Tay sparks Bloomfield break out

Bloomfield guard Charmaine Tay committed to Louisville after nearly averaging a triple-double in her junior season. She narrowly missed a quadruple-double in the state championship game. Kelly Kline

This story appeared in the New Jersey edition of the Jan./Feb. ESPN RISE Magazine.

There are two sides to Charmaine Tay.

The Bloomfield Tech (Bloomfield, N.J.) point guard is equal parts flashy and tough. She has fun on the court, but only after she does the dirty work under the basket. Tay is a master at transitioning between the two, making the Louisville-bound senior one of the best all-around players in the country.

"She does everything," says Bloomfield Tech coach Bill Rogers. "She's a force on both ends."

The shortest distance between two points is usually a straight line, so that's the path Tay takes from one basket to the other. No player in New Jersey goes coast-to-coast faster.

"She loves to push it," says Rogers. "As soon as she grabs the ball, she's ready to go."

Tay's ability to wreak havoc on the fast break has given the Spartans an identity. Opponents go into every game knowing if they don't slow her down, they have no chance. Last year, Bloomfield Tech raced to the North 2, Group 1 state championship behind Tay's up-tempo heroics.

"I love playing fast," says Tay, the No. 17 player in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100 (No. 6 among point guards). "I want to be attacking all the time."

Tay constantly wants to push the pace, but most fast breaks have to start with a rebound. So if she wants to get out and run, Tay might as well grab the boards herself.

Last year, she earned first team All-State honors by averaging 14 points, eight assists and a staggering 11 rebounds per game. Her ability to control the glass is unique for a player of her size, and it makes her doubly dangerous.

"She's one of the best rebounding guards I've ever seen," says Rogers. "When she gets a defensive rebound, she's gone. She starts the break so quickly, the defense doesn't have time to get back and organize. She's already scored or created a layup for someone else before they can get it together."

How does a point guard who barely measures 5-foot-10 on her tippy-toes manage to moonlight as one of New Jersey's dominant rebounders?

The first skill Tay has is timing. Because she's usually stationed near the top of the key on defensive possessions, she gets a good look when shots are taken. Her sense of timing allows her to weave through the lane and go up at the precise moment to get her hands on the carom.

She also has great instincts. Even if she's boxed out, Tay has a nose for the ball and can usually get by her opponent and win inside position. "It seems like I'm always in the right spot at the right time," she says.

Tay's athleticism also comes in handy when she's fighting around the basket. Her superior jumping ability lets her sky for rebounds on the rare occasions when she finds herself blocked out.

Finally, she has the right attitude. "I just love rebounding," Tay says. "Even though I'm a point guard, on defense I feel like a post player. When I see somebody shoot, I'm always going for the ball. I want to get the rebound and push."

Once Tay gets the ball in her hands, the hard work is over and the fun stuff begins. Taking off up the middle of the floor, Tay can weave through defenders and make highlight reel plays in the open court.

"She looks like Magic Johnson to me," says Rogers. "She's a guard who can take it from one basket to the other and get easy layups for her teammates. Her vision is fantastic."

Her all-around game was on display in the state championship game last year. Tay led Bloomfield Tech to a 56-36 win over Gloucester City (Gloucester City, N.J.) and nearly notched a quadruple-double: nine points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and nine steals.

"It was an outrageous performance," says Gloucester City coach Sean Gorman. "She's such a well-rounded player. She's the glue that holds them together, and she makes everybody around her better."

It may sound impossible, but Rogers is looking for even more out of Tay this season. She's one of Bloomfield Tech's few seniors, so he wants her to shoulder a bigger scoring load to take some pressure off the younger players.

So Tay is ready to unveil yet another aspect of her game this year -- becoming an elite scorer.

Earlier in her high school career, she wouldn't have been equipped to handle the challenge. As a freshman and sophomore, she wasn't much of a shooter. Tay was restricted almost exclusively to the paint, with most of her points coming from layups and short attempts around the basket.

It worked because Tay can drive right or left and has the quickness to explode through the tiniest opening. But as she became the focus of every defense, she knew she had to diversify.

"I used to drive every single time, ever since I was little," says Tay. "I wasn't really a shooter. I was shooting completely wrong. The past three years I've been working on my form, just trying to get more consistent. Now if defenders play off me at the free throw line, I want it to be an automatic shot this year."

It may not come as naturally to Tay as rebounding or running a fast break, but if that's what it takes to win, expect her to put the ball in the basket when Bloomfield Tech really needs a hoop.

"I consider myself to be a true point guard," says Tay. "I always want more assists than points, but I can tell the team is depending on me to score this year. They're looking to me to score, so I feel like I have to step up."

Looks like there's yet another side to Charmaine Tay.