Tanner Plomb’s favorite dunk during his career at Army West Point is a two-handed stuff off an alley-oop pass from former teammate Milton Washington in a game at American University last season.
That slam is the last in a series of dunks in the accompanying video, which serves as Plomb’s highlight montage in the Dark Horse Dunker competition. Fans can vote on the top dunkers through Wednesday.
“When I was approached about (the contest) I was all for it,” said Plomb, a 6-7 senior forward. “I have always liked to see what kind of new dunks I can come up with. A lot of guys try to go between the legs and stuff. I try to do some new things, but just kind of messing around for fun to see what I can do.”
Plomb, who rates the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo as his favorite NBA dunker, appreciates the impact such a play can have during a game. That is one reason why the slam against American stands out; it was a tight game in which the Black Knights prevailed.
“It definitely gets me hyped up and kind of gets everybody excited,” he said of a dunk’s potential affect. “Plays like that get everybody locked in a little bit more and wanting to keep the momentum in our favor.”
Plomb has had plenty of momentum in his favor this season. The Wisconsin native, who missed a few games in January with a knee injury, leads the Patriot League in scoring at 21.4 points per game and his 5.7 rebounds per game are good for ninth.
He is averaging nearly six points more this season than last when he was named second-team All-Patriot League. The difference, Plomb feels, is that he is driving to the basket more.
“I wanted to focus on getting to the basket more and to do that I knew I had to work on my ball handling,” he said. “Last year I had a lot of three-pointers and pull-up jumpers, so I really wanted to prove that I can get all the way to the basket and expand my game in that way. I feel like I have been moving in the right direction.”
Finding a direction in which to proceed did not always come easy last summer. That was when Plomb participated in the three-week Cadet Leader Development Training.
Part of the training requires spending 12 days in the unforgiving forest near West Point while shut off from virtually every part of modern society. Plomb was part of group of about 40 of his fellow cadets.
“It was a weird feeling for a couple of weeks, sleeping on the ground and everything else,” he said. “Nobody had a phone and there was not much service in that area even if somebody brought one. You just kind of brave the elements. It was raining and cold for a few days and 90 degrees and humid other days. With lack of sleep, lack of food and stuff like that you just try to get through it mentally more than anything.”
Plomb, who graduates in May and reports to Fort Sill, Okla., in August for a few months of officer training specific to his branch of field artillery, said the exercise built up his level of patience. While everybody is fit, the group was far more diverse than what he is accustomed to practicing and playing with on the hardwood.
“It was definitely about becoming more patient while learning that some people are not in the same physical shape that athletes are,” he said. “It was also about learning to work together as a team. We learn that through basketball, but playing in a game is a lot different than carrying people and supplies through the woods and having to plan a mission. Really, it is about different aspects that help you become a leader.”
Plomb would like to lead the way for the Black Knights (14-11, 5-8) heading into the Patriot League tournament, which gets underway March 1. He would also like to think anything can happen in the dunk contest. With slams like what he had against American there is no telling.
“Hopefully, I will be able to make it to the finals,” he said.