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Kelly Kline/Under Armour[/caption]
It isn’t often that Kentucky fans have had a reason to pay particularly close attention to the greater-Milwaukee high school sports scene – but this year has been the exception, thanks to the presence of Tyler Herro. The four-star guard has been committed to the Wildcats for a few months now, and it seems like every single time he takes the court, Herro is putting up some insane new stat line. Incredibly, Herro is averaging 32 points per game this season, including seven different 40-point performances. That includes a surreal, 48-point performance in his last game a week ago.
Yet if you think Herro’s heroics (pardon the terrible pun) have been something to behold from a distance, imagine getting to watch him operate up close and in person.
It’s something his high school coach Travis Riesop has the opportunity to do each and every time Herro takes the court, and his young star guard never ceases to amaze him.
Herro is so good in fact, Riesop has a funny story to put it all in perspective.
“It’s funny,” Riesop said during a recent interview with Kentucky Sports Radio. “A lot of my friends from college are basketball fans, and a few of them played at the small school level, and came to watch [a recent game].”
“When the game was done, they were like ‘How many did Tyler have tonight.’ And it’s like ‘Well, he had 48 points tonight.’ And they were like ‘Really? It seems like it was such a quiet 48 points.’”
Yes, you read that correctly: A “quiet” 48 points. Right now, the game comes so easily for Herro that a near 50-point game looks like just another day in the gym for him. It isn’t unusual for an opponent to come out under-prepared and watch Herro light them up for the first 10 or 12 points in a game either, according to Riesop.
For the coach, his relationship with Herro dates back to last year, when he was an assistant with the varsity team and Herro was just emerging as a national recruit. A knee injury cut short Herro’s junior year, and it was during the months that followed that the two became close. It was at that time that Herro was quietly doing all the little work, that is paying major dividends during his senior season.
“He would kind of randomly text me during the summer like ‘hey, can you open the gym for me’ or ‘hey, can you go lift at this time,’” Riesop said. “He was always at our summer league games and open gyms.”
And it was right around that time that all the hard work began to pay off for Herro, as his stock blew up on the national stage. He had a good showing against some of the top high school players in America at the Under Armor Top 100 camp in the spring, then followed it up at Team USA basketball trials this fall. And it was at that point htat Herro also decided to de-commit from Wisconsin and pursue other options. After virtually every big-time school in America tried to get involved (Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova), Herro chose the Wildcats.
Just a few weeks later, Herro’s senior season began. And there’s been no slowing him down since.
Looking at it in the big picture, what’s incredible about this year’s scoring run is that he’s doing it with a major target on his back. Whitnall High School is the biggest game on every opponent’s schedule, and every player and coach knows that they can make their name by shutting him down. Not only is Herro routinely defended by the other team’s best player, but Riesop admitted that it’s basically become impossible to “game-plan” for any opponent that Whitnall plays, since every opponent will try things that they’ve never shown on film to slow down Herro. Every opposing crowd tries to get into Herro’s head too. According to Riesop, it isn’t unusual to hear the chant “overrated” in virtually every gym his team walks into.
The funny thing is though, the chants only get Herro more fired up. Some of Herro’s best games have come in front of some of the most hostile crowds Whitnall has faced. There’s nothing that the star player enjoys more than quieting an opposing gym.
“There’s a couple times where we’ve been in gyms and the fans will chant ‘overrated’ and he’ll just be like ‘You don’t wanna do that, you don’t wanna do that,’” Riesop said. “Because then he’ll go off for 35 or 40 against them. He has [done that this season].”
Now for Herro, the question becomes “What’s next.” Obviously at the high school level the goal is a state title and on the personal front, he will play in the Nike Hoop Summit later this spring. But not long after that, his attention will turn to Lexington as he gets set to head to Kentucky. And the crazy part is, even after a high school season where Herro is averaging over 30 points per game, Riesop feels like Herro’s best basketball is still ahead of him.
“That’s the thing, Tyler just turned 18 like two, three weeks ago,” Riesop said. “He’s still got that little baby face. He’s going to put on 10, 15 lbs. of muscle when he gets to Kentucky, and maybe he’s going to grow another inch or two before he’s done.”
“So honestly, with the work ethic he has, and how talented he is already, I don’t think he is at his highest potential.”
Aaron Torres is covering basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres or e-mail at [email protected]. He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”