Tennessee State head coach Dana Ford has been tabbed the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year and his junior guard Tahjere McCall claimed OVC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
In just two years at the helm of the Tennessee State program Ford, the youngest coach in Division I at 31 years of age, has made an immediate impact in transforming the Tigers. After inheriting just one player from a five-win season after being named head coach, Ford led the Tigers to five wins a season ago. This year that numbered ballooned to 20, a 15-win improvement over the previous year and a mark that ranks first nationally. It is the biggest improvement for the team since 1991-92 (4 wins) to 1992-93 (19 wins). The 20 overall victories tied the program's Division I era record for wins in a season, equaling the mark held by the 1978-79 and 2011-12 teams. TSU finished the Conference season with an 11-5 mark, one game behind champion Belmont, a team they topped by 15 points on the final day of the regular season. Ford is the second different Tennessee State head coach to be named OVC Coach of the Year, joining Frankie Allen who took home top honors in 1992-93 and 1994-95 after leading the Tigers to OVC Championships.
After sitting out last season after transferring from Niagara, McCall was an instant spark to a Tennessee State team that won just five games a season ago. This year the guard helped the Tigers to a 15-win improvement (the best turnaround in Division I) as the program won 20 total games during the regular season, tying the school record for wins during the program's Division I era. McCall ranks eighth nationally in steals/game (2.3) while his 67 total steals were 17 more than any other player in the OVC. Four different times during the season the junior netted five steals in a game including doing so against Reinhardt, Stetson, Southeast Missouri and Morehead State (all of which were TSU victories). His defense allowed the TSU team to lead the OVC and rank 66th nationally in field goal defense (41.1%). McCall is the first Tennessee State player to be named OVC Defensive Player of the Year since the award was first handed out in 2008-09.
The TSU men's basketball team will make its 26th appearance in the OVC Tournament with the quarterfinals set for Thursday, March 3, at 6 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The fourth-seeded Tigers earned a first-round bye and will face the winner of Wednesday's first-round matchup between fifth-seeded Tennessee Tech and eighth-seeded Austin Peay.