Despite his slender frame and 5 foot 10-inch height, TaDarious “T.D.” Blackmore always played large on the basketball court.
He graduated from Union this June after achieving the rare accomplishment of scoring more than ,1000 points in three years of playing varsity basketball. He averaged about 20 points per game his senior year, except against North Duplin when he only scored six, and against Hobbton, when he scored 39.
“Basketball is my heart,” the Spartan graduate attested. “I started playing when I was three. I guess I was trying to follow in my dad‘s footsteps because he played college ball at Lenoir. That must have rubbed off on me,” the young man explained with a smile.
Big Man Mentality
His father, Reginald, and his brother, JaQuan, and cousins have always been bigger than he is, but T.D. said that didn’t stop him as a youngster from trying to join in when they played a backyard pickup game.
“Everyone has always been bigger than me, so I grew up with a big man’s mentality. I wanted to play big. My Daddy is 6 foot 5 or 6 foot 6 and I’m only 5 foot 10 inches, but I’ve always wanted to be his height,” T.D. admitted.
“My brother and my cousins would always push me around and tell me I couldn’t do it, but now I beat them. It’s the other way around,” he continued with a wry smile.
Besides trying to fit in with the “big men,” T.D. said his father’s basketball trophies also helped to fuel his fire for the game.
“I would go to my grandma’s and see all the trophies my dad had won. He was on the North Duplin state championship team in the late 1980s,” T.D. recalled.
It wasn’t long before the young man began amassing trophies and awards of his own. Just during his senior year, to go along with the 1,000-plus baskets, T.D. was awarded the Basketball Player of the Year by the Sampson County Sports Club; MVP of the team; All-County and All-Conference in both basketball and track; and the US Marines Athletic Achievement Award.
His favorite memory of last season is an example of his love for playing the game and his drive to win.
The Spartans were up against Duplin County rival James Kenan in the conference tournament.
“JK is one of our biggest rivalries. It was the second quarter and I went for a loose ball. Somebody’s knee was in the back of my head going along with me. I fell and my teeth went through my lip. They took me out of the game, but I really wanted to play so I said clean me up and give me a band aid,” he recounted with a laugh.
“They put me back in the game in second half. We beat them by almost 30 points,” he said with a satisfied smile. “We couldn’t have done it if we hadn’t played as a team, though,” he added.
The Spartans finished second in the tournament.
T.D. didn’t swish all those baskets just because he dreamed about it, though. His greatness came from practicing every day, coupled with a lot of internal motivation to become the best.
He lives with his mom and sister, Brianna, in Waycross and still goes to the gym in Warsaw every day to practice his basketball skills and fundamentals.
The self-motivation comes from struggles he has faced growing up.
First, his mother, Angela, became deathly ill when he was around 13 years old, and then a few years later his parents separated.
“I play all the time. There were times I would get up at 2 or 3 in the morning and go outside and shoot baskets. My mom and sister would be inside asleep. But seeing my mom struggle has made me take basketball seriously,” Blackmore asserted.
The teen said he is able to focus on playing the game by turning his resentment and frustrations into sinking baskets and fighting for a rebound. “I guess I’m trying to release a lot of anger and stress. I look at my mom and sister in the stands, and think, ‘I’m doing it for yall.’”
Angela had encephalitis in 2006 and, at first, doctors didn’t think she would live past six months, let alone long enough to see her son graduate this past June.
“They weren’t expecting her to live, but she’s still here today and I thank God for that. From sixth grade on up, I took playing basketball too seriously. I tell my mom every day that no matter what I’ve got to do, I’m going to make it big,” he declared, a serious look on his face, but then added with a relieved smile, “If you see her now you can’t even tell there’s anything wrong with her.”
While his mom was hospitalized, T.D. and sister Brianna went to live with his mom’s sister, Laverne Copeland.
Inspirations and Motivations
T.D. credits Aunt Laverne with getting him involved in church. Now he’s a youth leader.
“I go to Wilson’s Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Turkey. We have a group called God’s Squad,” T.D. said.
Last Christmas, the group raised money to buy presents for a child whose parents couldn’t afford to buy for him. T.D. said that helping others who need it is one of his favorite things to do.
His family, including aunts, uncles, and his grandmother, Carolyn Lassiter, have always been there for him and encourage him on and off the court.
“They are like my biggest fans. They kept me motivated and told me I could do it, even when I felt like giving up,” T.D. stated.
His uncle Glenn Lassiter and aunt Daphene had a big influence on him as he got older, too.
T.D. explained, “Growing up, they always saw me running up and down the road with the basketball and, knowing my mom was sick and couldn’t work, he would call and ask if I needed anything for a sport. They would buy me something because he and my aunt wanted to see me do good.”
Now that T.D. is entering a new phase in his life, he wants to look after his sister the way his uncles and aunts looked after him.
“I don’t want her to struggle. When she’s in high school, I want to make sure she doesn’t have to worry about anything. I’ll just call home and make sure she’s happy,” he said with a smile.
With pride in his voice, T.D. said, “She doesn’t know it, but I look up to her. She’s been on the principal’s list since she was in kindergarten almost. She’s in Beta Club, too.“
Brianna was a cheerleader last year in middle school, but this year she’s trying out for the basketball team, according to T.D.
Now that high school is behind him, the young graduate has big plans for his future.
From Dreams to Reality
He is enrolled for the fall semester at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst and will move there in just a few weeks. Many people don’t know it, but SCC won the Division III National Junior College Athletic Association basketball national championship last year.
The Flyers had a 30-6 season under coach Mike Apple, and T.D. said Apple came to see him play at Union one night. His interest, plus the fact that a former teammate from his sophomore year, Raheem Washington, went to that school, convinced him to enroll.
He plans to try out for the team next year. “I want to spend this year working out and getting my body in just the right shape. Those guys on that team are big and I’ve got to play big, too,” he stated.
T.D. wants to major in health and science and eventually become a physical therapist, like the one that helped him when he had a hip pointer injury in middle school. He hopes to transfer to East Carolina University or “my dream school” UNC-Chapel Hill.
Another plan that has been creeping into his thoughts is going overseas to play professional basketball.
“Two or three years ago, I was talking to my dad and I told him I wanted to go to college, and then try out for an overseas team after I graduated,” T.D. remembered.
The young man said he will miss his mom and sister when he moves to Pinehurst, but he wants to do this so he can make a better life for all of them.
He’s also going to miss his Spartan teammates. “We made a lot of good memories. At least we did put a trophy up (runner-up), so whenever I do go back to visit I’ll have something to look at,” he said with a smile.