Note: The following appears in the June 2022 issue of ORANGE: The Experience.
The men’s basketball team had just defeated Virginia Tech, 53-49, on Senior Day, and the customary senior celebration was just beginning. Following the traditional singing of the alma mater, seniors listen as Head Coach Brad Brownell tells stories and celebrates them before they grab the microphone for themselves in front of a still packed gym.
Parker Fox wrapped up his speaking portion and handed the mic to Hunter Tyson. As he stood up and looked around, he was immediately serenaded with chants of “One more year! One more year!”
It was impossible for Tyson to hold back a smile as he began grinning from ear to ear, even breaking into laughter before he started speaking.
Tyson kept his remarks rather generic, not confirming his plans one way or another, but saying he would take some time to thoughtfully consider whether he would exercise his extra year of eligibility.
Three weeks later he confirmed everyone’s highest hopes when he announced his decision to play one more year, and he had precedent behind his decision to stay.
Hunter Tyson came to Clemson the summer of 2018 prior to the start of his freshman year. It would be generous to say that he was 204 pounds when he arrived, but you would be hard pressed to find another example of someone who has grown as much as Tyson during his stay in Tigertown.
His freshman season Tyson joined a team that had four seniors make the decision to return for another year and another chance at the postseason. He soaked in the leadership of Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell, Elijah Thomas and David Skara who all returned from the Tigers’ Sweet 16 squad the year before.
“I just wanted to give it one last push, everything I have, for one last year,” Tyson said. “I wasn’t ready to leave Clemson yet. I wanted to give one last run. I wanted to go out on a better note. I’m really excited about next year and the success I believe we can have.”
Throughout the last four seasons, Tyson’s role and production have expanded every year, as have his leadership and relationships. Coach Brownell knows everything that Tyson brings and he simplifies it to one word.
“Intangibles,” Brownell said. “Things that guys do on the court that take pressure off teammates that don’t involve scoring. Holding each other accountable and providing confidence and smarts. He gives us a lot of that.”
Teammates, namely star forward PJ Hall have noticed of Tyson’s leadership since day one.
“The mental toughness, the physical toughness, the determination, everything,” Hall said. “It’s literally the full package. He’s a great player and also a great teammate. Whether they are 6 a.m. or late practices, he’s always the loudest one in the gym. He’s making sure everyone is doing their thing.”
During the last two seasons Tyson has endured serious injuries. He took a knee to the face against Alabama on Dec. 12, 2020. But even a fractured face only sidelined him for a month.
Last year Tyson suffered a freak injury, breaking his collar bone on a contact play under the basket against Florida State. With grit literally in his bones, Tyson had surgery and worked himself back to play this time in less than a month.
Although Tyson contributes to any category that doesn’t register in a box score, he fills the official game record too.
He totaled 13 double-digit scoring games, averaging a career-best 10.0 points per contest last year. He also compiled 16 games with at least five rebounds, including a career-best 13 in a home win against South Carolina. That game was also Tyson’s first career double-double (18 points and 13 rebounds).
Hunter Tyson decided that he wasn’t done wearing school colors for Clemson basketball. It’s an invaluable decision for the program.
“Having experienced older players is a necessity,” Brownell said. “I’m pleased because a guy like that chose to come back.”
The University, fans and community agree.