When Florida signed Cleveland State transfer Tyree Appleby, it not only added a dynamic pg who had led his prior team in scoring (17.2 ppg), assists (5.6 apg) and steals, but also padded its fan base.
“I haven’t been able to get any Gators gear yet, but I will,” said Raheem Appleby. “And I have to make my way to Gainesville to cheer on my guys.”
One “guy” Raheem will be cheering on is the aforementioned, Tyree . . younger brother, childhood basketball buddy and his own favorite fan.
“Tyree was at Louisiana Tech so much with me because he and my dad barely missed a game,” Raheem recalled of his collegiate playing days. . . hinting at the other ‘guy’ he’ll be cheering on.
Yes, Raheem played for Gators coach Mike White . . .and played well.
The 6’3 Bulldogs guard garnered honors such as WAC Freshman of the Year, WAC All Conference First Team and C-USA Second Team, while averaging nearly 15 ppg during a stellar 4-year career. And 15 year-old Tyree was there to see it all . . . to witness his big brother’s development and ascension. And to get a firsthand look at the man and methods Raheem credits as being the catalyst for his hoops success. And during that time . . .while seeing, watching and witnessing . . . something happened. “He and coach had a bond of their own. He sat in practices and had been around the locker room . . . and got to know what coach was all about,” the older Appleby recollected.
And what was, or what is Coach all about?
“My favorite part was the relationship he had with us. Any coach can have you come in and follow the X’s & O’s, but he gets to know you and your family,” Raheem said. “That meant a lot to me in my four years with him.”
And it certainly meant a lot to Tyree. So much so that Raheem even attributes impromptu shooting sessions to being an early foundation for Tyree’s recent decision.
“There would be game days that we would finish shoot around… and while we went to eat pregame, Tyree would start shooting. Coach White would sit there for 15 or 20 minutes rebounding with my dad, and have conversations about non basketball things,” he said, reflecting back to he and his Coach’s La Tech days. “I think things like that stick with you.”
Shooting the ball, and shooting the bull are things for which Raheem and his Coach still find time.
“We have a relationship like family members that don’t see each other often,” explained Raheem, who is now playing in Czech Republic. “We don’t talk a whole lot, but we always find time to check in on each other and its usually some good laughs mixed in and always ends with us knowing that we are always open for a phone call if needed… or if we just want to talk.”
But our talk quickly turned back to basketball, and Raheem began to anticipate the pairing of coach, mentor and his bother..
“Coach White being a guard during his career, and already having developed great guards under his wing . . . I think he will do the same for Tyree,” he proudly predicted.
He seems proud for both player and coach.
“In the back of my mind I was hoping he would choose Florida, but I didn’t tell him that,” Raheem admitted. “I wanted to stay out of the process so that he knew the decision was fully his. But I wanted it because of the level of play in the SEC and, of course, because of the coaching staff as a whole. . . not just Coach White.” The whole coaching staff? Yup, more of his guys Raheem will be cheering!
And put away any notion of sibling rivalry. The super-talented Raheem brushed that aside, while also setting a high bar for his brother. “I think that he will fit nicely with the pace and style of play, because I believe he is similar to the player I was… with more skill.” Wow. But that concession didn’t stop the older brother from providing a few words of wisdom. “I told him I’m not sure how he is used to the focus of practice being, but be ready to focus on defense. The offensive part will come naturally once you learn the system, and how it works,” Raheem imparted. “But defense will be main key. . . defense and energy.”
And this was coming from a guy who dropped in over 1,500 career points.
Though Tyree, per transfer rules, will sit out this coming season, Raheem is counting the days to when he can flip the script . . . and be a fan at his brother’s games.
In the meantime, Raheem’s former coach and his other ‘guys’ start the season soon enough.
Raheem will be cheering, maybe even wearing some new Gators attire.
“I can’t wait!”.