Since senior Tyler McGrath came to UC San Diego as a freshman, his basketball trajectory has clearly been on an upward path. The rise of the Tritons' outside shooting specialist was punctuated last Saturday night with a 33-point performance at the Dixie State Classic in St. George, UT. His steady progress has not escaped UCSD Head Coach Chris Carlson. "Tyler is a very proud and determined individual and I think those traits not only push him but flow down to our team every day," said Carlson. "I am proud of how far he has come as a player and he's a joy to coach." McGrath averaged 10.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest as a junior, knocking down 47 treys. The Camarillo native recently took time to talk about his career, his teammates and his hopes for the coming season.
Q-Thirty-three points-a career high-against Fresno Pacific last Saturday.
Your previous career high had been 21. What was happening out there that made an outburst like that possible?
McGRATH-We had a very disappointing loss the night before where we were up big most of the game and let it slip away down the stretch. I had a poor shooting night and I felt that my poor performance was main reason for the let down. Coach (Gerred) Link talked to me after the loss and really encouraged me and gave me confidence going into the game against Fresno Pacific. I really wanted to come out strong the next night and play well for my teammates and coaches.
Q-Is that something we can expect to see with any regularity this season?
McGRATH-I expect to play well this season. I, personally, as well as the team have put the time in to be successful this season. We have a number of very talented offensive players that can really shoot the ball so it can really be any number of guys that can step up and have a big night when necessary.
Q-When things are going right like that, do you know instinctively how many points you're scoring or is it more like you look at the box score after the game and go "wow, where did those 33 points come from?"
McGRATH-Usually I never really know how many points I have. I don't keep track in my head personally. Most arenas keep point totals for individual players on the main scoreboard for everyone to see. But when it's your night the basket gets huge and it seems like anything and everything you throw up goes in. Honestly, I was more concerned about getting the win. It was a big bounce back game for our team and I wanted to do everything I could to make sure we got out of there with a victory.
Q-From a team perspective, how would you evaluate your first two games?
What do you like most about this year's UC San Diego team?
McGRATH-I've seen a lot of very positive things from our first two games.
We still have yet to put together a 40-minute effort but our coaching staff is working really hard in practice to get us there. We have changed a lot of what we do offensively to take advantage of our versatility. The thing I like most though is how hard the team is playing and how motivated we have been this year to make the most of this season.
Q-You're a player who shows a lot of emotion on the court. How does that work for you? Has it ever worked against you? Have you changed the way you've channeled it over the course of your career?
McGRATH-It's always been a part of my game and who I am as a player. I'm usually smaller then the guy I'm guarding so I have to want the ball even more then my opponent if I want to succeed. I just love the competition and like to play hard for my school and teammates. If anything my passion has increased over my time here and I hope I pass some of it on to the younger guys. College basketball is a grind. The average fan doesn't know how much work goes into the game before we even put the jerseys on. You have to enjoy the process not just the results.
Q-After not playing much as a freshman, you got 24 minutes a game as a sophomore reserve and then started all 27 games last season. Is there a big difference between starting and coming off the bench? What are the benefits of each?
McGRATH-I've always been ready to play. I made my first 9 shots as a freshman coming into the game in mainly garbage time. Being ready to play is more mental than it is physical. Staying involved in the game mentally even if your chances of playing are low is still very important.
You never know when it could be your turn and you want to be ready to show what you're capable of. I personally don't put much emphasis on starting or not starting. Being ready to play both physically and mentally is what matters.As long as you are working hard and progressing as a player that's all you can control and the rest will take care of itself.
Q-What part of your game has progressed the most since you arrived at UCSD?
McGRATH-Without a doubt my defense has improved the most. I've always had the ability to shoot and score the basketball but I needed a lot of work on the other side of the ball. Luckily I've been blessed with gifted coaches that have taught me the importance of defense and turned my weakness into one of my strongest points as a player.
