STEPHENVILLE – For the first time in the 2021-22 season, weekly Western Athletic Conference accolades are headed to the Cowboy Capital.
Tahj Small was named the TicketSmarter WAC Player of the Week for Jan. 3-9 after leading Tarleton to home victories over Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin on Thursday and Saturday. Additionally, Noah McDavid was chosen as the WAC Freshman of the Week for his efforts in helping the Texans secure the wins.
A 6-4 guard, Small becomes the second player in program history to receive WAC Player of the Week honors. He joins position-mate Montre Gipson, who received the recognition on March 8 at the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign.
Small averaged 23 points per game in Tarleton’s home sweep of its east Texas rivals.
The Durham, North Carolina native delivered the best all-around performance of his two-year Texan career in Tarleton’s wire-to-wire 75-64 defeat of the Bearkats on Thursday. The senior racked up a game and career high 28 points on 11-14 shooting in the Texans’ win.
His 28 points scored were an individual game high in true Division I games for Tarleton this season.
Small was as efficient and aggressive as he’s been offensively in the first half. He scored 16 of Tarleton’s first 25 points behind a 4-4 mark from downtown and ended the half with 18 points scored to stake the Texans to a 42-31 lead.
Defensively, recorded a game, season and career high four steals.
He played the full 40 minutes and did so despite missing Tarleton’s previous two games due to COVID-19 protocols.
Small followed up his career night with an 18-point, five rebound effort in a come-from-behind 77-71 overtime victory over SFA two days later. He scored on two of Tarleton’s first three possessions in overtime to give the Texans a 68-66 lead they never relinquished. Small was 6-6 from the foul line in the victory.
Small has steadily built off a debut season in Purple and White that saw him garner All-WAC honorable mention accolades alongside Gipson, Freddy Hicks and Shakur Daniel in March.
He has increased his scoring average from 9.2 points per game to 15.5 points per game. Small has scored in double figures in 12 consecutive ballgames.
His best performances have come under the brightest lights. Small led all scorers with 25 points in Tarleton’s near-upset of No. 3 Gonzaga on Nov. 29. Small then torched South Alabama – then-No. 79 in the NCAA NET Rankings – in back-to-back games. He lit up the Jaguars to the tune of a game-high 24 points in a narrow loss on Dec. 14 in Mobile, then recorded a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds on Dec. 17 to help Tarleton notch its first-ever “D1 vs. D1” nonconference home victory in a 65-52 win.
Small is Tarleton’s active leader in career double-doubles with four. He has two this season. Small’s first double-double this season arrived in the form of a 13-point, 12-rebound effort in the Texans’ 81-75 win over Southwestern Assemblies of God on Dec. 8.
He currently ranks in the top-15 in the WAC in four major statistical categories. Small is tied for third in free throw percentage (.865), fourth in minutes per game (34.), seventh in points per game and 15th in rebounds per game (5.7).
McDavid’s accolade is equally significant. He is the first player in Tarleton basketball history to receive WAC Freshman of the Week honors.
The 6-5 guard was instrumental in helping Tarleton upset the Lumberjacks on Saturday. McDavid played 40 minutes for the first time in his career, finishing with six points along with career-highs in rebounds (five) and steals (three).
His lone field goal of the night was one of the biggest buckets of the evening. With Tarleton nursing a 68-67 lead with under 3:00 to play in overtime, McDavid attempted a 3-pointer from the left baseline. The shot clanged off the front iron, but McDavid curled right around two Lumberjack defenders, secured his own rebound and converted a contested second-chance layup to keep Tarleton in front 70-67 with 2:20 to play.
The Texans closed the game on a 9-4 run beginning with McDavid’s layup.
Two days prior, McDavid scored nine points on the strength of three makes from downtown in 37 minutes of action in the Texans’ win over the Bearkats. McDavid was a part of Tarleton’s best shooting night of the season. The Texans shot a season-high 59 percent (30-51) from the field and were 8-13 from long range in the first half.
McDavid has undertaken an increased role for Tarleton of late. He has started each of Tarleton’s four conference games in place of Daniel, who is out with a season-ending injury. McDavid scored 18 points – his most against a D1 foe – in the Texans’ inspiring 83-69 victory at Dixie State on Dec. 30. Tarleton had 10 available players in the contest due to COVID-19 and injury and entered just six.
The former Lake Highlands High School star is averaging 5.6 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest. He has dished out 15 assists and swiped the ball away 12 times.
The Texans (8-9, 3-1 WAC) have won seven of their last nine games and occupy fourth place in the WAC standings. Tarleton now travels to the Land of Enchantment to face New Mexico State (13-2, 3-0 WAC) at 8 p.m. CT on Thursday.