Getting prepared: Tyler Summitt earning his keep as walk-on

Tennessee's Brian Williams, Cameron Tatum and Renaldo Woolridge, left to right, congratulate Tyler Summitt after he sank a three pointer during the game against Middle Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee's Brian Williams, Cameron Tatum and Renaldo Woolridge, left to right, congratulate Tyler Summitt after he sank a three pointer during the game against Middle Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010.

Some eight years ago, as a sixth-grader at Knoxville's Webb Middle School, Tyler Summitt got cut from his basketball team.

Tuesday night, Summitt was shown on ESPN SportsCenter hitting a 3-pointer in 13th-ranked Tennessee's 86-56 win over Middle Tennessee State.

"It's a great story,'' Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl said. "That's what we're here for as educators at a university, to give deserving young people opportunities.

"Tyler has made it clear he wants to pursue a job in the coaching profession, and this opportunity can better prepare him for that.''

Summitt is a redshirt freshman walk-on with the Vols, having used his first year of eligibility to be a practice player on Pat Summitt's women's basketball team.

His role with the UT men's basketball team is largely the same as it was for the women's squad; to work on the scout team and help the team improve.

Summitt doesn't have the size nor athleticism to compete at the Division I level, but he has the smarts and work ethic to be effective in his role.

So much so that on two occasions, Pearl rewarded Summitt with a couple of minutes of playing time in decisive wins, much to the delight of the UT student section, which chanted his name near the end of the blowouts.

"Before I've even gotten on the court, I've heard them yelling for me to shoot the ball,'' Summitt said. "My mother has always told me to have confidence and let it fly, so . . . ''

So Summitt has taken two 3-pointers this season, the first in an exhibition win against Brevard, and again Tuesday night against MTSU. To the surprise of many, he made both shots.

Fact is, few can recall Summitt making any other 3-point shots in collegiate level competition, not in the Pilot Rocky Top League last summer, and not in the Vols' intra-squad scrimmages this fall.

"I know,'' Summitt said with a smile after the win over MTSU. "I can't explain it. It must have something to do with the name on the court.''

The Vols' and Lady Vols' home court is named "The Summitt,'' a tribute to his mother, Pat, an eight-time national-championship coaching legend at UT.

Tyler Summitt takes nothing for granted, and since junior high school he has paid the price for his famous last name, enduring ribbing and backlash from students around him.

"I remember the first three games I played at Webb (in high school),'' he said. "Everyone was chanting, 'Mama's boy, Mama's boy.' People have always said I don't deserve to be out there.''

Perhaps that's why Steven Pearl, one person on the UT campus who can understand the challenges of being a coach's son, has seen fit to set up Summitt for the threes.

"The best part of this for me is just being on the team with heavily recruited guys like Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris,'' Summitt said. "I don't care if I play another minute. I just want to give my all in practice and be a part of the team.''

Summitt knows his place. He speaks only when spoken to on the practice floor, he's constantly among the leaders in the full-court conditioning sprints, and he's quick to pick up on opposing teams' plays while running with the scout team.

The difference between his mother's practices and Pearl's?

"I don't know if I've ever been around two more intense people,'' Summitt said. "They both know exactly what they're doing and how they want it done.

"My mom's favorite saying is that, 'Guys have to play good to feel well, and women have to feel well to play good.' "

Summitt said Pearl's offense has a little more freedom and 1-on-1 principles, while the Lady Vols know if they run the plays exactly as his mother instructs, they will score. Both defenses are intense.

Does he think his mother could coach a Division I men's team effectively?

"My teammates see her and say she's scary,'' Summitt said. "It would be an adjustment for her, but one thing about Mom, she would go all out and find a way. She found a way to make the Olympic team as a player, and she's found a way to reach her goals as a coach.''

Pat Summitt has taught her son to do the same from the time he was cut back in sixth grade.

"I remember I was crying when I came home after that, and Mom walked into the room with two basketballs, one under each arm,'' he said. "She said 'if you wear these basketballs out, you will make the team.'

"Every year she would make me write down my goals, and at the bottom of every list, I always wrote I wanted to be a Tennessee walk-on. It's always been my dream.''

A dream that was on display for all to see during ESPN's highlights.

The crowd roared when Summitt hit his 3-pointer Tuesday, as it gave the Vols 86 points, qualifying all in attendance for a free chicken meal at Hardee's as part of a promotion.

"At first I thought they were cheering for me,'' Summitt joked. "Then I realized they just wanted the free chicken.''

Not everyone.

"The thing that makes this a success story,'' Bruce Pearl said, "is that Tyler has earned his teammates' respect. They were as happy for him as anyone in that gym.''

