HOOPS RECRUITING: Decision Time For Tyus

It's getting close to crunch time for Alex Tyus, the multi-talented 6-9 forward out of Cincinnati's Harmony Christian School. He hasn't quite made up his mind where he's going to play college basketball next year but the choice will be made in the next few days and it's a neck-and-neck three-team race to the very end.

(See Alex Tyus profile)

"At the latest, I'll make my decision sometime next week but there's a chance I'll have it by the end of this week," said Tyus, who averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game last year.

Ohio State, Illinois and 2006 NCAA champion Florida are the three teams remaining in this race to get the commitment from this freakish athlete that runs the floor like a guard and yet has the skills to dominate a game in the paint. He was in Gainesville last week to visit Coach Billy Donovan and the University of Florida, a visit that went extremely well and solidified the Gators as one of his final three teams.

"It was a good visit that I enjoyed a lot because I got to hang out with all the players," said Tyus. "I loved hanging with Corey Brewer and Joakim (Noah). They're crazy guys and full of energy. You feel the energy when you're hanging with them. It must be crazy playing with them."

He came away from Florida with a better feel for Coach Donovan, whom he said is a straight up kind of coach that doesn't spend a lot of time talking nonsense.

"He's serious about improving you as a person, student and as a basketball player," said Tyus. "You get a good feeling that he wants what's best for you all the time."

Another factor that could favor the Gators is the transformation that has taken place under Donovan.

"Florida isn't just a football school anymore," said Tyus. "They're starting their own traditions now. I like that maybe I can be a part of something really new. They got their first championship now and it would be great to keep it going there.

"They've got a lot of great young talent coming in so if Joakin, Corey and Al Horford leave for the NBA after this year, they'll still have everything they need to keep playing for championships."

While Florida definitely made a strong impression, it's still going to be a fight to the finish with Ohio State and Illinois to get the commitment. Both those schools have made favorable impressions and they're both a lot closer to Cincinnati than Gainesville.

"Ohio State is right up the road and Coach (Thad) Matta is a guy I'm really comfortable with," he said. "He hasn't pressured me or nothing and he seems like a really good coach to play for. He's got a lot of great recruits coming in so they're going to be a great team for the next few years. I don't think they have a player that can do all the things I can so I would be able to bring something new to the team. I could fit in by being really versatile."

Like Ohio State, Illinois is a member of the Big Ten Conference and that is a real plus since Tyus is familiar with all those teams.

"I grew up watching Big Ten basketball so I know the conference pretty good," he said. "Illinois has their program going really good under Coach (Bruce) Weber. I like his style and the way his teams play hard all the time. It's close to home so my family could get over there to see me play. I like the assistant coaches there, too."

While he's known for his spectacular finishes on the fast break, he says that he'd rather be known as a team player that does whatever it takes to help win games.

"Bottom line is winning," he said. "If playing defense helps the team win and I don't score much, it's okay long as we win. You can help your team win with defense just as much as you can do it with offense."

Defensively, he is quick enough to guard on the perimeter where his long arms make him a threat to disrupt passing lanes and get out on the fast break. However, it's in the paint where he makes his presence felt most often. That's because he's earned a reputation as an intimidator for blocking so many shots.

It is a combination of quick feet, long arms and the ability to wait until the last second until he explodes off the floor that makes Tyus a rejector supreme.

"Blocking shots is intimidating for the other team," he said. "That's why I like to do it. You block a shot and the rest of the game it's in the back of the other guy's head that you're waiting for him. You may not block another shot. You may not have to if you're in his head and he's thinking more about you than he is about scoring."

He says he would like to spend the next few months becoming a better defender away from the basket, adding some muscle to his 200-pound body and developing more consistency in every phase of his game, particularly passing the basketball.

"It makes the team stronger if you can get everybody involved in the game," he said. "That's why I'd like to improve as a passer. Making a good pass is as important as making the shot yourself."

He doesn't worry about where the points will come from. He knows that if he does his job and plays team-first basketball, the points will come along with the wins. One game last season is a perfect example. His team was on the road with only a couple of seconds left before the half and he hadn't scored a point. He got the ball near midcourt and without hesitating, launched a shot that found the bottom of the net for a team-energizing three-pointer.

"I scored 22 points in the second half," he recalled. "In the first half, I rebounded and played defense. Then I hit that shot and that was kind of a spark that we needed. We were on the road about an hour outside of St. Louis. The crowd was really against us, too. That shot kind of shut them up. Then in the second half, we needed points and I made some shots and we won. I don't worry about points. I worry about winning."


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