Colorado Buffaloes’ Tyler Bey caught up with HoopsHype to discuss his path to the NBA and what his future will look like once he gets there.
Bey is a defensive-minded prospect who averaged 13.8 points and 9.0 rebounds with 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. After winning Pac-12’s Most Improved Player in 2019, he won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2020.
He discussed how he needed to change his mindset to become more focused when he was in high school so that he could be eligible to play D-I NCAA Men’s Basketball, why he is inspired by his mother and plenty more.
Please note this interview was very minorly edited for brevity and clarity.
What have you been doing under these particularly strange circumstances to get ready and stay prepared for everything?
Tyler Bey: I’ve been working out every day, twice a day. I wake up in the morning, practice basketball and I lift. I come home, take a nap and just get right back to it. That’s pretty much it, though. I’ve also had a lot of meetings with NBA teams.
What are some things you want NBA teams to come away knowing about you so they can have a better understanding of who you are?
TB: I like to improve, so if an NBA team were to invest in me, they would invest in someone who is going to get better, whose work ethic is crazy good. I love to improve. I love to see myself develop and become a better player and a better person on and off the court.
What are some things that you think they should know about you?
— Vegas Elite (@VegasEliteHoops) June 5, 2016
TB: I’m a chill guy. When you first meet me, I’m quiet. I don’t really talk that much. But I like to joke around when I’m comfortable. I’m not really into going out and stuff like that. I love to hang out with friends and family. I’m a family guy for sure. My cousin Jamal Bey, who plays at Washington, I saw him play basketball. I went to his games when we were younger. He is the reason I got into basketball.
What was life like for you when you were growing up in Las Vegas?
TB: I was a troubled kid. If it wasn’t for basketball, I would be working at McDonald’s or in some trouble with some of my friends. I was always going out, not going to school, doing badly in school. That was hard. It got to the point where my mom had to have me go live with my aunt. She lived in a different part of Vegas and my uncle is a cop, so they’re pretty strict over there. That really turned my life around.
Was there a moment that got you back on track?
TB: There was a point where I almost thought I wasn’t going to go to college and play D-I basketball right away. I would have to go to junior college. From that point, my mindset was: ‘If I’m going to be here, I have to set my mind to it if this is something I really wanted to do. Because there’s no going back.’ I left my mom and my sister when I went to Los Angeles for high school. That was really hard for me, knowing she was struggling and that she needed me. From that point on, though, I was dialed into basketball, it’s something that really took over my life and all that I want to do for the rest of my life – or as long as I can.
What are some of the things that have inspired you to stick to it?
TB: I’ll never forget my past, where I came from, what I’ve seen and what I’ve been through. Growing up, it was just me, my mom and my sister. I watched my mom struggle from day one. So for me to not go out there and compete, it would not be good enough for her and my family. So what motivates me is all the struggles we have been through, all the struggles I’ve seen my mom go through. I want to see my mom happy.
What are some of the ways your mom has helped you get to where you are today?
TB: She’s always been there for me. When I was at prep school, it was terrible for me. I really didn’t enjoy the experience. There were times I wanted to go home and she would be there for me, telling me I gotta push through it. She was just being a mom, being my mentor, being there for me. She’s just a great woman, and I appreciate her more than she knows.
What are some of the things you want to do for her if and when you get an NBA contract?
TB: I just want to put a smile on her face. I want to take away that struggle, really. That’s something she’s been through her whole life. So, to take away that struggle and to see her not work again, or something like that, would be great. That would be perfect.
How did you end up going to play college basketball for Colorado?
TB: Originally, I had privately committed to San Diego State. I think it was the next week where I went on my visit to Colorado and I think my next visit after Colorado was Arizona State. But on my visit to Colorado, I just felt comfortable. They had the only coach that ever told me I could be a pro and that’s what I needed: someone to believe in me.
What were some of the ways that you feel Colorado has best prepared you for the NBA so far?
