Short key cog in Longhorn wheel

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   MOUNTAIN CITY--Most people that have seen Tommy Short play basketball would tell you that he is a standout player.
   The only person that might tell you differently is Tommy Short.
   Short has been a key catalyst on the Johnson County boys basketball squad for three seasons, but the senior has remained humble despite all his success.
   Short is not only a scoring threat for Johnson County, but is an intense defender.
   Short made the All-Carter/Johnson County team as a sophomore two seasons ago, and is a strong candidate to make the All-Watauga Conference team this season.
   Through it all, Short is still a very modest person that feels like he has more to prove.
   "If I take credit for my accomplishments, it makes me look selfish," Short said. "I don't think I've deserved any accolades. I haven't deserved it the last two years."
   Short came into this season determined to win. The Longhorns have returned to the upper half of the Watauga Conference, with Short's leadership playing a big role in that.
   Short was disappointed with the Longhorns' fifth place finish in the Watauga a year ago, as well as the early exit from the District 1-AA tournament.
   It wasn't only the team's performance that made Short hungry, but also his season. Short was not satisfied with his 2001-2002 campaign.
   According to Short, all this challenged him to be more of a leader.
   "Last year I took most of the responsibility for the disappointing season," he said. "That motivated me this year to be more of a leader. That just motivated me to step up."
   Short felt like part of the reason for the tough season personally was because of him playing another sport he is very good at, that sport being football.
   Short came out for the football team his junior season, and had instant success at wide receiver. Short was an All-Carter/Johnson pick at wideout during what was a magical year for the Longhorns.
   Short was one of the key cogs in Johnson County's Class 4A playoff run, an incredible feat considering JCHS is the smallest school in the state playing in that classification.
   But the No. 1 love for this young man is basketball. When it came time for this season to come around, Short decided he needed to spend more time in the gym and to stay off the gridiron.
   "I figured I had better give up football," Short said. "I didn't spend any time in the gym during football. Since it was my senior year, I decided to take football season off and spend more time in basketball.
   "Football was tough to give up, because it was really fun. It was great to be around. It was tough, because of all the players and the coaching staff."
   With the decision not to play football behind him, it's obvious that the increased time in the gym has helped Short. Short has become one of the top defenders in the Watauga Conference.
   Even though Short is one of the go-to offensive players on the team, it's on the defensive side of the ball where Short thrives.
   "Defense has been something I've believed in since Austin (Atwood) coached me in eighth grade," he said. "I credit all my defensive effort to Austin. Defense wins championships. I kind of rest on offense, and I know that is bad for the team. We have a great defensive team, and everybody plays hard. I know resting on offense hurts the team, but I've done a lot better on offense this year trying to contribute."
   Short is definitely a mild-mannered person off the court. But on it, he plays with strong intensity.
   Short admits he gets fired up on the hardwood.
   "If I play with a lot of fire and intensity, that fires up the team," he said. "But I have to keep under control. That's hard sometimes."
   Short is an integral part of a quartet that is hard to match anywhere in the Watauga Conference. Short, Matt Cornett, Judd Shoun and Michael Lipford have been called the "Big Four." When all four players are on, the Longhorns are tough to beat.
   "Playing with those guys is great," Short said. "They're fun to be around."
   It's also been a thrill of a lifetime to play basketball for a man he dearly respects. Short has always spoken highly of Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood.
   Atwood was the junior high coach Short's eighth grade year when JCMS won the Little Watauga Large School Division Championship. Three years later, Atwood and Short were reunited on the hardwood when Atwood became the boys varsity coach.
   "He's been a great privilege to play for," Short said. "I think a coach is half the team. He's a great man to play for. Off the court, he's been there for me. He's been like a father-figure to me. I give a lot of credit for what I accomplish to him."
   Short hopes to continue playing basketball in college. It would be a thrill for Short to continue participating in sports.
   It's something that gives him great joy.
   "It's given me a lot of uplifting in life," Short said. "It gives me great uplift and satisfactory in life, and has taught me to be a winner in everything I do. It's just been a great privilege.