In his weekly news conference Monday, Florida coach Billy Donovan went out of his way to note the important contributions of senior forward Alex Tyus.
While junior point guard Erving Walker scored 10 of Florida’s final 12 points in its 73-65 win Saturday over UCLA, Donovan said Florida wouldn’t have been in position to win if not for Tyus’ toughness on the boards. Tyus scored 8 points and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds against the Bruins.
“The one thing that got lost in the game was Alex Tyus’ rebounding the last two minutes of the game,” Donovan said.
Tyus has had an at times rocky relationship with the Florida coaching staff. Following his sophomore season, the 6-foot-8 Tyus nearly transferred because he felt he was playing out of position at center. Following his junior year, Tyus put his name in the NBA draft without an agent. Again, there were position rumblings (Tyus’ family contended Alex would be utilized better at small forward), but Tyus decided to return to school.
As a senior, Tyus’ scoring and rebounding numbers (8.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) are down from a season ago. But Donovan said those numbers are down because Tyus has sacrificed both minutes and shot attempts for the good of the team.
“I have an enormous amount of respect for Alex and his attitude,” Donovan said. “Our offense got frustrated during the Kentucky game (in the SEC finals). It wasn’t going well offensively. Alex was the one guy that never got frustrated to me, even though he had reason to be frustrated. He was open on a lot of plays, and we missed him. That can be draining emotionally, and he’s never done that.
“He has been all about the team and winning. Because of his athleticism, he can have an impact on the game regardless of if he gets the ball or not. I thought his impact in the game was huge. We were getting killed at the backboard (against UCLA). Erving Walker’s points overshadowed all the rebounds.
“Those plays get lost, but he’s had a great year. He’s given up tracking points for the betterment of our team. He could score those points, but I don’t think our team would be where it could be. Alex could get 20 points any given game, but we do need his energy, rebounding and defense. When he does that, he does add a dimension to our frontcourt.”