(Photo Courtesy of Jeff McCurry)
When Tyler Sharpe took the court tonight at BB&T Arena for the Horizon League matchup vs. Youngstown St., He was just nine points away from 1000 on his career at NKU. After knocking down his first three shots to eclipse the milestone, the rest of the night became a performance that Norse fans will never forget.
If you don't know Tyler's story, it's one the ultimate underdog would consider an underdog story. Coming out of Mt. Washington, KY Sharpe wasn't a highly recruited player. Although Sharpe was a member of Manimal Elite, an AAU team in the Kentucky area that also rostered former NKU guard and current Western Carolina star Mason Faulkner, Sharpe wasn't getting the recognition he or his family thought he deserved. So Sharpe ended up walking on at the University of Louisville, where he spent a season under legendary coach Rick Pitino.
After Pitino was let go by Louisville, and there were many different changes within the Cardinal program, Sharpe decided to walk-on at Northern Kentucky University under then Head Coach John Brannen. Tyler quickly became a vital member of the Norse roster as one of the first players off the bench in Brannen's rotation helping the team by shooting 38% from three-point range and helping the Norse win their first Horizon League regular-season title.
The next season Sharpe ended up getting a scholarship as a member of the Norse and catapulted his stock by having another excellent shooting season becoming a focal member of the Norse offense, including a 23 point performance in his NCAA Tournament debut vs. NCAA Final runner up, Texas Tech University.
Going into the first media timeout of tonight's game, Sharpe had already scored 12 points on four made three-point baskets. The graphic went on the BB&T Jumbotron showing that Tyler passed 1000 career points, which lead to a fantastic standing ovation from the crowd.
"I don't really like to make things about myself, but in that aspect from where I came from with the doubt I had it's definitely a milestone I'm gonna look back on," Sharpe said, "It's huge for me and my family just from how tough things were at first to get here now, it's a pretty special thing."
Tyler didn't end up making his next basket until the 4:27 mark in the first half, but it was another three to get his point total up to 15 points off an assist from sophomore forward Adrian Nelson. Sharpe quickly followed that with yet another three-pointer to go into the half with 18 points.
"Once I got that first one and saw it go in, I kind of took a heat check, and that went in to so I knew I was in a rhythm early. I wanted to keep coming in with the same approach I had; I was fortunate enough to get a couple good looks early and get in a rhythm and sustain it the entire game,"
The Northern Kentucky record for most three-pointers made in a single game is 11. Sharpe went into the half with six made already. As the second half started, Tyler hit another three to bring his total to 21 points on the game off of seven made three's. As the player who idolizes Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard, Tyler was undoubtedly scoring on his own "Dame Time."
"I thought our entire team did a great job tonight of moving the ball and getting Tyler some clean looks early, and once he gets in a rhythm, he's almost impossible to defend." Norse assistant coach Eric Haut mentioned about Sharpe's performance this evening. "People tend to think that he's just a shooter (he did make 9 3's tonight), but he can score at all three levels and be a playmaker when we need him to. Coach Horn really challenged him after the Detroit game to focus on moving without the ball & letting the game come to him more, and to Tyler's credit, he's done that, as well as watching a lot of film and getting extra shots. Really proud of how hard he works and how coachable he's been this year!"
About halfway through the second half, Youngstown State wasn't giving Sharpe the three as quickly anymore, and he started mixing up his attacks with a few layups to ease the defense before cashing in on two more three's totaling nine on the game. With 5:01 remaining in the game, Sharpe made a layup bringing him to 31 total points, just two points away from his career-high of 33, which he did twice this season in games against UNC-Greensboro and IUPUI. Sharpe then drew a foul to go to the free-throw line to even his career-high before checking out of the game with 3:46 remaining and another standing ovation from the NKU faithful at BB&T arena.
Getting one standing ovation in a game for a player is one thing, but getting two of them is a night people won't ever forget.
"Tyler Sharpe is a special player, and it was fitting that he joined the 1,000-point club in such spectacular fashion." Said NKU Color Commentator Rick Broering. "His scoring and maybe, more importantly, his willingness to be the man for this team when (Dantez) Walton went down have covered up some shortcomings and allowed this team to avoid some growing pains. He's truly working on one of the all-time great seasons in NKU history."
"One of the more fun nights I've had in my career going all the way back to high school," Sharpe said to me in a post-game interview. "Nine's the most (three's) I've ever had in a game as far as I can remember in my life, so to do that on this stage on a night like this in front of that crowd, it was a lot of fun. Hopefully, we can keep building on this energy we got going on Saturday."
In typical Tyler Sharpe fashion, on a night all Norse fans will remember for his fantastic performance, He didn't make his night about himself.