College Basketball Nation: Tyler Summitt

Tyler Summitt stands tall for his mother

August, 24, 2011
8/24/11
2:06
PM ET


A couple years ago, Tyler Summitt posted this heartfelt tribute video, reminding all who know Pat Summitt as a coach that she is a great mom, too.

Tyler, a walk-on guard on Tennessee's men's basketball team, was raised with basketball in his blood. As the story goes, Pat completed a recruiting visit in Pennsylvania with her water broken in 1990 and still made it back home to give birth so that her son would be born in Tennessee.

He played four games this past season, making the only shot he attempted all season -- a 3-pointer. He joined the team knowing he'd have to be a celebrity walk-on.

And now with the spotlight on his mother following Tuesday's announcement that Pat had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, it's become clear he will be very much a visible figure in her fight.

He sat by her during interviews, and according to Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, after accompanying his mom to the Mayo Clinic to receive the diagnosis, Tyler and Pat perhaps need each other now more than ever.
When everyone departs the Summitt household there are two people left, gazing at each other with a deep, indestructible understanding. Suddenly, something becomes clear: Summitt’s qualities and legacy have been vastly underrated. All these years, while she was coaching basketball and teaching other people’s daughters, she very quietly and without any fanfare, did a stupendous job of mothering her son.

“I followed her everywhere growing up,” Tyler says. “I followed her on bus rides, airplanes, in gyms and in locker rooms all over the country, and I thought she taught me everything she had. But she saved this lesson, to always come out and be open, to not be scared, to have the courage to face the truth like she’s doing.”

The boy, you realize with a start, is looking more like her all the time. He has the same scotch-red coloring, the same uplifted chin. The eyes are slightly different, a milder more limpid blue. But there is the same look in them, a quality. A candle.

On Tuesday, Tyler reminded everyone again what his mom means to him.

"Pat Summitt is not only my mom, but also an incredible role model and mentor for me," he said in a statement. "It seems like she teaches me something new every day, and she is currently giving me one of the best life lessons of all: to have the courage to be open, honest, and face the truth.

"This will be a new chapter for my mom and me, and we will continue to work as a team like we always have done. We both appreciate the continued support of the Lady Vol family. Our faith is in the Lord and we trust that God has a plan for us. Looking forward, nobody is as ready for the 2011-12 basketball season to start as much as the Summitt family. God Bless."
It's a day for prodigious offspring here at College Basketball Nation. First, it was the rising star of Marcus Jordan, son of Michael. Now it's the, um, "star" of Tyler Summitt, the son of legendary Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt, who has sprinkles of Jordan in his own tale.

In sixth grade, Summitt was cut from his school's basketball team. Eight years later, he's a member of Bruce Pearl's No. 17-ranked Tennessee squad, and he nailed a three in the waning moments of Tennessee's 86-56 win against Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday. Summitt isn't a Division-I basketball player, really; he's one of those walk-ons that doesn't see the court until the game is really, really out of hand. But he doesn't seem to care; his attitude is as realistic, and refreshing, as you could possibly ask. From the Knoxville News-Sentinel:
"The best part of this for me is just being on the team with heavily recruited guys like Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris,'' Summitt said. "I don't care if I play another minute. I just want to give my all in practice and be a part of the team.''

"I remember I was crying when I came home [after being cut in sixth grade], and Mom walked into the room with two basketballs, one under each arm,'' he said. "She said 'if you wear these basketballs out, you will make the team.'

"Every year she would make me write down my goals, and at the bottom of every list, I always wrote I wanted to be a Tennessee walk-on. It's always been my dream.''

It's a cool story, and the News-Sentinel's accompanying photo -- Summitt being mauled by much-taller teammates Brian Williams, Cameron Tatum and Renaldo Woolridge after his three Tuesday night -- reinforces the coolness. Tyler Summitt's dream was to be a walk-on at Tennessee. For the son of Pat Summitt, it seems like a modest dream, but he's living it. How many of us get to say that?

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