Slippery Rock's Micah Till blends football mentality with basketball skill
When Slippery Rock men's basketball coach Kevin Reynolds watches forward Micah Till play, he sees a mean streak. It is, in Reynolds' words, “a good mean streak ... controlled ... well-thought.”
That might be attributed to Till's football background. A three-star tight end from Wise High School in Upper Marlboro, Md., Till began his college career in 2014 as a member of the N.C. State football team.
But since gravitating back to basketball and arriving at Slippery Rock, Till's mean streak has served him and The Rock well. Entering Wednesday's game at Pitt-Johnstown, the sophomore is averaging 20.7 points (sixth in the PSAC) and 10.6 rebounds (second) while helping SRU to a 14-3 mark, 8-3 in the PSAC West.
“We were really excited to get him,” Reynolds said. “He's a good player and a good guy. He's played extremely hard and with good talent and good thought.”
Till initially had aspirations of playing professional football. Titus Till was a defensive back at James Madison and heavily influenced his younger brother's decision to play football in college.
“He convinced me I could go to the NFL,” said Till, 6-foot-7, 250 pounds. “I believed him, and I believed in myself. But I realized if you don't love the sport, you can't accomplish what you want to accomplish.”
In September 2015, Till's redshirt freshman season at N.C. State, he was dismissed from the roster for a “violation of team rules.” It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it put him back on the path to his favorite sport.
He returned to Maryland to take classes and play basketball at Harford Community College. He helped to lead the Fighting Owls to the 2017 NJCAA Region 20 title with current Slippery Rock teammate Aaron McDonald, who has 15 starts and averages 9.5 points for The Rock.
Lured to SRU by assistant Ian Grady, Till has started every game, debuting with 20 points and nine rebounds against Glenville State. Reynolds insisted Till is just getting started. As he continues to round into basketball form, Reynolds said, Till should be able to improve on his already-strong .532 field goal percentage (.340 on 3-pointers) and .700 free-throw percentage.
“He's gotten his basketball legs and lost some weight since he's been here,” Reynolds said. “It's only his second basketball season since high school. We're climbing to the tip of the iceberg with what he can do potentially.”
Till said he continues to work on making his body more basketball-fit. He intends to try to get stronger while shedding a few more pounds before next season.
His aggressive mentality, however, won't change. As good as his scoring numbers have been, Till said the first question he asks after every game is how many rebounds he had.
“I think (my toughness) is a mixture of football and having two older brothers who molded me,” Till said. “Always getting beat up as a little kid, it's in me to fight back without actually fighting back.
“With being bigger, you have to control how you move your body. If it's not controlled, I'm going to be (fouled) out of the game in three minutes.”
Reynolds said Till's effort has caused other players elevate their games, particularly 6-9 junior forward Brandon Simmons. In the past seven games, with teams paying more attention to Till, Simmons has increased his scoring average from 7.9 to 10.1 and his rebounding average from 6.9 to 8.3.
Simmons is coming off an 18-point, 18-rebound performance in a win over Mansfield.
With Till helping to lead the way, Slippery Rock has its sights set on trying to catch IUP for the top spot in the PSAC West.
“We're just focused on finishing strong,” Till said.