Jamaal Tinsley has Iowa State off to the best start in school history
Iowa State point guard Jamaal Tinsley isn't the type to launch hundreds of jump shots late into the night, nor will anyone accuse him of overdoing his conditioning. Yet no other player in the country may be better at taking over a game at an opportune time, an attribute Cyclones coach Larry Eustachy ascribes to an age-old precept: You can take the bailer out of the playground, but you can't take the playground out of the bailer. "In the parks you have to win to keep the court," Eustachy says. "You can start slowly in the morning, but later in the day, when a lot of guys show up, you better win or you won't get to play again."
Tinsley and Iowa State started slowly last Saturday, trailing by eight points at the half of their Big 12 opener, against No. 15 Oklahoma. When the day was done, however, there was no doubt who was king of the court. Tinsley, a 6'3" senior who had made only 8 of 27 three-point attempts coming into the game, had nailed three trifectas in the first 2:31 of the second half to propel the Cyclones (13-1 and ranked 18th as of Monday) to a 100-80 win. After his display of sharpshooting, Tinsley settled back into his role of distributor and finished with 17 points (including 5 of 7 from behind the arc), eight assists, five rebounds and three steals in 29 minutes. "If Tinsley makes four or five threes every game, I'm not sure anyone can guard him," Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson said after the game.
Tinsley attended Tilden High in Brooklyn, but because of his truancy he never played basketball there. The only rigorous team structure he experienced before he got to Iowa State came during his two years at Mt. San Jacinto College, a community college in San Jacinto, Calif. Eustachy, whose Cyclones are off to the best start in school history, still delights in describing Tinsley's first conditioning workout in Ames, which featured so much running that Tinsley complained to an assistant coach, "I didn't come here on a f——— track scholarship." After spearheading the Cyclones' run to the Elite Eight last March, Tinsley was invited to join the squad of collegians who acted as exhibition-game foes for the U.S. Olympic team on Sept 2. His lackluster performance—no points in nine minutes—was officially attributed to a bad knee, but Tinsley concedes he was out of shape. "When I was growing up, I never had anybody tell me what to do when it came to basketball," he says. "It was just me playing playground ball and having freedom."
At some point Tinsley will have to learn to push himself if he wants to continue to improve, but he already has the killer instinct of a winner. Sitting in the bleachers of Hilton Coliseum after Iowa State had dispatched Oklahoma, Tinsley was told that the Sooners' game plan was to play off him in the belief that he couldn't beat them with his outside shot. "I like that," he replied with a smile. "Every team that backs off me this year is going to regret it" As he looked across the near-empty arena, Tinsley all but asked aloud the obvious question: Who's got next?
Center of Controversy
It's Still Hard To Be Goliath
On Jan. 2 North Carolina senior center Brendan Haywood was held scoreless in an 84-70 Tar Heels victory at Georgia Tech. Three days later, when Haywood got a haircut, his barber derisively called him Doughnut. In North Carolina's next game, last Saturday night in Chapel Hill, Haywood tied his season high with 24 points, including the winning bucket with 3.3 seconds left, as the 13th-ranked Tar Heels handed No. 4 Wake Forest its first loss of the season, 70-69, and improved to 11-2 on the season. One of the first questions Haywood fielded afterward was, "Why can't you play like that in every game?"
Those back-to-back performances and the subsequent question provide a snapshot of Haywood's career. There are games when Haywood looks like the most dominant of college players. In other games he makes it seem as if a 7-footer can be invisible. "For four years I've been hearing that I'm inconsistent," Haywood says. "I'm not playing for stats or TV cameras or NBA draft status. I'm just trying to win games, and people don't always appreciate that."
Haywood's enormous potential coupled with his willingness to defer to teammates during games has led to criticism as vehement as any ever leveled against a player at North Carolina. Former Tar Heels point guard Ed Cota summed it up best when he said last year, "Brendan's the kind of guy people notice only when they don't notice him."
Haywood is still defending his one-point, zero-rebound showing in Carolina's first-round loss to Weber State in the 1999 NCAA tournament. Last season enemy fans played on his reputation as a soft center with heckling chants of "Brenda!" Even as Haywood led the NCAA with an ACC-record field goal percentage of 69.7% a year ago, his detractors pointed out that he averaged fewer than eight shots per game, and many of those were dunks.