NBA Is Dorsey's Next Big Moment To Shine

Annie Finberg/Atlanta Hawks

Story by KL Chouinard
Twitter: @KLChouinard

Tyler Dorsey is one of those players who always seems to come up big in postseason tournaments.

Two years ago, as a senior at Maranatha High School, Dorsey led his team to a regional title. He scored 52 points in a quarterfinal game and was eventually named the Gatorade boys basketball player of the year for the state of California.

This spring, in the Pac-12 tournament, Dorsey had three consecutive 20-point games for the University of Oregon. Then the sophomore went full supernova in the NCAA tournament, shooting 60.6 percent from three and leading the Ducks to the Final Four. 

But the 21-year-old has another tournament experience that many of his peers do not. He has played some international basketball over the past two summers.

"After my senior year of high school," Dorsey said, "I worked out and got cut from the USA team. Then I looked at other possibilities."

Dorsey's mother, Samia, was born in Israel, but her father was a Greek citizen. She helped Dorsey get his Greek passport and citizenship, and he went on to play for Greece in the 2015 Under-19 FIBA World Championships. 

The 6-foot-4 guard was an immediate smash hit on the Greek team. He averaged 15.9 points and 5.0 rebounds for the tournament. In leading Greece to the semifinals, Dorsey got a rematch against the team that had cut him. Even though the U.S. team won that game and the overall tournament one game later, Dorsey scored 21 points in the semifinals and was named to the tournament's All-Star Five.

A summer later, Dorsey tried out for the Greek Olympic team and got some head-to-head time against the greatest player that he says he has ever faced: Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Dorsey didn't make the team -- he was one of the final cuts -- but he thinks the experience helped to prepare him for the NBA.

"I got to go against the pros in practice, against the Greek Freak," Dorsey said. "I played against the pros, and I have that knowledge under my belt. That's why I know that playing professionally, I feel like it will be an easy transition because I went through that."

Dorsey is on the preliminary roster for Greece for this summer's European championship. Don't bet against him making the Greek squad this time around.

The Hawks prize the talent that Dorsey, a shooting guard with some point guard skills, has shown as a ball handler. Those skills have come in handy more frequently in the pressurized situations that arise in tournament play, especially during Oregon's run to the Final Four.

"I was playing on the ball more during that stretch," Dorsey said of his 2017 NCAA Tournament. "I've shown my ability when I play on the ball as far as what I can do."

Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk concurred with that sentiment in the introductory press conference.

"The one thing about Tyler that people don’t realize," Schlenk said, "is that he has the ability to become a secondary ballhandler.”

Dorsey said that he tries to draw inspiration from a number of pro combo guards, but one in particular stands out.

"I try to take bits and pieces from all the best guards in the league," he said. "But I would say that one guy who is probably closest is C.J. McCollum, being that combo guard and being able to score at all three levels."

Dorsey, who will play for the Hawks in Summer League in July, has goals for his rookie season that extend beyond himself.

"(I want) to be a high playoff team definitely," he said. "Winning is big for me. That's where I came from at Oregon with a great winning resume, being in a winning culture with a winning spirit. You've already got it (in Atlanta) but I'm lending my spirit as well."