After an up and down junior year, Cornelius Tyson knows he has plenty to prove heading into his senior season.
The 6-foot-1 point guard from Springfield Central got an early jump on his 2012-2013 showcase last March, electrifying the DCU Center crowd with 16 second-half points to lead the Golden Eagles in a statement win over Brockton in the MIAA Division 1 State Championship.
And now, Tyson has been presented with another chance to pad his resume as a key member and starting point guard on the West squad as it takes aim at Bay State Games gold.
Tyson and Co. begin their quest Thursday with a pair of games against the Coastal and Northeast teams with the ultimate goal of playing for the shiniest medal possible on Sunday.
“We’ll do our best,” Tyson said. “We have a hardworking team and we’ll go out and give it everything we’ve got.”
That way of thinking is a good representation of the high-energy point guard, but things didn’t always fall into place so easily for Tyson.
Initially considered one of the region’s top players in the class of 2013 as a freshman and sophomore, Tyson hit a wall towards the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. He struggled a bit with grades and adjusted to life as a role player on a supremely talented Central squad, even enduring a suspension because of a failed class.
In the end, though, Tyson persevered and has come out with a reworked approach that has only helped him improve on and off the court.
“Last year was really rough,” Tyson said. “I had my ups and downs with school and basketball but I tried to stay focused and work hard.”
The improved Tyson was on full display in the state final when Central head coach Mike Labrie, having seen Brockton’s size and rebounding advantage lead to a seven-point halftime deficit, elected to go with a small lineup. Tyson came off the bench to spark the epic turnaround.
“That was just amazing,” said Tyson, who remembers only getting that hot a few other times but never in a game of that magnitude. “I was just feeling the moment.”
That feeling and that moment could also be obtained this week at Wentworth where the Bay State’s 11th and 12th grade squads are conducting their tournament. The West team is a bit undermanned, losing a handful of players who elected to stay with their AAU teams but Tyson, along with fellow state championship winner Jesse Lacroix from Mahar (Division 2), comprise perhaps the most talented backcourt in the entire tournament and could very well lead the West team to Bay State heroics.
“We look at Cornelius as our key player,” said West head coach Neal Quesnel, who has spent five years as a coach at South Hadley. “He shows up to practice every day and works hard. He’s a silent leader and lets his game do the talking for him. It’s fun to watch him in action.”
Quesnel is close with Labrie, who had nothing but praise for his soon-to-be starting point guard prior to the Bay State Games team selection process. Labrie commented on Tyson’s work ethic and attitude, saying that his state championship breakout was never an "if", but just a "when."
“It took some time but in the second half of the biggest game of the year, he came through and broke out,” Quesnel said. “The other guys on the court just feed of his leadership and energy.”
That energy was crucial to Tyson’s success last season for Central, following his struggles on the court and in the classroom. Once he regained focus, though, the energy and spark Tyson provided off the bench was a key factor Central’s run through regular season -- which included just one blemish, a loss to Connecticut power Windsor at the Hoophall Classic -- and state tournament.
“I think the experience that Cornelius brings our team is huge,” Quesnel said. “This year at Central, he learned how to win big, come from behind against Commerce in the Western Mass. final and in the state semifinal (against St. John’s).
“And he showed he can play well on the biggest stage in the state final.”
This is a crucial year for Tyson and his hopes to play basketball after high school. At this point, the goal is to continue to improve as a senior and lead Central back to the state tournament. After that, the plan is to go to prep school. Tyson considers Wilbraham & Monson Academy and Suffield Academy among his top choices.