Most high school players dream of playing division one college basketball. With only 347 teams in the D-1 ranks, scholarships are limited. Naturally, as you climb the ladder, those scholarship offers to BCS programs are there only for the truly elite. Tyger Campbell got one of those offers. As an eighth grader.
“It was surreal,” Campbell said of receiving his offer from Ole Miss. “Because know that when they offer you, they pretty much have faith in you to be good enough to play in the SEC when you get to that age.”
Ole Miss isn’t the only big time program calling, either. North Carolina, Cal, Vanderbilt, and Missouri have been showing him love. While they have yet to put a scholarship on the table, Western Kentucky didn’t hesitate to offer the 5-foot-11 point guard when he was in the seventh grade and there is a reason why.
Having spent time growing up in Iowa and Vegas, Campbell has seen his fair share of elite basketball. He began receiving significant media attention as a second grader and with high school approaching, the family made the move to Nashville, Tennessee. Tyger enrolled at Nashville powerhouse Christ Presbyterian Academy and while nothing was given, he earned his way onto the varsity floor as a middle schooler and flourished.
15 points and 11 dimes a night later, Campbell showed that he could hoop with the best that Tennessee had to offer. While CPA didn’t accomplish their mission of a state title, they were still able to make it to the final four with a middle schooler at the helm. His stellar play was enough to earn him first team all-state honors. Though accolades like that are dope for a player of any age, all of the attention isn’t exactly what Campbell is looking for.
“I try not to think about that stuff at all,” he said of his early notoriety. “I like to focus on the goals that I have for myself. I just want to be the best.”
His father Tony added of the attention “At first it was definitely a bit overwhelming, but now it has just become common.”
When we got a chance to get up with Tyger at The League, it was easy to see just how common it had become. Running with the We All Can Go All-Stars (same program that the #1 2018 Marvin Bagley runs with), there was a clear buzz around the court every time that his squad took the floor. We All Can Go assembled a group of elite guards, athletic swingmen, and even added a 7-footer to the unit. Decked from head to toe in some of the loudest jerseys that you’ll see on the AAU circuit, ‘The Fam’ played with no shortage of swagger, and that was led by their heralded point guard.
While some of the teammates were more hyped after big plays, Campbell carried himself with a ‘business as usual’ mindset. He wouldn’t crack a smile after a made bucket, nor would he get overly emotional after a turnover. It was clear that you were looking at a player whose IQ exceeded his years, despite the fact that he had never played for his school until now.
“I never really played for the front of my jersey,” Tyger explained of his lack of scholastic competition due to his home schooling. “I always played for the back.”
Running with ‘The Fam’, things have changed for Campbell. He showed no problem adjusting to playing with some of the nation’s very best in the class of 2019 and blended right in with the talented group. If someone was hot, he had no problem feeding his scorers. If the squad needed a bucket, he took it upon himself to get to the rack. Patterning his game after the likes of CP3 and James Harden, Campbell’s time playing against older comp has clearly benefited him against his peers.
“It helped a lot because going from playing varsity to playing with guys my own age is a lot different…it’s a lot easier,” he humbly admitted. “It helped me develop as a man. It helped me be more responsible on the court and off the court.”
Hearing something like that from an eighth grader takes you back a bit, but then again, this isn’t your normal eighth grader. While he has plenty of strong points to his game (finishing through contact, controlling tempo, etc), he is quick to point out his flaws. Campbell knows that his jumper is a bit shaky at this point and while he can hit the three, his consistency must improve. As a sub 6-foot guard, he must continue to improve his creative finishes over the top of bigger defenders and improve on D. Still, there are times that you have to take a step back and forget that you are looking at a player who is still five months away from attending his first high school class.
Talented. Confident. Intelligent. Tyger Campbell can be summed up in all of those words. Many things can change throughout the next four years of his high school career. Maybe he won’t keep his spot atop the national 2019 rankings. Though if you ask Tyger Campbell, maybe he just will.
“I don’t really like to give too much props to anyone else because every time I step on the court, I feel like I”m the best.”