Top freshman PG begins RU career
Rutgers women’s basketball head coach C. Vivian Stringer looked to Arkansas for a point guard. She landed ESPNW HoopGurlz’ No. 1 point guard recruit in the country, Tyler Scaife.
Scaife was the Gatorade Arkansas Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the past two years and also ranked as the ninth-overall recruit by ESPNW HoopGurlz.
Playing for a Hall of Fame coach was an important factor in her decision to come to Rutgers over Kentucky, LSU, Ohio State and Tennessee. But Scaife also saw the great players that the program produced.
“[Stringer] puts great point guards into the league, great WNBA players,” Scaife said. “Also the family atmosphere here and it was just a new feel being on the East Coast.”
The five-star prospect adds another scoring threat to the Scarlet Knights. She averaged 23.7 points per game during her senior season.
“She can score, she can get to the rim, she makes some incredible passes and she’s got ice water in her veins,” Stringer said. “She really rises to the occasion when big games are there, so we’ll look forward to seeing her do that same thing.”
Earning AAC Preseason Rookie of the Year, the guard remains humble as the season begins.
“I understand what’s being put on my back, but at the same time I don’t want to overwhelm myself so I’m trying to stay focused within the team,” Scaife said.
April Sykes was the last Knight to earn this honor before the 2007-08 season.
Sykes had to learn to deal with the hype after she became the MVP of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association last year at the Final Four in New Orleans.
Stringer believes these accolades actually take some pressure off the highly touted freshman.
“I was telling her because she’s been tabbed as the Preseason Freshman of the Year that no one has to be surprised,” she said. “They just need to be really focused on her. So we just need a young lady that’s really focused, is able to take it, and so much of basketball is mental toughness.”
Scaife is adjusting to the offense, as she ran a similar one in high school.
“[The offense is] kind of a run-and-gun offense, but at the same time there are concepts you have to know at the time of what you do,” Scaife said. “It’s a lot more in-depth, that’s probably the biggest thing. [Stringer] really breaks it down for you. If you don’t understand, she’ll break it down to the T.”
The incoming freshman’s practice play impresses her teammates as well.
“Her style of play just fits our program so well,” said sophomore guard Briyona Canty. “I can’t wait to get on the court with her because our chemistry is already there, so it’s just a matter of time before the whole world sees how we can make a difference.”
Her teammates have noticed how well she takes coaching from both her peers and the coaching staff.
“On the court, she listens. She tries to give Coach Stringer exactly what she needs,” said junior forward Alexis Burke, who transferred from Illinois and sat out last year per NCAA transfer rules. “Any time she has a question, she asks anybody for help. Any feedback that Tyler gets from one of us, she takes in.”
As the team’s point guard, she admits she has much more to learn.
“Talking, that’s my biggest thing right now,” Scaife said. “I’m vocal more probably on the court while we’re playing, but in practice I’ve been working on talking more, being a leader. I have to work on defense too. [Stringer is] teaching me a lot more defensively, the way to position my body and stuff like that.”