November 15, 2011

Red Claws get ready: They all have a story

By Steve Solloway ssolloway@pressherald.com
Columnist

PORTLAND – Meet Tyc Snow, who in a quiet and disarming way upstaged the bigger names and bigger bodies Tuesday morning at the Maine Red Claws' annual media day. Dribbling four basketballs at once will do that.

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At 5-foot-8, Tyc Snow is by far the shortest player on the Maine Red Claws’ training camp roster, but he showed off some of his skills Monday during the team’s media day.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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So will standing on the basketball court at the Portland Expo and hiding a grin when Mike Tisdale walked by, unintentionally calling attention to the 17 inches of height that separates the two training camp hopefuls.

Then there's Tyc's name, which is pronounced Tik and is short for Tychicus. It's derivation is so old it is biblical. Tychicus was a disciple of the apostle Paul. When Paul was imprisoned, he asked Tychicus to speak in Ephesus, telling early Christians that he was all right and to keep the faith.

"Tychicus was Paul's messenger," said Snow. So guess who sent constant text messages and emails to Jon Jennings, asking the Red Claws' president and general manager for an opportunity to prove he can help the team. The persistence paid off.

This is what you can learn on Media Day when 12 men from across the country and mostly strangers to each other come together 11 days before the D-League season opener. Any talk of the 2011-12 season is hope and conjecture. There is no last game to dissect.

So you try to learn more about the men who share the common dream of someday getting the call to play in the NBA. Whenever that labor situation is settled.

J.R. Reynolds was a high school phenom at Roanoke Catholic in Virginia. He was also quarterback of his football team. "People said I had an arm like Tom Brady," he said with a small grin. No, he's not a Patriots fans.

"Eagles" he said, mindful that they lost again this past weekend. "Hey, the season isn't over. There's time yet (to win and reach the playoffs.)"

He played four years at the University of Virginia for Dave Leitao, the new Red Claws head coach, before heading to Italy and France. Did Italian basketball fans think he was another Kobe Bryant? No, he said. Being an American meant there was pressure to play well, but not THAT kind of pressure.

Mike Tisdale grew 9 inches in high school and now stands at 7-foot-1. "It was gradual, maybe two inches a year," he said. "So I was able to grow into my height." His brothers wondered why he got that gift. They and his parents are a foot shorter.

Tisdale plays golf. "I've got a pretty big swing so I can drive it." He hits 300 yards consistently. He didn't mention his short game.

He grew up in Illinois and started three years at the University of Illinois. Likes to deer hunt, likes to fish. He was told there would be plenty of good ice fishing spots within an hour's drive or so of Portland. "Ice fishing? That would be too cold."

Chris Wright, the 6-foot-8 human flier who played for the Dayton University Flyers, was listed in Sports Illustrated's top 16 most entertaining college basketball players. Meaning, his dunks have to be seen.

"I'm old school," said Jennings. "We drafted him (with the first pick) because he can play basketball. I'm not interested in the other stuff. But watching him in practice, I think he could grab a dollar off the top of the (basketball) backboard."

Wright admits his basketball skills need polishing. But he won't lie. "I like to have fun when I play. The crowd gives me more energy."

Kenny Hayes is a cousin to Wright, and with Paul Harris one of only two returning Red Claws players. He was in Maine this summer, helping introduce the Red Claws to young fans attending clinics.

"Man, this is a big state. I was up in Presque Isle. Do you know how far that is? The people were wonderful to me."

Darren Cooper, another cousin to Wright but not related to Hayes, started his college career at Portland State, paying to play. The school had run out of basketball scholarship money. He ended up scoring more than 1,000 points, and got scholarship help along the way.

Jonathan Dupre grew from 5-8 as a high school freshman to 6-6 when he graduated. He went to Pepperdine and now is 6-8. "I remembered what it was like to play at 5-foot-8," he said. "People look at me and say I must be a basketball player. I must be good. They don't know how hard I had to work."

Which brings us back to Snow, who is still 5-8, the little man with the big heart. He had poor grades in high school and had to go the junior college route before transferring to Mississippi Valley State. He didn't leave until he got his college degree in physical education. Now he's his own company: Tyc Snow Basketball Training, Inc.

More than 90 youngsters from northern Virginia have attended sessions that "focus on the mental and physical ability one must develop to become a pro basketball player" according to his website.

"The biggest difference between basketball players is from the neck up," said Snow before turning away. He got his tryout, got his invitation to training camp because the latter day Tychicus got his message out.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

 

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