Russell excels as college freshman
by Mike Russo sports editor
Freshmen are not expected to step in to a starting role and make a major impact on the basketball court at the NCAA Division I level. Yet, that is exactly when Tyler Russell, a 2011 graduate of Millennium High School, did. Russell averaged 11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game last season as a shooting guard for Houston Baptist University, members of the Great West Conference, as the Huskies went 10-20 overall and 3-7 in conference play. His high game was 22 points vs. Ecclesia University.
“I’m glad I had the year I had,” Russell said. “Houston Baptist only went 5-26 the year before.” Russell’s personal highlight was being named the conference Player of the Week Nov. 15-21 after averaging 14.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.75 assists per contest as the Huskies went 2-2. “That was definitely a confidence
boost,” Russell said. “I was shocked it happened so fast. “Honestly, I knew I wanted to come in and contribute. In high school and club, I played the point but they moved me off guard here. That kind of threw me off, but they wanted me to score.”
Russell also had 19 points, including the game-winning basket, against Santa Clara, the alma mater of Steve Nash, in a 77-72 win.
“That was one of our best games,” Russell said. “Santa Clara was in the CIT [CollegeInsider.com
Tournament] the year before and they had basically the same team back. “We played a tough schedule.” The Huskies played No. 24 Creighton
and Washington, in addition to Cal State Fullerton and Santa Clara.
The Huskies played Cal State Fullerton in the Beryl Shipley Classic in Lafayette, La.
“I had a good tournament,” Russell said. “The last game was against Cal State Fullerton. We beat them and I got 20 points.”
Meeting challenges While Russell enjoyed a great deal of success during his first year at the collegiate level, there were some challenges.
“The transition from high school to
college was totally different,” Russell said. “It was a big adjustment. It was a little bit of everything — going against bigger, faster players, dealing with the travel and missing class time.
“I had to adjust my shot selection because of taller opponents. So, I worked on my pull-up game. My mid-range game is coming along. I’ve got to work on my 3-point shooting.”
Not only were their challenges on the court, but off it as well. “College is not easy,” said Russell, who is majoring in psychology. “You have to apply yourself to studying. Studying is the biggest key.”
The problem of applying yourself academically is exacerbated by the travel required in the Great West Conference and the corresponding missed classroom time. The Great West is a far-flung conference with schools stretching from New Jersey to Chicago, and from North and South Dakota to Texas.
Houston Baptist will play one more season in the Great West Conference before shifting to the Southland Conference for the 2013-14 campaign. “I’m excited about moving to a new conference,” Russell said. “All the travel in the Great West Conference was tough. We had to miss a lot of school, especially during the second semester, and that was difficult.”
(See Russell on Page 17)
Photo courtesy of Houston Baptist University
HOUSTON BAPTIST GUARD TYLER RUSSELL, a 2011 graduate of Millennium High School, dribbles against the University of Texas-Arlington last season. Russell enjoyed a successful freshman season for the Huskies, averaging 11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
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