HOOPS: Tyus Happy He’s Going To Be A Gator

It only took one three-game stretch in the recent AAU National 17-and-Under Tournament in Orlando for Alex Tyus to show why the Florida Gators wanted him as part of their recruiting class of 2007. With Bill Walker injured and on the bench, Tyus picked up the slack for eventual national champion D1 Greyhounds with three consecutive double doubles, shooting a spectacular 29-38 from the field.

Tyus averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds a game over those three games to propel D1 into the national championship game where they handily disposed of Boo Williams Summer League. Walker and O.J. Mayo were the headline starts of the D1 team, but the championship couldn’t have been won without the inside work of Tyus, Dallas Lauderdale and Aaron Pogue.

With Florida Coach Billy Donovan and assistant Larry Shyatt watching the games leading up to the semifinals in Orlando, Tyus was spectacular on both ends of the floor, scoring on a dazzling array of fast break dunks and short jumpers while averaging four blocked shots per game. Tyus was well aware that the Florida coaching staff was in the stands for those games.

“First off, I just wanted to do what I could to help my team win,” said the rising senior from Cincinnati’s Harmony Christian Prep. “But, I gotta admit it was good that I had good games with a lot of Gators in the stands and Coach Donovan watching me play. This is the state where I’m gonna play college basketball so it felt real good to have some good games. I was hoping I could play well and I hope that’s a good sign for the future.

“Florida went to the Final Four and then won it all this year. I hope I’ll be able to help them keep that thing going in the future. I’m really excited to be a Gator.”

Tyus became a Gator fan when he was just a kid watching college football games on television. He loved the way the Gators passed the ball all over the place and scored plenty of points. He dreamed of one day playing in the NFL but he kept growing taller and not wider so the sport he played changed to basketball but his love for the Gators continued.

“When I started playing basketball, Florida was still my team,” he said. “I always liked Coach Donovan’s style. He emphasizes team play and unselfishness. I like the way his teams play defense, too. I always felt that I could fit in there. I always dreamed that one day I’d be playing basketball for Florida.”

He attended Florida’s basketball camp in early June and a couple of weeks later he put on a dazzling performance at the Nike camp, showing his toughness by playing tough inside even with a broken finger. A few days later he became the fourth commitment to Florida’s recruiting class of 2007.

“You know, I had a chance to be a Gator and this was my dream all along so I had to take it,” he said. “It was definitely the right thing to do to get recruiting out of the way so I can work on getting my game better so I’ll be ready to play college basketball.”

He’s paid close attention to Florida’s recruiting classes. He knows the freshmen that will be playing for the Gators this year (6-7 Jonathon Mitchell, 6-8 Dan Werner, 6-10 Marreese Speights and 6-4 Brandon Powell) and he knows the other three Gator commitments for 2007 (6-6 Nick Calathes, 6-4 Gary Clark and 6-8 Adam Allen). Florida will probably sign two more and possibly a third for 2007.

“With the guys already there and the talent we’ve got coming in I think Florida’s got a chance to be good for a long, long time,” he said. “It’s a great group of talent and the guys are all great guys, too. I’m looking forward to being their teammate and friend.

“I think the next few years at Florida are going to be really special years. All the hard work and extra workouts got me to be a Gator and that’s what I always wanted to be. Now I have to work harder than ever and I know all the guys will, too. We’ve got a chance to be really good.”

The goals are three-fold for his senior year at Harmony Christian Prep. He wants to get bigger and stronger and he wants to continue to become a better all-around player. He also wants to continue to improve in the classroom.

“I’m 6-9 now and I’m about 205-210 right now,” he said. “I think I can add 15-20 more pounds pretty easy. I got long arms so I can add a lot of muscle. I need to get stronger. It’s a tougher game at the next level.

“I want to keep working hard so I can shoot better and handle the ball better. I want to get better on getting position for rebounds and defense, too. I got things to work on to get better before I get to Gainesville next summer. I’ve been working a lot on the form on my shot, trying to make sure I shoot it the same way every time. Mostly, it’s just repetition. Once you get it down the right way, you just stick with it and keep on doing it over and over. I make sure I take plenty of shots every day.”

In the classroom, he’s determined to continue to raise his GPA.

“I’ve done good in my classes but I can do better,” he said. “I’m qualified. My GPA is solid now but you know I can always make it better. My parents really made me buckle down and start working as hard on the books as I do for basketball and I’m glad they did. It shows with improved grades and I’ll keep them there. There’s life after basketball you know.”

Asked what Gator fans can expect when he arrives in Gainesville, Tyus responded, “The Gators are getting a guy that will bring a lot of energy and will work hard in practice and play hard in games. Whether it’s practice or games, I’m going to try to get better every time out there.”

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.