PAYSON, Ill. — A hoop and a ball and life's worries go away.
Tanner Cannady trusts in that.
"It's just calming for me," said Cannady, the recent Payson Seymour graduate and soon-to-be Illinois College basketball player. "If I've had a bad day or I have a lot of homework and I'm stressing, I go to the gym and everything is gone. It's like a stress reliever."
Even when games get tenuous and tight, basketball still has a way of keeping Cannady even keel.
"When there's a big game and a big crowd is there, it still seems OK," the 6-foot-2 guard said. "When you can zone everything out and focus on what you're doing, it's calming. I enjoy it a lot."
In that zone, he thrives.
Cannady will represent the Illinois all-stars in the 36th annual McDonald's/Herald-Whig Classic at 7 p.m. Saturday at Quincy University's Pepsi Arena, serving as one of the guards in a potent attack for a team looking to win its 10th straight game in the series.
"We can definitely shoot it real well, and we have some great passers," Cannady said.
He fits the bill in both regards.
"His ability to set up his teammates for easy shots and facilitate our offense was impressive," Payson Seymour coach Brian Rea said after watching Cannady average 15.9 points and 5.2 assists per game last winter. "He is as quality of a point guard as you'll find in the area."
It all centers around his demeanor.
"The game lets me relax," Cannady said. "I guess that's how you'd explain it."
Being connected with it for as long as he has is a big reason why. Cannady remembers shooting at some sort of toy rim from the time he was 2 or 3 years old.
"Whether it was putting up a Nerf hoop in the basement or a hoop outside, it's always been there," he said. "It's always been something I've done."
He hasn't done it quietly, either.
"Always getting yelled at for bumping into the walls and getting yelled at when it sounds like the house is coming down," Cannady said. "All the time. All the time."
But it paid off as Cannady developed into a leader who helped the Indians maintain a winning tradition. Over the past four years, Payson won 90 games, a factor that helped throughout the recruiting process.
"My college coaches said, from the first time I talked to them, they were looking for winners and I come from a program where that's what we do most of the time," Cannady said. "It's definitely been great."
He believes he's found a situation at Illinois College that mirrors that.
"The one thing that stuck out and was crazy to me was how nice their facilities are," said Cannady, who plans to major in civil engineering. "I've never seen a Division III college as nice as Illinois College is. The coaches were super welcoming. It's going to be good for me academically, too. There's not a whole lot I'm not excited about."