Swagger is what makes the Southwest Philly Floater

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Hassan Tyler (left), Tyrone Garland's cousin, said the Southwest Philly Floater is a shot everybody knows. Well . . . it is now, thanks to La Salle's Garland. It already is the focus of T-shirts.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Hassan Tyler (left), Tyrone Garland's cousin, said the Southwest Philly Floater is a shot everybody knows. Well . . . it is now, thanks to La Salle's Garland. It already is the focus of T-shirts.
Posted: March 27, 2013

IT'S A DRIVE to the boards. A small guy over a tall defender. Inside the paint, a quick jump, a flick of the wrist.

And just like that, Tyrone Garland's game-winning shot, famously dubbed the "Southwest Philly floater," took La Salle to the Sweet 16 on Sunday night.

"Just loft it over the big guys, forwards and centers, when you can't get your shot off," explained Hassan Tyler, Garland's cousin, at Southwest Philly's Francis Myers Recreation Center. "It's a shot that everybody [knows]. You come through the playground, you learn."

Garland, and throngs of Southwest Philly basketball players, have come up through these playgrounds. They've lived in these rec-center gyms, they've played on the faded paint of outdoor courts where greats like Lionel "L-Train" Simmons walked. And they've picked up a style that is unique to the Southwest Philly game.

"It's a swagger," said Sonny Hill, Philadelphia's own "Mr. Basketball." "[It's] when a player has a certain degree of confidence in what he does, and it's about the area in where you grow up."

The Southwest Philly floater, as it's commonly referred to, is a staple on Kingsessing Avenue. For players under 6-feet tall, it's an advantage when they're up against the big guys. And in the ruthless world of Southwest Philly ball, any advantage is a good thing.

Their game is tough, just like the neighborhood.

"If you ask anybody about Philadelphia basketball in general, you know we produce a lot of tough guards," said Garland's cousin Bernard Tyler, 30, who was the first person to put a basketball in the La Salle guard's hands. "These kids, the basketball court is an escape for them. Whenever they want to get away from something at home, this is the vent. It generates a lot of toughness. That's what it's really about."

This basketball culture molded La Salle's Garland - the all-time leading scorer at John Bartram High - into the force that pulled the Explorers past Ole Miss Sunday night. His homegrown success is an example that the young talent on Southwest courts look up to, and his shout-out to the Southwest Philly floater carried with it a sense of pride.

"To say and use the Southwest Philly terminology shows you how proud he is of where he grew up, not only Philadelphia, but Southwest Philadelphia," said Hill, who added that Garland played for his Sonny Hill College League in the summer. "That says a lot about him, at a moment when the light is the brightest, that you even think along that line tells you a lot about him and where he's come from."

As La Salle looks to take on Wichita State on Thursday, Garland's mother Audrey Tyler said that the win is everything her son has dreamed of.

"This is what he was waiting for," she said. "This is what he was practicing and practicing for, for this moment right here."


On Twitter: @AliMarieWatkins

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