Las Vegas native and Colorado forward Tyler Bey started playing competitive basketball in eighth grade without a concrete vision of a collegiate career — or the awards and honors that could come with it.
“I didn’t think I’d be at this point,” said Bey, one of the best players in the Pac-12 and the conference’s Most Improved Player of the Year. “It’s a great honor.”
Bey, formerly of Las Vegas High, had eight points and four rebounds for Colorado in a 73-58 victory over Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon.
The 6-foot-7-inch sophomore averaged 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds last year for the Buffaloes, but he assumed a more prominent role and nearly doubled his productionto 13.2 points and 9.7 rebounds en route to All-Pac-12 first-team honors.
“(I just worked) on my game, period,” he said. “Working on defense, playing (one-on-one) with my teammates and stuff like that. Rebounding the ball as much as I can. Working on my jumper … I just wanted to get better throughout the year.”
That he has.
Bey grew up in east Las Vegas and was an unheralded college prospect during high school despite showcasing the size, athleticism and production to excel at the Division I level.
He averaged 17 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Wildcats in 2014-15, before playing two years at Middlebrooks Academy — a prep school in Southern California where he developed into a four-star recruit. He had scholarship offers from UNLV, San Diego State, Arizona State and Utah among others, but opted to play for Boyle and the Buffaloes.
“He just needed somebody to believe in him,” said Lamar Bigby, Bey’s club basketball coach and program director of the Las Vegas Knicks.
Bigby said Colorado coach Tad Boyle promised he would take good care of Bey.
“And he’s done exactly that,” Bigby said. “I’ve watched Tyler’s game grow and expand under Tad in the way that I envisioned it could.”
Bey started 21 of 32 games as a freshman and averaged 19.7 minutes. He committed to rounding out his skills during the summer and added a reliable mid-range jumper to his offensive arsenal.
And vows to be even better next year.
“Tyler’s work ethic in the offseason was terrific,” Boyle said. “It starts with that. And Tyler I think has become comfortable with who he is … He’s great around the rim. He’s rebounded at a high level and he’s really accepted what he’s done well, and he’s not, in games, trying to play outside of that.”
■ Washington 78, USC 75: Conference player of the year Jaylen Nowell scored 24 points to lead the Huskies into the semifinals, where they’ll play Colorado.
■ Colorado 73, Oregon State 58: McKinley Wright had 17 points, five rebounds and four asissts for the Buffaloes.
■ Arizona State 83, UCLA 72: Romello White scored 19 points for the Sun Devils, who advance to the semifinals.
■ Oregon 66, Utah 54: Payton Pritchard and Louis King scored 20 apiece for the Ducks, who advance to play Arizona State in the semifinals.