Q-During the summer, what do you typically do to prepare for the next season? Was there a particular area you focused on this past summer and where do you hope to see the most improvement this season?
McGRATH-During the summer I like to play as much as I possibly can. Either in various men's leagues or rec gyms that have open run I just love to play and work on my game in competitive environments. This past summer I really focused on my ball handling because I wanted to be more comfortable with the ball and making plays inside the three-point line.
Q-What do you consider the greatest strength of Head Coach Chris Carlson?
McGRATH-Coach is a really positive person and he extends his personality into his coaching. He really cares for his players on and off the court and is a coach that players really want to work hard for. Once again, the college basketball season is a marathon not a sprint and coach has a unique ability to keep things fresh throughout the season.
Q-You led UCSD in three-pointers made last season. What makes a great outside shooter?
McGRATH-For me, it was my dad. My dad has a real eye for shooting and has coached me my entire life. Anybody can have a hot night but being able to consistently make shots goes back to the work you do in your preparation. Practicing the right way builds confidence and confidence is what separates the good shooters from the great ones.
Q-When you're in a shooting slump, what do you do to try to pull yourself out of it?
McGRATH-I try to get to the free throw line. Once I'm at the line I can take my time to fall back on my routine and my mechanics. Seeing the ball go through the net twice builds your confidence back up.
Q-Which one of your teammates has the single skill you most wish you had?
McGRATH-I want the James McCann spin move. He creates so much space with his spin dribble that it opens up so many options for our his game. He can stop and shoot, survey the floor and hit the open man, or get all the way to the rim. I've never seen anyone at any level use the spin dribble as effectively as he does.
Q-You went to high school at Oaks Christian, the same school as recently graduated All-American Chelsea Carlisle of the Triton Women's Basketball team. Ever go one-one-one with her? If so, what was the result? If not, what would the strategy be?
McGRATH-Yeah, Chelsea and I go way back. She is an amazing player and leader who everyone looks up to. I'm really excited that she decided to stay and coach at UC San Diego. She has a great basketball mind. I've stayed far away from any one-on-one games because I don't think I would like the result.
Q-You've said that the Los Angeles Lakers are your team in the NBA. What's going on there? Are you happy with the hiring of Coach Mike D'Antoni?
McGRATH-I think my Lakers are doing just fine. It takes time to develop chemistry and for players to figure out their roles. I was expecting this season to be a wash for the Lakers anyway so any success they have would be great. I like the D'Antoni hire and I think that if the players buy into his system they will be back on top again.
Q-Breakfast burritos are apparently the meal of choice. How long before a game would you have to eat one? What are some of your "go to" spots in San Diego?
McGRATH-I wouldn't go near a breakfast burrito before a game not a chance.
It would be tempting though. Living in San Diego has grown my love for burritos into a full out obsession. The best burrito has to be from Los Primos off Regents and Nobel.
Q-What's one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
McGRATH-I hate tomatoes more than anything in this world. Disgusting.
Q-You're in line to get a political science degree from UCSD. What kind of career plans do you have?
McGRATH-I want to take some time off after I graduate to find out what is important to me and what I really enjoy doing. I want to enjoy my job and I don't want to rush into anything because it was the best option at the time. So ask me that question in another year or so and hopefully I'll have a better answer.
Q-UCSD was picked by conference coaches to finish 11th in 2012-13. How accurate do you think that prediction will turn out? Why?
McGRATH-I think we are really going to surprise the league this year. We lost so many close games last year which really motivated our group this entire off season. I'm excited for the success we are going to have this year.
Q-Before you graduate, what's one thing you would like to accomplish on the basketball court? One thing you would like to accomplish off the basketball court?McGRATH-I want to have a 10-rebound game this season. I've been close a couple of times but I really want to make my rebounding a point of emphasis this year to help out our big guys down low. Off the court I really want to enjoy my last year of college and the friendships I've made and make the most of the time I have left.
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