With only six games remaining in his senior season, the time for reflection is upon senior guard B.J. Tyson, someone who most people around the program consider to be one of East Carolina University’s greatest basketball players.
Four years ago, Tyson joined ECU's men's basketball team and immediately started contributing. Now he’s wrapping up his career and admits he has started reminiscing already.
"I've been reflecting for a minute but it's starting to hit me a lot more now," Tyson said. "I just take every day as my last. I try and bring what I didn't have in and leave behind being that leader and that big brother, especially to those younger guys, so that I can leave some sort of legacy behind."
Tyson started building that legacy in his very first collegiate game, back on Nov. 14, 2014, against North Carolina Wesleyan College. In 21 minutes of action, Tyson scored a game-high 22 points and added five steals, still his career-high. By the end of his freshman season, the Wadesboro, North Carolina native finished the season with 413 points to lead the team in scoring.
His contribution as a freshman spanned far beyond just what he did on the court. During the 2014-15 offseason, the Pirates recruited a 6-foot-5-inch recruit out of Durham who has now become synonymous with ECU, Kentrell Barkley. Barkley was graduating high school at Northern Durham after being named the District IV player of the year by the N.C. Basketball Coaches Association and had his eyes set on big goals in college. That's when he heard of Tyson and knew where he wanted to spend his next four years.
"He's done a lot. He's made history. I think he really picked this program up and brought my attention to this program after all he did," Barkley said. "ECU gave him an opportunity where he didn't have one anywhere else."
That opportunity helped Tyson flourish into what will inevitably be a top-five scorer in ECU basketball history. Currently sitting just 57 points away, Tyson has to average less than 10 points per game to eclipse Darrius Morrow's 1,506 career points. He will also finish in the top-10 in career steals, with 106 steals and counting.
While the statistics and numbers are great, his leadership will be the reason number 21 is remembered. Tyson was recruited by former head coach Jeff Lebo, and before Lebo's resignation, the two formed a close bond. While Lebo is now out, interim head coach Michael Perry has been part of ECU's staff for 11 seasons and has seen his shooting guard develop over the last four years.
"As a coach it's a treasure to have a young man you don't have to worry about on or off the floor," Perry said. "He's going to bring you an honest days work in practice and in games he's consistent. You look at his career, he's been a consistent scorer, and as a coach you like to be able to have guys like that."
So with only six games remaining in his ECU career, Tyson is trying to help the 9-13 Pirates find their grove just weeks before the American Athletic Conference tournament starts on March 8. Recently there have been flashes of an ECU team that can compete with almost any team in the AAC, hanging tough with Tulane University in overtime but losing, then outlasting Memphis University in overtime in its next time out.
One of the biggest reasons of ECU's recent success is the emergence of freshman Shawn Williams, who wrapped up his third AAC Rookie-of-the-Week of the season after the Memphis game. Williams is a force from behind the arc and hasn't shown any signs of reluctancy despite being one of the youngest on the floor. A major reason for that is Tyson.
"He was the first person I met at ECU and now he's my big brother for real. He wants me to beat him in everything, beat all his records and stuff, and he’s just guiding me in the right direction," Williams said.
Tyson will graduate from ECU, leaving the program in a better position than he found it because of the recruits the Pirates have been able to land since his arrival. Becoming a top-five scorer doesn't come to just any player, according to him, it takes someone who loves the team they play for. That's why Tyson has achieved all these accomplishments, he bleeds purple and gold, and that shows on the floor.
"I love being here, I'm a die-hard Pirate forever,” Tyson said. “I do everything I can for this school and I always did that. Blood, sweat and tears, it doesn't matter. I just come in, ready to play, and I'm thankful it's at ECU."
ECU's next game will be on Valentine's Day at Tulane. Tip-off for the game is scheduled for 8 p.m. The next opportunity for Pirate fans to watch Tyson at Minges Coliseum will be against the University of Connecticut on Sunday at 3 p.m.
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