2020 NBA Draft
Colorado's Tyler Bey displays high basketball IQ with defense, passing
Having added 3-point shooting to his repertoire, Bey might be first-rounder
One of college basketball’s best teams in the 2019-20 season, Dayton, lost just twice. The second one came as a direct result of Colorado’s Tyler Bey being a good listener.
With 6.3 seconds left in a Dec. 21 game in Chicago’s United Center and Dayton ahead, 76-75, Colorado point guard McKinley Wright IV threw a pass to the 6-foot-7 Bey in the paint. He took one dribble but was immediately surrounded, with just 3.1 seconds to play, by two defenders. Somehow Bey saw over them all the way out past the 3-point line, where he zipped a pass to teammate D’Shawn Schwartz, who rose from the right wing and knocked down a shot at the buzzer. The Buffaloes won, 78-76.
Dayton didn’t lose again the rest of the season, and at 29-2 would have entered the NCAA tournament, had there been one, as a No. 1 seed.
“And let’s understand this,” raved CBS color analyst Steve Lappas as he described a replay of those final seconds. “A tremendous pass from Tyler Bey. They got him in the low post, they threw him the ball, and the kid made a great pass. Watch that pass. It’s right on the money.”
Bey, who some NBA Draft analysts view as a possible first-round pick, could have used the workout and interview circuit this spring to prove he belongs among the top 30 selections. But like every other Draft prospect, he’s been grounded by the coronavirus pandemic. NBA teams would do well to watch that pass against Dayton, over and over again, because it’s indicative of how Bey plays the game.
As a teenager on the AAU circuit and again at Colorado, where he was coached by Tad Boyle, Bey received an abundance of good advice, and more important, put it into practice.
Bey’s coach with the AAU Las Vegas Knicks was Lamar Bigby, who’s involved the game for the right reasons — helping players become better by building character and a solid grasp of the fundamentals. Any player who wants to run with the Knicks quickly learns two facets of the game — defense and rebounding — are non-negotiable. Those areas were no problem for Bey, but his offense wasn’t nearly as developed. Bigby thought basketball IQ could become Bey’s secret weapon.
That pass Bey threw against Dayton didn’t surprise Bigby.
“That’s the IQ part of his game,” Bigby says. “You pass out of double teams. You make the right play. [In the Dayton game] they threw it to him in the post. He made his move to the basketball and could easily have tried to shoot it. But out of the corner of his eye, Tyler sees D’Shawn Schwartz, who’s wide open. He makes the shot and they win the game.”
Thanks in large part to Bigby’s guidance, Bey signed with Colorado, where Boyle knew exactly what the freshman was capable of doing.
“He told me my freshman year I could be one of the best defensive players in the nation,” Bey says. “And he taught me how — staying in your stance, head on a swivel, just talking and doing the little things.”
Boyle’s prediction was on the mark. This season, Bey led the Pac-12 in rebounding (9.0 rpg) and was also among the league leaders in steals and blocked shots. He was an easy pick for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, which certainly means he was one of the best defensive players in the nation.
“Tyler knows who he is,” Boyle says. “He doesn’t try to do things he can’t do. He knows where his bread’s buttered, and that’s pretty rare today. He’s coachable. He listens.”
Boyle cites a good example of that latter point. Between Bey’s freshman and sophomore seasons, he worked tirelessly on improving one of the weaknesses in his game — the lack of a consistent 3-point shot. As a sophomore, he was determined to show his efforts paid dividends.
“The first seven or eight games, he came out firing,” Boyle says. “But all that work he put in, it just wasn’t translating into games. After about 10 games, we went to him and said, ‘look, Tyler, you can’t be hunting your 3s. If they come, they come. Be ready to take them.’ Once again, he listened. He quit shooting 3 balls the last two thirds of his sophomore year.”
But Bey never stopped working on his shot. Last summer, he launched more than 500 3-pointers a day and in his final season at Colorado, he shot 41% on 3-pointers. It was a small sample size (13 of 31), but once again, his basketball IQ was on display. Bey took only shots within the flow of the game. He didn’t force them. Boyle thinks Bey will become ever more confident from behind the arc.
Tyler knows who he is. He doesn’t try to do things he can’t do. He knows where his bread’s buttered, and that’s pretty rare today. He’s coachable. He listens.”
Colorado coach Tad Boyle, on Tyler Bey
“That’s the one skill guys can continually get better at,” Boyle says. “In the NBA, he’s not going to have eight hours of study hall, 15 hours of classes. He’s going to be able to work as much as he wants, and you’re going to see his jump shot get better and better.”
Boyle thinks Bey, who was asked to guard all five positions at Colorado, will be a multi-position defender in the NBA. And Bigby, the man Bey calls a “father figure,” thinks his protégé has a high ceiling.
“I’ve told him he can work on his jump shot and become a guy who can make corner 3-pointers,” Bigby says. “A 3 and D guy. If he can defend and rebound and make a corner 3, he might mess around and become an NBA All-Star. Not a superstar. But he can defend the other team’s best player and get eight or nine rebounds a game. Superstars need a guy like Tyler Bey on their team.”
Bey is ready to put in the work. He had a year of eligibility remaining, but he thought now was the time to leave Colorado and make his NBA aspirations a reality. The fact his travel is uncertain because of the pandemic didn’t deter him from making the jump.
“For me, it’s always been about taking advantage of every opportunity I have,” Bey says. “I had a coach in AAU who was there for me every step of the way. Coach Boyle, he’s the biggest reason why my defense is at the level it is. I had nothing else to show in college. It was my time to take the next step.”
* * *