By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
CANTON, Mo -- David McReynolds and his teammates were given a choice. After the Canton boys soccer team lost in the state quarterfinals Nov. 10, basketball practice was slated to start the next day.
Tigers coach Andy Anderson said anyone who played on the soccer team could skip the first day of practice and come in the next day. Most of the players on Canton's basketball team also played soccer, and they all came to the same decision.
"Everyone came to practice," said McReynolds, who was a defender on the soccer team. "We were a little drained, but we were excited basketball season was starting, so everyone was hyped up and ready to scrimmage."
It was a show of solidarity that has helped the Tigers roll to a 21-0 start and a No. 2 ranking in Class 2 from the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association.
"It showed everyone wanted to be there," said junior guard Tyler Niemann, who a midfielder on the soccer team. "Everyone wants to work hard. We're just working good as a team right now, and when everyone is committed to winning it helps."
McReynolds' improvement and versatility have played a big role for Canton. He's asked to score and rebound -- he averages 12 points and six rebounds per game -- and to take on tough defensive assignments.
"David's one of our leading scorers," Anderson said. "Some nights he leads the scoring. Other nights he might get matched up with another team's best player. He's a very capable defender. The biggest thing about David this year is that his approach to the game, his mental focus and his effort has been much more consistent."
During the Tigers' 66-60 win Saturday over Cairo, which beat Canton for the district title last season, McReynolds had to guard the Bearcats' all-state forward Brad Roberts.
In the past, McReynolds wouldn't have been given that assignment. Effort wasn't always his forte.
"I know I needed to pick up my defensive effort," McReynolds said. "That's one thing I've changed over the summer is to try and break down my defensive stance. I wanted to break myself down defensively to try to become a two-way player instead of just an offensive guy."
His teammates have noticed a more consistent effort level on both sides of the ball.
"He's giving 100 percent more often," Niemann said. "He plays aggressively more. He looks for his shot and looks to distribute, too. He's playing an all-around team game."
What has helped McReynolds on defense, Anderson said, is improved maturity and a willingness to take on tough assignments.
"Over the summer he started seeing that we wanted him to play hard when he's on the floor, the whole time, or he's not going to play," Anderson said. "I watched him play during soccer season, and I thought as they went on he was making some big plays for them during soccer season, and that kicked in his confidence as he came onto the basketball court."
Sparked by a common decision, Canton has rolled through the regular season. The Tigers hope to do the same in the postseason.
"I love the team from soccer season, and nearly everyone who plays soccer plays basketball," McReynolds said. "We said, ‘We've had good success in soccer, let's bring it to the basketball court.' That's really how we've gotten it done so far is team chemistry."