Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On the recruiting trail

By Acacia O'Connor

When I went to Liverpool High School's summer league to catch up with hot high school recruit Tyler Ash, I had never met Tyler nor seen her play. But it took me less than a second to pick her out. After all, it's not often that you see a 6-foot-2 point guard playing in a summer league in Section III.

For all her seriousness about basketball, no one seemed to be having more fun than Tyler on the court, despite the fact that Liverpool and opponent Cicero-North Syracuse were in large part trading baskets. But maybe it was just the usual summer league laxity...

Liverpool's Head Coach Mike Olley assured me otherwise. "Tyler's a lot of fun. No, she really enjoys playing," he said after the game.

During the game, Tyler let her teammates do the heavy lifting for the most part. She would drive all the way to the basket only to opt to dump it off to an unexpecting teammate on the other block. Only twice did I see her step back behind the arc and let a shot sail -- high, arching, and literally nothing but net. Effortless.

"She loves being out there," said Olley. "She'll leave a two hour practice here and go to the YMCA and play pickup for three hours."

All that practice has paid off for Tyler, who is being heavily recruited by at least 20 Division I programs, according to Olley's estimate. In her junior season she averaged a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds per game, was voted league MVP and won a sectional championship.

All this, and she's only been playing since middle school.

In fact, few had heard very much about Tyler at all before last season -- even in Central New York.

(This compared with the excitement and exposure of the last Section III phenom, Carlee Casidee of Westhill who had 234 career 3 pointers and the leading scorer's record in the section. Casidee now plays at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.)

Only recently has Tyler's game been getting the attention of college scouts. Olley said that playing with Shenise Johnson from Rush-Henrietta, currently ranked eighth nationally among class of 2008 recruits, has helped improve Tyler's exposure.

Even though its not contact season, Olley speaks often with coaches and Tyler apparently gets a lot of text messages checking up on her. (Oh how far recruiting has come...) Among those are Baylor, Rutgers, UMass, Indiana, BC, Temple and, of course, Syracuse.

Though she was wearing a SU practice jersey and a bright orange headband to match, Tyler seemed disinterested in talking about the hubbub surrounding the upcoming year.

"It's overwhelming," she said quietly. "But its fun."

When I asked her what she thought she wanted to do -- college, post-college, whatever -- she just smiled. The answer was obvious.

"Play," she said.

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