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Comments » 39

paradisetaxi writes:

ata boy Tyler !!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

"money"

TommyJack writes:

Good story, Griffith.

GerryOP writes:

Nice story. The Pearl makes everyone on the team a hero.

VolinCalif writes:

Love it. Love it.

rebvavolfan1 writes:

I believe this young vol has the makings of being like a young Bradshaw or a young Steave Pearl. I like his spunk

Seriouslyorange writes:

Seems like only yesterday he was crawling around on the floor around the baggage claim area waiting on bags to come around from a flight with the team. He was raised by the various teams as his baby sitters over the years. Basketball is in his blood! He was a cute little kid, and is a nice looking young man.Proud of you Tyler!

volrush17#609372 writes:

Excellent Young Man-heart of a Vol!!

SECProudUT writes:

Agreed, Great Story Griff, and Way to go TYLER!!!!

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor admit tears flow down Witch Doctors cheeks while reading. Witch Doctor say not because of story about Tyler but Witch Doctor find out W_D wife throw out slice of pumpkin pie Witch Doctor saving for tonight.
Bones never lie.

hillsborovol writes:

My son, a student at UTK, called me immediately after "the shot" went in and said he was heading to Hardees. Hilarious...and I'm glad for Tyler too.

tonyvick#213307 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor admit tears flow down Witch Doctors cheeks while reading. Witch Doctor say not because of story about Tyler but Witch Doctor find out W_D wife throw out slice of pumpkin pie Witch Doctor saving for tonight.
Bones never lie.

...well my reason is that something flew in my eye. Witchy now that was too funny!

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

Tyler is a fine young man, just as fine as his Mom, although he is much quiter. You could see the excitement of his team mates when he hit the trey. The announcers goofed as usual and said he just scored his first points as a Vol...seems like they didn't know about his first three pointer.

He played really good defense the short time he was in too! I can't predict that he will be the next Bradshaw, but I can tell you that while he is on the court, he's gonna play to the best of his ablility and hustle. He can grill a mean steak/chichen shishkabob(sp?), I'll tell you that!

He is going to be a great Coach someday, just like Pat! They have an awesome relationship and he has her morals and standards also, which is a really good thing! Go Tyler Go!

Runningangry writes:

This kid is going to give his all for Tennessee. That's more than a lot of kids do, it's more than what a lot of UT's prized recruits do, and it's what we could use more of around campus.

UT has possibly reached the level talent wise that a Dane Bradshaw might not see the court these days. While that's a little sad, Bradshaw has helped paved the way for UT's rise nationally and for other players with heart and desire to carry on. Tyler Summitt has a lot of heart and I'll cheer for him, even if his mom wasn't famous.

nola_vol writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor admit tears flow down Witch Doctors cheeks while reading. Witch Doctor say not because of story about Tyler but Witch Doctor find out W_D wife throw out slice of pumpkin pie Witch Doctor saving for tonight.
Bones never lie.

Don't cry for the pie... cry that your wife loves you so much!

Nothing comes closer to a petri dish than a homemade pumpkin pie. Even if you couldn't see it yet, I guarantee you — under a microscope, that pie was humming!

(But I sympathize... my last piece got a premature burial in the compost heap Tuesday.)

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I didn't read all the article...was this story about pumkin pies?
And now for a more serious note, "Dane Bradshaw wouldn't see the floor"!!?? I try not to call idiots idiots, but some times idiots say idiotic things! Bradshaw for sure was at a lower level of jumping and speed...weelll this arguments been done too much. He would play though and he's play quite a bit and I can think of a coulpla players that supposedly have talent that he'd take their minutes...just like Pearl has. Tyker Summitt??? I don't know. Keep making those 3's and he may see time next game.lol

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

I really need to get out more. I had no idea Tyler was a walk-on. Yesterday when folks started about him hitting a 3-pointer, i thought it was a joke.

Really proud of him. Wish I could've seen it.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor admit tears flow down Witch Doctors cheeks while reading. Witch Doctor say not because of story about Tyler but Witch Doctor find out W_D wife throw out slice of pumpkin pie Witch Doctor saving for tonight.
Bones never lie.

LMAO! How could she do that to you! The torture!

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to The_Four_Horsemen:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

do we need to call in the paramedics to help unwad your panties? Geeez!

pupvol writes:

If Coach Dooley had a son that age he could get some minutes too!lol

Jakevol writes:

Can he play football too..

dwolfcreek#397971 writes:

in response to The_Four_Horsemen:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well at least somebody is capable of thinking , your not ..................

JohnnyD writes:

Way to go Tyler!!! I was cheering for from home! Go Big Orange!

bigorange61 writes:

in response to usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid:

I really need to get out more. I had no idea Tyler was a walk-on. Yesterday when folks started about him hitting a 3-pointer, i thought it was a joke.

