Tyler Smith Impressive in PTL Opener

Tyler Smith exploded onto the Iowa City scene with a super performance in his PTL debut on Monday night in North Liberty. HN.com Senior Writer Rob Howe attended the evening's festivities and filed this premium Notes and Quotes Package, which includes scouting reports on Smith, Cyrus Tate, Seth Gorney and Matt Gatens, interviews with Tate and Smith, and news of some injuries to a few key Hawks.

NOTES

Scouting Report (of the Iowa guys I was able to watch on Monday) _

Tyler Smith: This kid is going to be fun to watch. I counted him as notching six dunks, all of the jaw-dropping variety. His alley-oop one hander at the end of the game left the small crowd that was left buzzing. He started slow, going scoreless for the first minutes, before dropping in eight straight points in a 2 ½-minute stretch courtesy of three consecutive dunks and a 17-foot J. It seemed like he was coasting at times, but he appeared to have trouble getting into the flow of the game, which can happen in the PTL because you rarely see more than two passes before a shot gets jacked up. Smith sees the floor really well and is an adept passer. If anything, he's too unselfish for this league. He needs to learn to take more shots because he's clearly the best player on his team. He's also very strong physically and plays sound defense. Again, this was just one night of watching him in the rag-tag PTL, but I left impressed. And he's also a very nice, polite kid. He finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. You'll be interested to read his comments below on how he ended up choosing the Hawks.

Cyrus Tate: Super strong kid with a knack for doing the little things that often go unnoticed and miss the box score. I liked the way he worked off of the ball, setting screens, rolling, blocking shots and positioning himself for rebounds. He didn't show a lot offensively, but he had a series in the second half where he hit a nice baseline 15-footer, then an elbow jumper and then a pull-up. He needs to work on posting up a little stronger and he does get out of control at times.

Seth Gorney: The junior-to-be looks to be in very good shape. He did some things on both ends of the floor, going up against incoming UNI freshman, Jordan Eglseder, but the young guy go the best of the battle. Gorney rushes his shot too much and gets his feet tied up too much. He also has to play stronger. He did get up and down the floor pretty well and hit a couple nice baseline jumpers.

Matt Gatens: The future Hawk really put on some weight since last summer, and it looks to be in the right places (legs and arms). He hit a couple nice jumpers from deep and even played well around the basket. He needs to work on his decision making skills a little and tune up his defensive skills, but it will be fun to watch his development over the next few years.

Walking Wounded: The anticipated showdown between Smith and Hawkeye senior standout Adam Haluska ended abruptly when the veteran left the game after being hit below the belt. It turned out to be pretty serious as Haluska was taken to the hospital. I spoke with Adam briefly and he was in a lot of pain. He told me there was swelling and discoloration. The trainer did feel there was a rupture, but that went to a doctor to make sure everything was OK and to get some anti-inflammatory medication. Tony Freeman also was nursing a few ailments. He received ice on his left knee and lower right back after his game, but appeared to be moving around OK.

QUOTES

CYRUS TATE

What did you think about your first night in the PTL?

It was pretty good, not bad. We're just getting adjusted to our team. We just met each other. Next game we play, we'll be more apparent as a team and come through with a win.

Did you have any nerves at all? This was your first time playing in front of Hawkeye fans.

I was a little nervous. I'm just trying to learn what I can do and what I can't do on the court. I see what they're going to call. (Tate had more than five fouls. As a result, the opposition shot technicals for each of his fouls passed five.)

How important is it for you to be here this summer to get used to the area?

It's real important. Coach expects a lot from me, I guess. I've got to take the place of Greg Brunner. He's a real good player. I play against him a lot in open gym. I play against him and I try to get better, to do the things that he does so I can carry it on for the next season.

What are the main things you think you need to work on for your game?

Facing up. Shooting 15-footers consistently. Being a threat 15-foot in is what I need to do.

Are you taking any classes now?

Yeah. (Laughs) I have two classes and homework. I can handle it. I go tot class. Then I go to tutoring every day. I'm holding my own.

Where do you see yourself fitting in on this team?

I'll fit in with whatever coach wants me to do. Whatever coach needs me to do, I'm going to do and try to be good at it.

The situation with Brunner leaving at power forward, how appealing was that for you when you were trying to decide on a school knowing there was going to be a lot of opportunity for playing time?

It was good. It kind of brought me to Iowa. At the same time, I always wanted to play in the Big Ten. This is a good place for me. The position opened at power forward. I thought I'd come here and take it.

TYLER SMITH

What did you think of your first night here?

It was a great atmosphere to be in. I didn't get into the flow of the game, but my teammates helped me out a lot by encouraging me and helping me be better as a player. I just liked it. It was nice.

You seem really unselfish. Is that how you play?

Yeah, that's my game. I take it as if scoring points, that's good, but helping your teammates get better and getting them in the game is just as much fun as anything.

How important is this summer for you, being in town?

It's very good being here because I'm rooming with Mikey (Henderson) and Mikey is one of those gym rats that goes to the gym all of the time. He encourages me to go. Me being a freshman and him being a senior has helped me out a lot. And being able to play in this league is great.

Do you feel pressure coming in with your expectations that you have to live up to something?

At first I had a little bit of butterflies coming into the game, but I've played with high expectations. You just have to take the flow of the game. It will come.

How did you end up here?

Well, it was kind of…me coming out of high school with me in Tennessee, Coach Alford and Coach Neal were good friends with Coach Buzz (Peterson, whom Smith committed to at the University of Tennessee. Peterson was fired before Smith got on campus but after he signed his letter of intent. New Vols coach Bruce Pearl refused to let Smith out of his scholarship, so he went to prep school in Virginia). They didn't want to interfere with that (Peterson recruiting Smith to Tenn.). But as soon as I found out I was going to prep school, Coach Neal came on hard and recruited me very well. Pretty Much Coach Neal is the reason I'm here.

So, you didn't go to Tennessee because Coach Buzz was fired?

I liked Coach Peterson a lot as a person and as a coach. Coach Bruce (Pearl), no hard feelings against him, it was just that I didn't have enough time to really get to know him. He wanted me to come straight away, and I really didn't want to do that. I wanted to take my time. I didn't want to just jump into a situation not knowing the coach.

Who did Iowa beat to get you?

It was Memphis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Kentucky.

How long have you been in Iowa City?

Probably a month.

What do you think of it?

Oh, it's nice. It's bigger than my town, but not too big of a city. It's very heartwarming as far as the fans that love basketball. I mean, it's a great town.

Are you going to class this summer?

No sir, I'm just working.

You're working a job?

Holiday Inn. Maintenance.


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