Thursday, March 20, 2014
Tyra Buss- Illinois' All-Time Scorer
MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. – Either you believe in Tyra Buss, or you don't.
Someone who averages 47 points a game? Who is a champion in tennis, track, baseball, and punt, pass and kick? Who ranks No. 1 in her class? Who attends Catholic church on Sunday and signs autographs for adoring little girls after each game?
Buss' own father, Tim, conceded it all strains credulity."Sometimes you look at it, 'Am I in this dream here?'" he said. "It's mind-boggling when you talk about the numbers and look at some of that stuff. It's just hard to imagine that that's your daughter."
Indiana University fans might imagine what it will be like to have the reigning, record-setting Illinois Ms. Basketball next season. Yet it could be exaggeration to suggest she will be to the IU women what Cody Zeller was to the men.
Buss, 17, is a high school senior at Mount Carmel (pop. 7,300), which is along the Wabash River and about 110 miles southwest of Bloomington. She is listed at 5-7, probably stands 5-6 and is not ranked among the nation's top 100 prospects in the 2014 class. Zeller is 7-0, played in the McDonald's All-America game and became a No. 4 pick in the NBA draft.
"I think it might be unfair to call her our Cody Zeller," Hoosier women's coach Curt Miller said. "But we needed a face to our program. We need a name to give us some buzz in our state and in this community."
Buss is about as Hoosier as it gets for someone on the other side of the border. She was born in Vincennes and plays for the only Illinois school in the otherwise all-Indiana Big Eight, which includes Zeller's alma mater, Washington. Mt. Carmel also produced Archie Dees, a two-time Big Ten MVP for Indiana in the 1950s.
She wasn't difficult to recruit. She liked what she called "one big happy family" at IU, the only college to which she made an official visit.
Those close to her said her biggest adjustment won't be to the Big Ten, but to separation from family. Her father is the school superintendent, and her mother, Kelly, is her track coach. One brother, Tyler, 27, is the boys basketball coach and her other brother, Kyle, 23, is the assistant coach. Tyra has been dating her boyfriend, Levi Laws, 17, since Feb. 5, 2010 (they mark the date).
Buss said Miller promised to turn around the program, and the Hoosiers have exceeded expectations this season with an unprecedented 14-0 start and a 17-6 record. Average home attendance is 2,770, an increase of 28 percent over last year.
That's without Tyra Buzz. "I want to be part of a program that I could help change," she said. "A lot of people were like, 'Don't you want to go to Connecticut or somewhere like that?' I was like, 'No, I want to go somewhere we can beat Connecticut.'"
Miller likened her to Jordan Hulls, whose skills and work ethic influenced IU's culture. But even Miller acknowledged that Buss' numbers "are almost unbelievable."
Just as unbelievable is what she has done in this football town, where the Golden Aces have played in three state championship games during the 2000s and brother Kyle was an all-state quarterback. At Taco Tierra or Norm's Barber Shop, they talk Tyra as much as football. Fans drive from miles around to see her play.
In a Jan. 13 game against Princeton, the No. 1 Class 3A team in Indiana, there was a sellout crowd of 1,400 in Mount Carmel's 86-year-old gym. Nine hundred more watched on a webcast, a bigger audience than for a football playoff game that Mount Carmel lost 71-70.
"That was a one-for-the-ages kind of game," said Kyle Peach, director of broadcasting for the station run by Wabash Valley College.
Mount Carmel lost to Princeton 70-69, and Buss scored 41 but shot 11-of-34. When the same teams met Dec. 28, she scored a career-high 66 in an 84-82 tournament loss at Fort Branch, Ind. That game, following 60 points the day before, made her the all-time leading scorer in Illinois.
With 4,745 points, she is No. 2 in the history of U.S. girls basketball, behind Adrian McGowen, Goodrich, Texas, who scored 5,424 from 2003-06. McGowen, a McDonald's All-American, played one season at Texas A&M and averaged 3.3 points a game.
Buss' career has more closely resembled that of Jackie Stiles, a 14-time state track champion from Claflin, Kan., who once averaged 46.3 points. Stiles became the leading scorer in NCAA history and led Southwest Missouri State to the 2001 Final Four.
Thus the lingering question: How good is Buss? Is she a McGowen? Or a Stiles?
"The one thing people can't measure is how big her heart is," said her club coach, Phil Kessler of Indiana Elite Swish. "The kid is fearless."
Posted by Massey Basketball