Jordan Tyson shifted his 6-foot-10 frame across the lane and swatted a shot into the second row of the student section early in the second half of St. Bonaventure’s win over George Washington on Saturday.
The crowd went berserk. Tyson excitedly barked a few words in the face of the shooter, 6-9 Colonials star Tyler Cavanaugh. The two players had to be separated.
This show of force and confidence by Tyson was a promising development for the Bonnies.
Tyson, a redshirt freshman from Columbus, Ohio, moved into the starting lineup seven games ago and is giving the Bonnies a physical presence near the rim.
He’s scoring only 2.6 points a game. But over his last seven starts, he’s averaging 20 minutes, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.
“You look at his numbers from an offensive standpoint and he didn’t have a basket,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said of the GW game. “But he had a big, big impact on the game physically. He had seven rebounds and two blocked shots. That’s stuff we need inside to compete against teams with the size that George Washington has.”
Tyson will try to keep his production going Wednesday when Bona visits La Salle at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia.
Tyson missed the first eight games of the season while recovering from a torn ligament in his left wrist. In November, it seemed like no big deal whether he came back to produce much or not.
But the stakes of the season have gone up for the Bonnies, 17-6 overall and 9-3 in the A-10. They’re in the driver’s seat for a top-four seed in the A-10 tournament. Now Tyson is looking like a complementary piece that can help Bona be more of a threat to the A-10’s top two or three teams.
“I’m feeling really good, taking more shots when I’m open,” Tyson said. “There’s some shots I need to just go straight up with. But I’m just getting a way better feel for the game and playing as physical as I can. I feel like I’m getting better every single game. My confidence is improving every day.”
Tyson picked Bona over Toledo after spending a year at a Virginia prep, Fishburne Military School. He also had offers from Bowling Green, Miami Ohio and Detroit.
Tyson actually resembles Bona great Andrew Nicholson, now with the Orlando Magic. He met Nicholson for the first time at Saturday’s game. But Tyson’s ball skills are a lot more raw than Nicholson’s were entering college. Tyson’s skill development is more similar to that of Youssou Ndoye, who graduated from Bona last season. Tyson is starting to show a jump hook. He looks like he has the potential to be more physical and explosive than Ndoye.
For now, a big point of emphasis for Tyson is staying out of foul trouble. Tyson played 33 minutes against Fordham last week and 30 minutes against GW.
Bona plays at 15th-ranked Dayton on Saturday. The Flyers have a 6-11, 260-pound budding star freshman in Steve McElvene. In the game against Dayton a month ago, Tyson picked up two quick fouls and played only 12 minutes.
“As a young big guy, he gets jumpy a little bit,” Schmidt said. “You try to block everything. … But he’s learning. He hasn’t played for a year and a half because of injuries. He’s just getting his legs underneath him.”
“I’m focusing on moving your feet more and not using your hands as much,” Tyson said. “It’s more of a foot battle than an upper-body battle. I’m starting to realize that. That really helps using my lower body blocking out.”
Tyson weighs a little over 230. He was 215 when he showed up at Bona. He’s developing.
“For him this is still very early in his career, very early in his year here,” Schmidt said. “He’s physical. Jordan has the size. I think he can score inside. He has a decent touch. He’s still learning the game.”
LaSalle (5-18, 1-11) has lost 10 in a row. The Explorers rank last in the A-10 in scoring at 60.3 ppg. They’re also last in rebounding, field goal percentage and field-goal percentage defense. Bona is second in scoring at 78.8 ppg.
There are two Big 4 women’s games Wednesday. St. Bona plays host to George Washington at 7 p.m. The University at Buffalo will be home against Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m.
The Bona women (20-5, 9-3) are tied with St. Louis for third place in the A-10. George Washington (21-4, 11-1) is tied with Duquesne for first. GW is the defending A-10 champion and is the league’s top rebounding team. The Colonials’ top player, 6-4 center Jonquel Jones, has been out since Jan. 20 due to a shoulder injury. But GW is 5-1 without her.
UB stands tied for eighth in the Mid-American Conference. The Bulls are 12-11 and 4-8. Eastern Michigan (15-8, 6-6) is tied for sixth.