Tyrone Garland glad he finally landed at La Salle

Posted: January 24, 2013

TYRONE GARLAND was down to two schools. The Bartram High scoring machine was going to Virginia Tech or La Salle.

"It was real close," Garland said while sitting in the La Salle basketball office Monday morning. "I had to sit down with my family, [said] these were the last two because I was getting tired of the whole process. Basically, we just decided to get away from home [Southwest Philly], get away from all the distractions."

He would finish out his senior year (2009-2010) with 2,198 points, then third (now fourth) in Public League history. With Tech having senior guards, he was told he might not play a lot as a freshman. He accepted that. Still, he wondered after he scored just 80 points in limited minutes that first season.

"We got a call after his freshman year, not from Tyrone but someone else who said he was thinking of leaving, but then he had a good talk with coach [Seth] Greenberg and we got the call that he decided to stay," La Salle coach John Giannini said.

As a sophomore, Garland started to play more, shooting 7-for-7 and scoring 18 points in 19 minutes during the season's second game. Then, his minutes started to evaporate and eventually disappear. After the 2011 fall semester, he made his move.

"It just wasn't going the right way," Garland said. "I just felt I was ready to come home."

La Salle got a second call and this time it was for real. Garland was transferring.

Then-VT assistant James Johnson was the lead recruiter for Garland. Johnson is now in his first season as head coach at Tech after Greenberg was fired following last season.

"His second year, he was going to play," Johnson said. "He started a couple of games early."

And then he didn't.

"It was just minutes," Johnson said. "He wanted to play."

Johnson loved Garland as a player and a person.

"Great kid," he said. "The type of kid that everybody on campus liked, all of his teammates liked. Real quiet, laid-back, but yes sir, no sir. I wish we had him."

This season, VT has gone up-tempo. They have the nation's leading scorer in Erick Green (24.6 points). Garland, Johnson figures, would have been perfect for the style of play. But he is at 20th and Olney now and not at all unhappy about it.

Garland became eligible after the first semester this season. In 40 games at Virginia Tech, he scored 117 points. In 10 games off the La Salle bench, getting regular minutes for the first time in college, he has scored 141 points, playing alongside other Philly players he has known since high school.

"It's like playing in the playground with your friends," Garland said. "You can say what you want to each other because nobody is going to take it any kind of way. You know what to say because you're from the same area. You know what things to say, what things not to say."

The game is fun again.

Giannini remembers the recruiting process well. La Salle was there first, but Virginia Tech, Giannini, said "came on really strong and fast."

Giannini does not look back on recruiting. It is always about the next player. La Salle got Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills in that class. Even though Garland got away, the coach checked out the box scores.

"It's just human nature when you really like a kid and have a personal relationship with him and you know his game, of course you're going to follow him, even out of curiosity just to see how he does and whether you were recruiting the right guy and if he does what you thought he would do," Giannini said.

The coach noted Garland's minutes. He was not shocked when those calls came.

"I think it's a real good fit," Giannini said. "He's a terrific person, he's a terrific teammate; he's very physically gifted. He can be a penetrator, a terrific passer; he can be a good defender. Scoring comes very naturally to him, but the one thing he has to do is figure out winning, especially at the college level. He's never been on a real elite-level team and he's capable of doing a lot of things he doesn't do all the time."

In other words, it needs to be explained that scoring does not necessarily equal winning. There is more to the game.

"Mentally, it's an adjustment for him, but physically he can do what we need him to do," Giannini said.

With time, Garland can get the entire game.

"I think he'll be terrific for us next year when he's got to be focused from the first day of school because he knows he's going to be there the whole year and be an integral part from Day 1," Giannini said. "When you sit out that first half, it's just hard for the coach and the player."

Time is why Tyrone Garland came home. With time, his game should only get better.

"I knew La Salle was going to be loyal," Garland said. "I wasn't going to put my trust in anybody else."

And he has every intention of rewarding that loyalty, maybe even starting Wednesday night against No. 9 Butler at Gola Arena.

"Just trying to put the smile on the people at La Salle's face," Tyrone Garland said. "I know they've probably been waiting for so long. If we can do that, that would probably make so many people happy and I just want to do that for coach because I know he's been waiting too."

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