FRISCO, Texas – On Feb. 2, Tyler Harvey scored 58 points for the NBA G-League’s Memphis Hustle at Iowa.
In 40 minutes, the former Eastern Washington University standout went 18 for 23 from the field, including 9 for 11 from long range, made 13 of 17 free throws and had four rebounds. However, he also remembers his five turnovers and that the Iowa Wolves prevailed 131-128.
“I wish we would have come out with a win. I missed some free throws down the stretch and some shots,” Harvey said during a recent road trip to Texas. “Yeah, I’ve never had a game like that. It was just one of those games.”
While being interviewed after a strong all-around performance (30 points, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals in 30 minutes) in a 115-94 win at Texas on Saturday, Harvey was serenaded with a chant of “Mr. 58” by a teammate as he left the visiting locker room and headed toward the team bus.
But Harvey’s comments about his 58-point game show what sort of leader he’s been for the Hustle this season. This doesn’t surprise Memphis head coach Brad Jones, who has seen the ex-Eagle go from being someone who played mostly off the ball at the start of the season to being his starting point guard.
“It (his leadership) has really grown and evolved this year,” Jones said. “He was playing off the ball and we went to him and said, ‘Listen, we want you to be the point guard and handle the ball.’ ” He has been nothing but terrific. I’m not sure there has been a guy in the G-League have a better breakout year.”
“I want guys to trust me with the ball because I am the point guard now,” Harvey said. “I try to get guys in the right spots and give us the best opportunity to win games.”
Once Jones took a deeper look at Harvey’s performance in the Iowa loss, he noticed major another positive.
“He scored 58 points on 23 shots,” Jones said. “That’s pretty efficient, right? He’s just been really efficient. Whether it’s the NBA or overseas, he has really put himself in a position to make a lot of money playing basketball. Obviously, I hope it’s with the Grizzles and in the NBA, but if not, because of this year, I think he has a bright, bright future.”
Along with the flexibility Harvey has displayed to successfully change roles during the season, another positive trait that continues to impress his new coach is his court sense.
“You can see he’s a very smart player,” Jones said. “Most scorers like him are not as smart a player as he is. He really knows the game and sees the game. There are a lot of great things about what he’s doing.”
Seeing Harvey fill the stat sheet is nothing new for EWU fans. They remember his three-year run with the Eagles between 2012-15, a tenure that concluded with him leading the nation by averaging 23.1 points per game as a junior, when he helped lead EWU to the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
Harvey declared for the 2015 NBA draft and was selected by Orlando in the second round. Although he’s played for several teams since leaving EWU, he has nothing but fond memories of his time in Cheney.
“Yeah, Eastern was probably one of the best times of my life,” Harvey said. “Played for a great coach, great system. We had a good run. It was a great part of my life.”
He spent his first professional season, the 2015-16 campaign, with Erie of the NBA Development League, or D-League, averaging 11.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists over 37 games.
Harvey played the next two seasons overseas, in Italy and France, before returning stateside this season to play for the Hustle, the G-League affiliate of the Memphis Grizzles, who acquired his rights in a summer trade.
As he tells it, the two years overseas did him a lot of good on and off the court.
“Going abroad, I learned a lot just about myself,” Harvey said. “You’re by yourself every day. My fiancée came out a little bit, but you’re practicing six times a week and you play one game a week, so it’s good for your mental strength. It helped me mentally learn about myself, learn about my craft. They play the game a little bit different over there, so you can take a few things and bring them over here.”
Harvey made a nice living overseas, but when the opportunity came to return to the G-League and have another shot at realizing his dream of playing in the NBA, he had to take the leap of faith. “Yeah, my ultimate goal is to make the NBA and I feel like this was the best opportunity to do so,” Harvey said. “I trust God with everything. I put my faith (in him). It’s out there. I just try to work hard every day, live in the moment and get wins. It’s always nice to win.”
Since the Grizzlies own his rights, should he get an NBA call-up, it would have to come from the Hustle’s parent club. But Harvey won’t fret about when or where that call will come. Instead, he’s more focused on playing so well for the Hustle that the Grizzlies will have little choice but to promote him.
“Honestly, I don’t worry about that, ever. I feel like cards will fall in place,” Harvey said. “Whatever it’s supposed to be like, (it will). Like I said, my faith’s in God and whatever happens, happens. I’m just here at the moment playing the game. I feel like when people start thinking about that kind of stuff, it messes with you, so I just try to go out there every night and take it one game at a time.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.
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