Thursday, May 30, 2013

Steve Tchiengang and The Constant Pursuit of Perfection

In life, everybody is friends with a perfectionist. This is the person who gets irritated when you confuse your and you're in a text or who continually revises a paper/resume/email until it is worded exactly the way they want. Despite those at times irritable qualities, if you remain friends with the person, it is because they must offer something else. Well in my life, this person is Steve Tchiengang.

Steve demands perfection not only from himself but from those around him. Rebounding for Steve is not like rebounding for any other player. Most players are happy that a manager is sticking around after practice to rebound for them and are content to just get their shots up then leave, but Steve is not like most players.

When you rebound for Steve, if you are not hustling after every missed shot or completely devoted to rebounding for him, the odds are that he is going to say something like "hey, pay attention, do your job, quit messing around". Or if you throw a pass that is not just the way Steve likes it, he will implore you to make he proper adjustments. At first I threw passes that were too soft, so then I made them have a little more juice but then Steve said they were hard to catch, and then I finally found a middle ground that made Steve pronounce, "I'm surprised to say this but Dan Mark you are the best manager passer we have" last season, and at that moment I knew I had arrived.

In addition to expecting excellence from his rebounder, Steve expected excellence from himself. Other than John Jenkins, nobody took more shots after practice than Steve, but the shots he took were always confounding. They were confounding because Steve took only threes. Despite being our backup five man and playing mostly down low, the part of his game Steve loved to work on was his three point shot. He averaged less than one three attempted per game, but Steve was convinced he was an outside shooter. This was both Steve's blessing and his curse.

On the one hand, Steve could shoot the three and his ability to stretch the floor helped us out enormously at times. Additionally, despite dying to play the four and be a stretch four man his entire career, Steve never complained once about being used as a center his last two seasons. He was the ultimate team player who put winning above everything else, even his personal desires. It wasn't the role he wanted necessarily (Steve would have Dirk Nowitzki's role if he could have), but nobody was tougher or more selfless on the basketball court than Steve as I pointed out in this profile I did on him for DIME Magazine.

Steve set bone jarring screens to help get John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor open while also defending some of the SEC's top interior players on a nightly basis like Jarnell Stokes and Anthony Davis. When you hear the term "serviceable big man" it sums up Steve well. He shows up and just gets the job done, whether that is in a game or in a practice pushing other guys to get better, but there was always that desire within him to be on the perimeter more.

Steve is 6'9" and around 240 pounds so really his natural place was down on the block, but Steve was convinced he was an elite jump shooter. He worked on his form and his shot over and over and over, more so than any other part of his game, and at times as a manager, a fan, but most importantly a friend it was infuriating to be completely honest. Steve had an incredible work ethic and strived every day to be the best player he could but he focused so much on a skillset that he rarely used in games. I wished Steve would have worked more on his post moves or other areas of his game, and he did work on those as well but not as much as his jumpshot, but Steve sees things in Black and White and he saw himself as a shooter so that is what he worked on until he perfected it.

While many players will strive for excellence on the court, what is impressive about Steve's perfectionist personality is that it extended to every area of his life. Now, Steve is not a perfectionist in that he wants everything to look and be perfect, he is more a perfectionist in the way that he sees the best in everybody and any situation and will do whatever he can to bring the best out of a person. Steve's clear sense of right and wrong alienated some at times because he was never shy about sharing his opinion on what a person could do better, it never really bothered me though. I think the reason it didn't is because Steve pointed things out to me that I knew I could do better, but was either too lazy or just didn't feel like doing and he held me to it.

Anybody that knows me knows that I love to eat, particularly free food. I just love food, but at the same time I don't want to blow up and gain a lot of weight so Steve always encouraged me to eat healthy and workout because he thought that would be best. Last year he told me to text him every night after I finished doing the ab workout he gave me and if I didn't text him, he would text me the next day asking why.

Or there were the times when Steve would try to improve my "swag" and introduce me to girls he knew. I was always kind of bashful when Steve would go up to a girl at a bar and say "This is Dan Mark, you need to know him" because he was so forceful in the introduction, I felt that it was a personal letdown to Steve if nothing came of it (and usually nothing did), but he kept advising me on what to wear or what to say.

I don't necessarily think Steve is the expert on those matters, but he saw qualities and traits in me that he tried hard to bring out. I am not the most talkative person and definitely not the best dressed, or most in shape, but Steve didn't think I should limit myself. He believed I was a good person and he truly wanted to help me out, even if I wasn't necessarily asking for it, and that is why I love Steve. He is always looking to help find the perfections that lie within each of us, whether it be me or the African refugees he volunteered with, and bring those qualities to the surface so that others can see them. It takes a special type of person to do that, and Steve is one of a kind.

  Me and Steve

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