Really proud of him. Wish I could've seen it.

See it here at approximately 1:50 and again at 2:00.

http://utsports.tv/mens-sports/mtsu-h...

Hacksaw57 writes:

in response to The_Four_Horsemen:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

There's always a DAM* IDIOT in the crowd

thevoice writes:

in response to The_Four_Horsemen:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Calm down pal. You're either on ineffective meds or accidentally off your normal meds. I said the same thing to myself about Steven Pearl when a Freshmen. With the right coaching, you never know.

tulelakevol writes:

Great story

CoverOrange writes:

in response to mtnsvol44:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

They were thinking how studdley they were back then, but then some more customers came through the drivethru and they had to drop some fries.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

They were thinking how studdley they were back then, but then some more customers came through the drivethru and they had to drop some fries.

Any Webb School kid working a drive-thru window right now is just learning the business from the ground up so as to be ready to take over the running of Daddy's franchise empire(;-P)!

sambad writes:

It seems weird to me that you allow a walk-on playing time but you don't put Jordan McRae in the game at all. Jordan has the potential to be better than Cameron or Scottie in the future. Tyler will never be able to log meaningful playing time. He is a practice player, pure and simple. Ask anyone who saw him play for Webb.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Any Webb School kid working a drive-thru window right now is just learning the business from the ground up so as to be ready to take over the running of Daddy's franchise empire(;-P)!

I assumed it was Webb's opponent's fans. I would also assume anyone looking to take over Daddy's empire wouldn't be so childish as to yell "mama's boy." Kinda ironic doncha think?

CoverOrange writes:

Hey Mike Griffith, in answer to your tweet an hour ago, obviously you would play him at the point.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor admit tears flow down Witch Doctors cheeks while reading. Witch Doctor say not because of story about Tyler but Witch Doctor find out W_D wife throw out slice of pumpkin pie Witch Doctor saving for tonight.
Bones never lie.

dude
come perform at my wedding lol

what you charge?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

I assumed it was Webb's opponent's fans. I would also assume anyone looking to take over Daddy's empire wouldn't be so childish as to yell "mama's boy." Kinda ironic doncha think?

Good point; you are probably right about that.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to sambad:

It seems weird to me that you allow a walk-on playing time but you don't put Jordan McRae in the game at all. Jordan has the potential to be better than Cameron or Scottie in the future. Tyler will never be able to log meaningful playing time. He is a practice player, pure and simple. Ask anyone who saw him play for Webb.

Someone on another thread said that Jordan's "baby-mama" had, well, a baby last week and that Jordan probably spent a couple of tense days in which he didn't get all the practice or sleep he needed. I'm pretty sure Jordan ranks higher on the depth chart than Tyler in the ordinary course of things. I also doubt we will see Tyler on the court again at all, unless it is another 30-point blowout.

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to brownsvillevol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks for the explaination Brownsville! I wish the announcers would have explained that. Are you from Brownsville, TN or TX? If in TN, I don't live very far away from you.

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Someone on another thread said that Jordan's "baby-mama" had, well, a baby last week and that Jordan probably spent a couple of tense days in which he didn't get all the practice or sleep he needed. I'm pretty sure Jordan ranks higher on the depth chart than Tyler in the ordinary course of things. I also doubt we will see Tyler on the court again at all, unless it is another 30-point blowout.

That's right John. Babys name is Jaheim.

knoxtenn writes:

Nepotism sucks whether in business or sports. How many other young men better deserve that opportunity? Hundreds.

Kudos to Webb School for not being too star-struck to cut a deserving player just to put a "name" kid on their roster. Speaks volumes for their school.

My blood runs orange, and I'm happy for the kid hitting two 3-pointers post-nepotism and wish him the best, but he doesn't deserve to be out there.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to knoxtenn:

Nepotism sucks whether in business or sports. How many other young men better deserve that opportunity? Hundreds.

Kudos to Webb School for not being too star-struck to cut a deserving player just to put a "name" kid on their roster. Speaks volumes for their school.

My blood runs orange, and I'm happy for the kid hitting two 3-pointers post-nepotism and wish him the best, but he doesn't deserve to be out there.

Golly Knox...You may be right? I wonder though which is more cold-blooded? Letting your own flesh and blood play for you or letting someone else who prob want be that much better in the scheme of things? Seriously it'd be tough as a coach who has a kid that's a decent player. I'm afraid I'd be a family guy first. But I don't ever have to choose. If it was a nephew I'd start them and let them play as long as they wanted and PAY them to do it. Then I'd hire them as an assistant coach.

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