With the quick release of his hands, T.J. Cagle can turn the tide of a Mount Zion High School boys' basketball game in a matter of seconds.
The senior sharp-shooter has been a primary scoring threat for the Eagles throughout his entire career and it came to a head last Tuesday, crossing the 1,000-point threshold during MZ's 71-68 victory over Bremen.
Aware of the fast-approaching milestone entering the local non-region bout, Cagle simply wanted get it done and over with so he could turn his attention toward helping his teammates lock down the 'W.'
"I was definitely anxious at the beginning of the game knowing that I was one point away from doing it," Cagle said. "I kind of had to settle in and calm down, but it felt great to go ahead and get it out of the way so I could focus on the game."
Arguably even more excited about the marker than the shooting guard himself was first-year Eagle head coach Tyler Wright, who claims that there's not a lot of players out there who will outwork Cagle.
"He's a very rare player, in terms of his work ethic, his dedication and his love for the game of basketball. You can't teach and you can't coach that," Wright said. "It's been a pleasure and an honor to coach him this year as his head coach and get to know him. He's a special individual that's ultra-competitive and I couldn't be more proud of him."
Described as a 3-point specialist with a high basketball IQ by the Pro Movement Basketball recruiting service, the newest member of the 1,000-point club is always looking for ways to improve his skills on the court.
After having a reputation as just a shooter early in his career, Cagle's game has evolved to where he's one of the best all-around players in the area.
For his senior campaign in particular, Cagle has cited getting faster with his release and getting stronger physically.
"In the previous years, I was a lot smaller and easy to bump off the line. Gaining strength and weight definitely helped a lot this year and made me not so much of a one-dimensional player," Cagle said. "Footwork, catching the ball and dipping less has helped me get the ball off quicker and keep the defender from being able to contest, as well."
With his team down by 10 with less than two minutes left versus state-ranked Christian Heritage this past Friday, the guard showed the sudden impact that he can make on games by burying two vital treys in a span of 15 seconds to bring MZ back into the ballgame.
Wright attributes his crunch-time poise to his work ethic, leadership and desire to win.
"He's put in the work from early morning workouts to staying late shooting," Wright said. "He hates to lose and will do anything he can to help his team. He's become that positive force on the court where when things go bad, he's the guy that can regroup the guys and push us forward."
Kicking off the final week of the regular season tonight with a 7:30 subregion showdown at Darlington, Cagle and the Eagles currently sit on the bubble of Class A Public postseason contention by being ranked No. 29 in the latest GHSA Power Ratings.
The shooting standout knows that the time for him and his teammates to hit their stride is now and they're aiming for a strong finish in order to keep their postseason aspirations alive.
"We're right at the edge of the playoffs," Cagle said. "Even though we don't have a .500 record right now, we've played a lot of tough teams and have gotten a lot of power rating points. More wins will definitely get us where we want to go. We just have to handle our business."