Oakton's Beckford shines on the court
The speed of the game initially attracted Tafari Beckford to basketball.
When talking about what drew him to the sport, Beckford said it was the game's up-and-down pace — and especially putting the ball in the basket — that served as the welcome mat to hoops for him.
“From there, I just fell in love with it and I've wanted to play ever since,” he told North Cook News.
These days, he has been shining on the court — and scoring plenty of those baskets he adores — as a freshman guard for Oakton Community College.
Through Jan. 4, according to his statistics page on the National Junior College Athletics Association website, Beckford averaged 17.9 points per game for the Owls, while notching 9.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. His rebounding average ranked 21st among all players in the NJCAA's Division II at that time.
Beckford's journey to Oakton took a few turns after he graduated from Niles North High School in 2013 following his stellar prep career. He said he went to a couple of other colleges first before deciding that being near home base was the best option. That is what brought him to Oakton. It was a place where he felt comfortable, he said.
“It was somewhere where I could felt like I could just be able to focus more on school, and if I needed to work, I'll be close to home,” he said.
Owls Head Coach Mick Reuter told North Cook News in an email interview that he had recruited Beckford out of high school, showing great interest in him. And when he arrived at Oakton, Beckford made an immediate impact for the team and “has fit our culture perfectly,” Reuter said.
So far at OCC, Beckford said he has improved most in the area of leadership, specifically in leading by example and being more mature.
“Instead of getting mad, I got to know, like, how to talk to someone and how to approach someone and just being smarter on the court -- knowing that every possession counts,” he said.
Beckford said he has another year of basketball eligibility left at Oakton after this season. He is studying secondary education and sports management, with an eye on being a teacher while coaching on the side.
In addition to his main statistics, Beckford has also been getting it done on the defensive end of the court. He was averaging 1.7 blocked shots and 1.4 steals a game. His blocked-shot average led the team, while his steals average was second on the squad.
As far as shooting, Beckford made 45.1 percent of his field-goals attempts and sunk 78.3 percent of his free-throw tries. He also led the team by a wide margin in average free throws made and attempted. Beckford made six free throws per game — almost twice as much as the next-closest player — and attempted 7.7 a contest.
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