Boyle grad Hagen Tyler stars for C’ville in 24-win season

Published 11:01 am Saturday, April 7, 2018

The difference between Hagen Tyler’s sophomore and junior seasons isn’t noticeable in a box score.

Tyler finished his junior season at Campbellsville with more minutes than anyone on the team, averaging 13.7 points per game for the second-straight season. He increased every single one of his shooting statistics on the way, helping the Tigers to a rebound season.

“It was special, especially at the beginning of the year,” Tyler said. “We had a great non-conference schedule, we finished 15-1 and could’ve been 16-0. We just had so much talent on this year’s team, we had so many scorers. Even if you tried to shut somebody down, we had others who could score the ball as well.”

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Head coach Brent Vernon said the start of conference play was tough as the team had to adapt to opponents face-guarding and building their defensive gameplan around stopping Tyler.

“Ever since his freshman year he’s been an important piece. He got thrown into the starting lineup and has had a great career from there,” Vernon said. “He plays the most minutes, he was our second-leading scorer this year and I think it speaks to him and his maturation as a player. Because going into every game last year and this year, everyone was making their game plan off of Hagen Tyler. What we did this year, we gave him a little more help but he showed his maturation — he wasn’t just a three-point shooter, he got to the rim and went to the foul line. Playing the most minutes, I think it shows the faith I have in him and the faith our team has in him and how important he is for our success.”

Tyler’s scoring average dipped as the conference schedule wore on, but the Tigers picked up their play and won four-straight games, including a pair of upsets in the Mid-South Conference Tournament.

“Going into conference, we just stuck with it and grinded it out together and that’s what a team is supposed to do,” Tyler said. “We stuck with it and I think that’s why we had so much success in the postseason, everyone stuck together and we kept grinding.”

Campbellsville lost in the conference championship to Lindsey Wilson but received an at-large bid to the NAIA men’s basketball tournament, where the Tigers upset No. 6 Columbia College in the first round.

“Nobody expected us to win one game in the conference tournament, so we overachieved,” Tyler said. “It was definitely a better year than last year, but we had more guys that wanted to win than we did last year. That was the key.”

A 24-11 season after finishing 18-18 one year ago was a step in the right direction for Campbellsville.

“It was a good year for us, we started the non-conference schedule strong. We came into conference play and sort of got punched in the mouth a little bit, so we made some changes and changed what we were trying to do and from there, things really took off,” Vernon said. “We started to grow a lot as a team, our chemistry got better and it paid dividends at the end of the year when we finished off with some big regular-season wins and made the conference championship. We got out to Kansas City and had an upset there.”

That success might’ve started a bit before the school year: Tyler and some of his teammates visited prisons in Florida and played basketball with inmates through Sports Reach, a Christian sports ministry that uses sports to share faith.

“Earlier in the summer, some of our team went with Sports Reach ministry took a trip to Florida and stayed there, went to prisons down there and played with the inmates,” Vernon said. “It was a great bonding experience for our guys. They all went down there not knowing what to expect and I think it was a life-changing experience. It’s faith-driven, it shows the type of young man he is and the type of players we want in our program.”

Now, Tyler’s got one year left at Campbellsville and said he wants to approach his training like never before. He wants to be the best he can be and ‘go out with a bang.’

“It’s going to be tough, we only have four returners right now so we’re going to have a lot of new faces,” he said. “But I really hope to have my best year yet and lead this team with my big guy Andrew Smith. I really want to go out with a bang, get that conference title and maybe even aim for that national title. We have a shot, we just came up short this year. We could’ve beaten any team there. I just want a title, that’s what I’m focused on.”

Vernon said no matter who joins Tyler in his senior year, he wants it to be a special one for his star guard.

“We’ve got our top two leading scorers returning,” Vernon said. “But it’s going to be, as a coach, it’s going to be in the back of my mind that this is Hagen’s last go-around. He’s a four-year player for us, me and him have a great relationship and it’s going to be one of those that you never really want to see end. He’s not a player you just go out and replace, you have to get two or three guys to replace his production. My goal as a coach is to do everything I can between now and next year is assemble the best team that we can. He deserves to go out with a bang, he’s put in so much time and effort.”