TB: For me, it was just seeing what my role is and what I have to do to be a great basketball player. They always made sure I was locked in on defense. They were always hard on me, always screaming at me, always on my head about stuff. But no coach ever gave up on me, no matter what, no matter how many times he saw me fail. He always picked me up and made sure that I was always feeling better.
You won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last season. What kind of role do you think you can play defensively in the NBA?
TB: I think I can guard two through four. For me, it’s just keeping my head on a swivel, making sure my teammates are in the right place, making sure I’m in the right place. I’m a great team defender, I just really care about getting stops. If my teammate messes up, I want to be there for him. I also want to get better at guarding the perimeter, being able to guard point guards.
When it comes to guarding the perimeter, what are some things you think you can do to get better at that?
TB: During the season, I always learned what I needed to do to get better. So if we were playing Arizona and I was guarding Nico Mannion and he shot over me, next time, I will keep my hand up every time so I can contest the shot even earlier. I always knew the scouting reports, like if my opponent was right-handed or left-handed. If he’s a shooter, get him off the line. If he’s a driver, hang off him a little bit but make sure you can contest the shot high. I like knowing the personnel.
How have been able to become so effective at forcing turnovers and blocking shots, averaging over a steal and per game?
TB: It was just confidence. I am really confident in my defense. I was really confident in what I could do. I like to help my teammates out. So if I get beat, I’m there for them. I’m there to block the shot. If they make a lazy pass, I’m in a stance all the time and keep my head on a swivel, so I’m there on a pass as much as I can be. Everything’s in slow motion for me.
You’ve become such an effective rebounder. How did you develop your rebounding instincts?
TB: My sophomore year, my rebounding went through the roof. It went from 11 rebounds in a game to 15 rebounds in a game to finally pulling down 17 rebounds in our game against Arizona State. It just kept going up and I got confident in rebounding. If we got a defensive stop, I wanted to make sure we get the rebound. In order to get the defensive stop, you have to finish with the rebound. So that was my main thing: making sure I was boxing out and going for the rebound, having a nose for it.
You’re not always one of the taller guys on the court a 6-foot-7. How are you able to work around that to pull down as many boards as you have?
TB: It’s just about being quick. If I’m playing defense on a bigger man, I’m using my feet and my brain because I know I’m faster than him. I’m making sure that he can’t post me up. I’m going to try my best to not let him catch the ball. In high school, I played center. So it was something I was used to.
Offensively, you were very effective shooting off the catch. Your jump shot has been really effective. How have you gotten your jumper to be where it is now?
TB: Like I said, I like to improve. So you saw it when I was at Colorado. But now I’m feeling way more confident than I ever have been in my shot. I feel great. I tweaked it a little bit and it looks a lot better. It’s going in more. I’m confident seeing it go in. It’s just about getting reps.
How would you describe your ideal offensive role? How would a team get the best out of you on offense?
TB: I am a spot-up shooter and basket cutter. I can take someone off one dribble to the basket. When my teammate shoots, I have make sure I’m putting pressure on the defense, going to the glass. I’m ready in the corner and running the floor. I remain aggressive towards the basket.
What do you like to do when you’re not playing basketball?
TB: I like to spend time with my friends and family. I’m a friendly guy. I’m a momma’s boy for sure, so I love to see my mom as much as I can. I love to play video games. That’s pretty much it though, I don’t really do much. I play NBA 2K a lot. I play in the neighborhood and I have an elite shooter, all he does is shoot. His rating is 98. I wear a Bulls jersey with short shorts and some J’s and a headband. I have a lot of tattoos in the game, covering me all the way up. I play Call of Duty the most, though. This new Warzone is crazy.
How excited are you to potentially play as yourself in the game?
TB: I’m really excited. My friends and I talk about it all the time. That’s something I’ve always looked forward to. That would be an amazing feeling.
What are some goals you have for yourself as a basketball player, both on and off the court?
TB: Just to see myself get better, and love the game and not fall in love with the money. I want to always remain humble. I want to keep working hard. I don’t want to see myself let go of everything just because I made it to the NBA or something. If I got a big contract, I don’t want to see myself fall in that category. I just want to remain humble and keep doing me.