Stone etches his name as a Tiger
The Waiting Game
Tyler Stone has played the waiting game before.
Stone wasn't supposed to be the next All-American, continuing the line of heralded Memphis preps that has made Beale Street a force in college basketball recruiting over the last few years. In fact, Stone was so unknown that he didn't even play varsity ball until his junior year in high school.
After leaving his junior high for 10th grade at Central High School, Stone rode the pine for the Warriors his sophomore year. He was the unfortunate victim of a deep team.
"They had a lineup already set at Central," Stone said. "I had to earn it."
That's exactly what Stone did. He didn't pout, or look for other options to see playing time. He worked to see the court. And the work he put in off the court between his sophomore and junior years set the foundation for improvement. That improvement caught the eyes of some college coaches, and, eventually, Stone fell into Missouri's laps.
Growing into his 6-foot-7 frame over the course of the next two years, Stone became the star for Central. By his senior season, the 225-lb forward averaged 15 points and eight rebounds a game, leading the Warriors to a 25-4 record. He received plenty of accolades along the way.
He had proven his talent to himself, to his coaches, and to his teammates. But one question remained:
Why weren't the big-time programs calling?
A Casualty of Depth
According to his AAU coach, Jerry Anthony, Stone was once again a victim of depth. Coaches love it, but for the players looking up at the top of the depth chart, it can be a disaster.
Anthony has been the coach for the MemphisHoopers.com travel team for the last two summers. When he took over as coach, he saw that Stone had the potential to be one of the top players in Memphis.
"The problem was, he was so far down the bench on his previous teams, no one got to see him," Anthony said through a laugh.
Before, Stone played his way onto talented teams, but sat anonymously for most of the games. With so much emphasis put on the AAU circuit for basketball recruiting, Stone's name didn't resonate on a national level.
That all changed last summer, however. According to Anthony, Stone "blew up" at the Battle at the Bluff tournament in July of 2008. He led his team to a final four berth, before losing to the eventual tournament champions. Stone began to get noticed, but the big programs still were absent.
Missouri Lucks Out
"They couldn't believe he was still around."
Anthony said that was Missouri assistant coach T.J. Cleveland's reaction when the Tigers found out Stone was still available two weeks ago. While Cleveland had been recruiting Stone for a while, Missouri was focused on other targets, and Stone slipped through the cracks. Then, after Jarrid Famous committed to South Florida, the Tigers remembered Stone.
"They called me about two weeks ago," Stone said. "Saying they wanted to get me up there for a visit."
Stone came without an offer, but said he fell in love with the program and the campus immediately.
"They made me feel welcome when I got there," Stone explained. "Everyone was so cool, the coaches and the players were so cool."
His coach echoed his sentiments.
"The main thing was the players and the coaches," Anthony explained. "They treated him like he was already family. He said he felt like he had been there before. His family is familiar with Mike Anderson and they know that he always has success with the Memphis guys."
'A Matchup Nightmare'
Praise for Stone comes easy from Anthony.
"At 6-7, he's a combo forward," Anthony explained. "He can play both small forward and power forward for Missouri. If a big guy is guarding him, he can take them to the perimeter, beat them off the dribble or pull up for a three. If a smaller three is on him, he can most them up. He has a variety of post moves, including a good hook shot with his right or left hand.
"He's a matchup nightmare."
Stone said the strongest part of his game are his ball-handling and shooting touch. While he can play with his back to the basket, Stone said he prefers to face up. That, of course, depends on the situation.
"If there's a big forward on me, I'll face him up and beat him," Stone said. "But I can post up smaller players."
Stone was immediately drawn to Missouri's style of play, saying he loves an up-tempo team because he wants to run the floor.
"What Missouri likes about him the most is that he's aggressive both on offense and defense," Anthony said. "He'll play hard for 40 minutes on the floor."
Like any soon-to-be freshman, there's still a learning curve that Stone will have to adjust to. Anthony said he needs to simply get stronger to handle the physical style of college basketball.
Stone said he needs to improve another area, as well.
"I need to improve my perimeter defense," Stone said. "I might end up playing the three, so I'll be out there a lot."
Don't expect Stone to play the waiting game for that long in Columbia, however.
"If I come in, put on some weight and work hard," Stone said, "I can help contribute right away."