A stint with Greece’s national team helped the Oregon sophomore unlock his star potential.
When the Oregon Ducks have needed buckets to get them through the tough times the NCAA tournament brings to every team, there’s been one man who’s been most reliable: Tyler Dorsey.
Dorsey’s offensive output in the tournament has been impressive, but it’s the way he goes about getting buckets that makes it even better. At 6’4, he’s athletic and physical enough to go over and around lesser players in tight spaces. He’s shown the ability to get loose from his defender via stepback or crossover, and has flashed tremendous footwork when in the paint.
Those softer skills in one’s game don’t develop overnight. In Dorsey’s case, the ability to get any shot he wants came out of necessity.
That’s what happens when Giannis Antetokounmpo is guarding you.
Tyler Dorsey is a LA kid through and through. From the haircut to the Cali accent and a certain brashness that many from the region carry, there’s no question where the Oregon guard is from. While Dorsey might be American born, his roots trace back to Greece, courtesy of his mother Samia whose family is Greek.
As a result, the U19 Greek national team invited him to play in the FIBA World Championships when he just graduated from high school in the summer of 2015. Dorsey not only showed up, but stole the show. Greece made it to the Final Four of the tourney and Dorsey was named to the all-tournament team alongside current American college stars Jalen Brunson of Villanova and Harry Giles of Duke.
His standout play meant another invite back to Greece, this time to tryout for the senior Greek national team for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Greece would feature a slew of talented European professionals along with NBA pros Kosta Koufos, Kostas Papanikolaou, and Georgios Papagiannis during the tryout. Still, the player who made Dorsey raise his eyebrows the most was the one the world has come to embrace as the Greek Freak.
“I got to guard him a lot, he’s so strong, athletic and he can dribble. He can do everything on the court so he’s incredibly hard to guard,” said Dorsey back at Pac-12 Media Day in San Francisco. “ He’s an animal! (chuckles) But I challenged him though, I ain’t backing down from nothing.”
Dorsey took to the Milwaukee Bucks’ star immediately and thus began a new relationship with a mentor who has a 7’4” wingspan. Although Dorsey ultimately wasn’t selected to take his talents to Rio, the lessons learned are apparent.
“He made me better, because if you can learn to deal with his length and athleticism, you can deal with anyone else’s. Playing against him and having that experience made me a much better player.”
After his time with the Greek national team was over, he was still due for another trip back to Europe as the Ducks went to Spain for a travel abroad experience that included two exhibition games against teams from Spain’s professional league, Liga ACB.
“When you’re playing pros it’s tougher because this is their job, they do this everyday. This is their life, this is their job.” Dorsey said, as the Ducks return to the Elite 8 for the second straight year. “I just wanted to pick up some knowledge from them and that’s what I did.
“Ball is life, you know?”
Dorsey’s next major hurdle is to help Oregon back to the Final Four for the first time in 78 years. He’s not alone, as the Ducks feature two other future NBA pros in Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell. (Oregon has a fourth potential pro in Chris Boucher who tore his ACL late in the season) But for the guy folks around the program have now dubbed “Mr. March”, this is Dorsey’s time to lead.
“We lean on him right now,” the Ducks’ Dylan Ennis said to ESPN. “He’s playing his best basketball, and it’s coming at the right time.”
That’s because he’s saved his best performances for March during his two years in Oregon. His 17.6 points per game average in March is higher than any month. He’s on a six-game streak of scoring 20+ points in postseason play since the Pac-12 tournament.
The Ducks are 14-1 when Dorsey scores 20 or more points, and if he keeps his streak going, the Ducks just might take flight to Phoenix for the Final Four.