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Sports

Memory Lane: Tommy Musick

February 4th, 2007 11:24 pm by BILL LANE



Name: Tommy Musick


Born: July 9, 1969


Where: Kingsport


High School/College: Gate City/Milligan


Residence: Gate City


Then: Interest in Gate City basketball was at a fever pitch in the mid-1980s. Tommy Musick, a 6-foot-2, 160-pound guard, was the big attraction.


Gate City's game-night theme was "String Musick,'' and the swishing nets played a winning tune. Musick got enthusiastic support from the student section. Dozens of strings dangled from extended hands when he scored.


All eyes were trained on No. 22. The media dubbed him "Tommygun.''


Opening the 1986-87 season - his last for the Blue Devils - Musick hit 22 of 29 field goal attempts to score 45 points against Rye Cove.


In several games, he got 30 or more. That was one year before the inception of the 3-point shot.


Musick made a lot of 20-footers but his best move was catching the ball, doing a jab-step and pulling straight up for a medium-range jumper.


"With his fakes, Tommy could make defenders dance,'' Dave Mason, his coach, said. "He would lull you into his trap. Tommy had one of the prettiest releases I'd seen in a while. He was one of the classiest guys I've ever been around. He always kept his cool.''


Musick also liked to put down a couple of hard dribbles, stop and shoot from 10 feet. "I always thought taking an open 10-footer was better than a contested 2-footer,'' he said.


In late December of his senior season, Musick was scoring at a blistering pace - 32.8 points per game.


With Musick at right wing, Kevin Morris at left wing, Brian Herron at point guard, Chris Shelton at one post and Rusty Pendleton and Matt Quillen dividing time at the other, Gate City was on a roll.


Opponents began to slow things down. By February, Musick's average had dropped to 25.6 points.


A three-year starter, the All-Southwest District guard got his 1,000th career point against Sullivan North in a Christmas tournament.


He developed through dedication and hard work.


"(Mason) encouraged us to get outside Gate City and play pickup games,'' he said. "All we did was play, play, play. Things were different back then. We didn't have the distractions that exist today. It was school, home chores and basketball. We shot ball in the backyard. We played on outside goals at the National Guard Armory until 2 a.m.''


Getting to play against Dobyns-Bennett coaching legend Buck Van Huss was a thrill for him. Beating Marion for the district tourney title was another highlight. "Those were fun times,'' Musick recalled.


He participated in the VHSL all-star game at Lynchburg.


Musick also was an outstanding middle infielder on Gate City's baseball team. But basketball was his passion.


Choosing to stay locally, he signed with Milligan College. "I've never regretted that decision,'' he said.


Musick would have liked to take that electric high school atmosphere with him.


"I enjoyed the game itself more in college,'' he said. "They let you play more. In high school if you touched somebody, they'd call a foul. It was a lot easier playing defense in college. I didn't mind mixing it up.


"At Gate City you played with friends you grew up with, parents knew one another and fellowship was the thing. In college, very few parents went on the road.''


It didn't take long for Musick to convince new coach Tony Wallingford that the No. 2 guard position should be his. Musick, who finally did have the benefit of the 3-point shot, became a four-year starter and Milligan's No. 2 all-time scorer with 2,768 points - an average of 19.8.


The tandem of Musick and 6-5 post player Dino Allen was a miniature version of Tennessee's Ernie-'n-Bernie Show for two seasons.


It wasn't unusual for Musick, who averaged 25 points as a senior, and Allen, who scored at a clip of 22, to combine for as many as 70 in some games.


"Dino posted on my side of the floor,'' Musick said. "He drew a lot of double coverage and would kick the ball out to me.''


Competition was quite different from his Gate City years. "High school teams didn't play pressure defense, per se. College players were quicker and stronger, and they jumped better. Playing against better competition every day forced me to go around people, use screens and move without the ball.''


Milligan played a rigid schedule, facing several Division I teams. TV sportscaster Dick Vitale predicted "an ugly game'' when Milligan met Austin Peay but the score was close.


The Buffaloes got invited to two national tourneys. Their records in Musick's four years there were 4-26, 21-11, 27-9 and 24-8.


As a junior and senior, Musick had the green light to shoot. He twice scored 46 points. Coaches selected him to the All-Tennessee Valley Athletic Conference team four times. In his final year, Musick was honored as an NAIA and NCCAA All-American.


Now: Musick is married to the former Caroline Billips, his high school sweetheart. An East Tennessee State University graduate, she teaches at Shoemaker Elementary.


They have three daughters - Hannah, 10, Katie Beth, 7, and Gracie, 4. Hannah plays basketball. Katie Beth participates in dance, cheerleading and gymnastics. Gracie is in dance and cheerleading.


Musick coaches Hannah's traveling team, the Lady Devils. The squad is composed of fifth-graders. "They're eager to learn,'' he said. "Coaching them is enjoyable.''


Musick, a business management major, worked 14 years for Quebecor World in Kingsport. He was materials manager when the plant closed recently.


Bill Lane is a Times-News sports writer. E-mail him at blane@timesnews.net.


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