Calling Teyvion Kirk a competitor does not do him justice.
Instead, he is like a warrior that happens to play basketball. His on-court opposition is his mortal enemy.
He will try to break them. And he will let them hear about it.
“I take everything personal,” Kirk said. “I’ll race you up the stairs and bet on that.”
Kirk’s spirit was formed by wrestling in his Joliet, Illinois, house with his brothers, and getting yelled at by his parents for breaking household items. It has evolved into an obsessive competitor with a life-or-death playing style on the court.
The competitive nature does not stop when he leaves the gym, either. When he and roommate Zach Butler play video games at home, Butler said Kirk either wins or complains about the game being fixed.
“It never stops,” Butler said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re playing checkers.”
Ever since decommitting from Drake after a coaching change, coach Saul Phillips said Kirk has been spilling his guts all over the floor of The Convo. Sometimes, the spills can prove to be messy.
On one play in practice last week, Kirk was in Gavin Block’s face and talking trash as Block threw an inbounds pass.
Block was Kirk’s defensive assignment. Which meant Block was Kirk's enemy.
In that moment, though, Kirk lost his presence of mind. He pressured Block too closely on the inbound, and Block cut right past him for a layup.
It probably will not be the last one, either. It will take time for 18-year-old to mature out of those moments, and his coaches and teammates are working with him on staying level-headed.
They call more fouls on him in practice to minimize his over-aggression once the season starts. But mostly, the Bobcats love Kirk’s unwavering tenacity.
“You don’t have to watch (Kirk) for five seconds to know that it means a lot to him.” Phillips said. “He’s got a chip on both shoulders. It bubbles over sometimes, but I don’t ever want to mess with his spirit.”
They love the fact that it is paired with a 6-foot-3-inch, 184-pound frame as well.
But Phillips’ game plans are more complex than he has ever seen. Kirk’s decisions with the ball and defensive rotations need to happen faster than he is used to.
Even the weight training regimen was an adjustment for him. Now he is on an advanced motion-based weight lifting schedule.
It can all be a little overwhelming.
“In high school, you’re the best player,” Kirk said. “Here, everybody is better than you.”
Such is life for most freshmen making the leap from playing with a couple of Division I players per season to playing with and against 15 each day. Phillips stresses patience with learning the system.
“He can’t know what he doesn’t know,” Philips said.
Kirk has all the physical attributes.
He has the quickness to get past and stay in front of Division I defenders. He has the size to defend both guard positions. His body control and athletic ability allow for acrobatic finishes at the rim.
He does not struggle to stand out in practice. He said he has put on 10 pounds in the weight room.
The adjustments will come in processing the speed of college basketball and controlling his combative essence. And with the guidance coaches and teammates, he has a better understanding of how to do it.
He’s not as focused on his singular matchup anymore. He understands the game in a broader context.
“(When I got upset) in the past, I’d just try to fill (the opponent) up with buckets,” Kirk said. “But at the collegiate level, it’s team first.”