much. My quickness came as I matured and already being able to handle the ball was a blessing, honestly.”
The drills and workouts transformed the former junior high post player into a high-level ball-handler.
“He’s the best I've ever coached,” Roedl said of Magee’s dribbling. “He’s as good with his right as he is with his left. He just needed to be confident in himself to do that in the game. The more we put him out there the more comfortable he got.”
Magee played off the bench as a freshman and gave Roedl reasons to be optimistic. His scoring ability was obvious from the second he stepped onto the court.
“He would get in the game and have spurts where he would go off for six points," Roedl said. "One of them was over at Charleston. He had a great spurt. He put 6 or 8 points bang, bang, bang. It was like, ‘Wow, this kid could really be special.’”
As he got older, his confidence continued to blossom.
After Magee’s sophomore year he started playing with the Sky Ice AAU team out of Decatur.
That’s where he learned how to play a higher-speed game, competing against players a year older.
“Basically what we’ve done with him is worked on his transmission a little bit and revved his motor up a little bit," Eisenhower boys basketball coach and Sky Ice coach Rodney Walker said. "When he plays faster and more athletic teams, now his engine is revved up."
At Sky Ice he was on a team that included former Eisenhower standout Stephon Bobbitt and former Mount Zion standout Kevin Cox, a team that was 97-16 during a two-year span.
Still, Magee wasn't overmatched.
“His ball handling is good,” said Michael Williams, MacArthur's girls basketball coach and Magee’s Sky Ice coach. “That kid has the Kobe Bryant mentality. That’s the ‘White Mamba.’ That kid never backs down from a shot and never backs down from competing. He gives you 200 percent all the time. That’s why I loved that kid so much.”
Magee said he and Cumberland teammate Zach Wolke, who also played for Sky Ice, has been able to take the lessons learned with Sky Ice back to Cumberland.
“The pace is crazy,” Magee said of playing Sky Ice. “I feel like I’m just running so much faster after playing with them. It’s kind of like putting a bat donut on a baseball bat to swing, then taking it off. It was such a good experience.”
Magee, a three-sport athlete, has football offers from Quincy University and McKendree University, and has visits to a host of other schools lined up.
He doesn’t have a preference which sport he plays in college.
Last season, in an effort to stay in shape for football, Magee ran track for the first time in the spring. He recorded a personal best of 6-foot-5 in the high jump and made a trip the the state meet in Charleston for high jump and as a member of the 4 x 100 meter relay team.
But right now, it’s all basketball and Magee is making it a point to display his new-and-improved pull-up game. He’s shooting 57 percent from the floor.
All of that goes along with being top 10 academically in his graduating class.
“I always thought that kid was going to be special,” Williams said. “He never thinks anybody can do anything against him. That’s something you can’t teach.
"He’s a great, great kid. He’ll run through the wall for you. He’s polite and humble, but he will rip your heart out on the court.”
He’s a highlight reel waiting to happen for the Pirates. He throws down vicious dunks in transition or careens through the lane to finish in traffic, igniting the fans in Cumberland's Waldrip Gym, especially his grandma.
“My grandma is one of my biggest cheerers,” Magee said. “She videos everything and if you go back and watch the video you hear her screaming at the top of her lungs. It’s crazy.”
Magee is a rarity at Cumberland.
“You don’t see kids like that come through Cumberland very often,” Roedl said. “To be as successful as he is on the football field, the basketball court, and last year he gave track a try. He’s got a lot of natural abilities that you don’t see very often, especially in a school like Cumberland.”