Outlaw learning on the run

Dec. 09, 2013 @ 11:36 PM

The presumed reason for going to college in the first place is to learn something.

UNC-Greensboro freshman forward Tyrone Outlaw Jr. has been hitting the playbook to get a better grasp on the sport he’s been into for a long time, because it’s one thing to play basketball but something entirely different to play college basketball.   

Outlaw was in the Smith Center on Saturday doing what he could to help UNCG deal with a motivated North Carolina team.

UNC won 81-50, which certainly wasn’t the desired outcome for Outlaw, playing in the Dean Dome for the first time in his basketball career that included suiting up for Person High School in Roxboro.

But the UNCG-UNC game was an opportunity for Outlaw to take what he’s been learning and apply it on a rather grand stage.

“The main thing is I had to learn how to play defense at the college level,” Outlaw said. “But that was at the beginning of the season. Now, I’ve gotten better at it, and I can actually find the ball.”

High school basketball has no shortage of one-dimensional players who either primarily are good shooters or nifty passers, or guys who aren’t necessarily highly skilled yet are so fast that they’re able to get to the rim and score.

College basketball, on the other hand, is full of young men who can flat-out do it all.

“You’ve got to learn how to play everything all at once,” Outlaw said.

Outlaw’s learning, UNCG coach Wes Miller said. Defense has been a struggle for the rookie, who’s had to wrap his mind around seemingly simple concepts such as moving when the ball moves, Miller said.

“But he really wants to get better at it,” Miller said. “He’s really worked at it. He has the right attitude. If you see him today, you may not think he’s there, but you should have seen him two months ago.”

Offense was Outlaw’s main deal in high school. He could really fill the cup and averaged 24 points a game, his Person teammates making sure the ball wound up in his hands often.

UNCG’s offense doesn’t run through Outlaw, so he’s having to learn how to put himself in positions to score. He’s averaging 8.4 points per game and against UNC scored an efficient 9 points, making 2 out of 3 3-pointers and going 3 of 4 from the foul line.

“Tyrone is a huge recruit for us,” Miller said. “Really, really excited about the type of athlete he is, the way he scores the basketball, the way he gets to the offensive glass.

“I think he’s got the chance to be a really special player for us, not just in the future but this year.”

Person coach Charles Dacus, who was in the Dean Dome on Saturday, said he might have taught Outlaw a few things back in Roxboro but insisted that the young man was self-motivated.  

The UNCG-UNC game also allowed Outlaw (6-6, 205) to once more engage with Isaiah Hicks (6-8, 220), a freshman for the Tar Heels who played at Webb High School in Oxford. Outlaw and Hicks battled on the prep level.

“I knew everything he was going to do; he probably knew everything I was going to do. It was just like flashbacks,” Outlaw said. “His team came out on top (Saturday), but let’s see where we are in a few years when we get better.”

Hicks was the 2013 Associated Press player of the year in North Carolina and the most valuable player of the state playoffs after leading Webb to the 3-A title.

In the state championship game, Hicks scored 34 points, pulled down 30 rebounds and blocked seven shots.

Against UNCG, Hicks was 1 of 2 from the field and 3 of 4 from the foul line for a total of 5 points. He’s averaging 1.8 points and 1.3 rebounds per game.

“Isaiah is not as comfortable as he wants to be or as I want him to be, there’s no question,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.

Williams pointed out a time when Hicks passed up an open shot against UNCG.

“Isaiah is going to be a really good player. I love him to death. He can’t be a better kid. He’s going to be a really good player,” Williams said. “He’s coming.”