Forest Hills High boys basketball coach Matt Sides said he knew that junior guard Nas Tyson was going to be special when he met him in fifth grade about six years ago.
Tyson was one of the younger kids at his summer camp, and he was one of the best players there. But it wasn’t Tyson’s talent that stood out the most to the coach.
“I had a chance to meet him and what jumped out to me, at first, was, ‘Man, this kid’s good,’” Sides said. “I looked at his age and he was a fifth-grader out there playing with seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders. He won camper of the week, but not because he was one of the better players, which he was. He was the kid with the highest character at the camp.”
Whenever coaches spoke, Tyson would look them in the eyes. He always said, “Yes sir,” and he was first in every line.
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“It made a huge impression on me,” Sides said. “I knew then that kid had a chance to be special because of who he was as a person.”
Turns out that Sides was right.
Tyson, now 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, is a Division I recruited centerpiece of a very good Yellow Jackets team. Forest Hills has reached the N.C. 2A semifinals the past two seasons and has won 54 games in that time. So with four starters back this season, there’s really only one goal left – win state.
And Forest Hills has never won a state championship. The Yellow Jackets made the finals once, falling 70-65 to old Hildebran High, out of Burke County, in the 1964 N.C. 2A finals.
Tyson, who averaged 21 points and eight rebounds per game last season, thinks this is the team to make history and win a first state ring. He holds a scholarship offer from Hampton and has interest from several Southern Conference and Big South Schools.
Sides thinks a move from shooting guard to point guard this year will help Tyson’s recruitment, since he’s considered short for a Division I shooting guard.
“It’s going to be a little difficult” to move to the point guard position, Tyson said, “but I think I can handle it. I’ve just got to get used to the spot and have to run faster and harder than I usually have to.”
Sides said he still expects Tyson to score, however.
“He’s not your stereotypical point guard that’s going to blow by you and get to the rim,” Sides said. “He’s not a jitterbug point guard. He’s certainly a scoring point guard, but a guy who has good feel and knows how to get his teammates involved. But we won’t keep him there exclusively.”
Tyson shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season and had a memorable 40-point, 15-rebound game against 2A state power East Rutherford in the regional semifinals last February. But that’s not the game he remembers most.
He remember losing to North Surry, 83-73, in the state semifinals about a week later.
That’s the thing that is motivating Tyson, and his teammates, this season. Forest Hills wants more than the semifinals.
The Yellow Jackets want a whole lot more.
“We try to take it one game and one play at a time,” he said, “but our ultimate goal is really the state championship. But we pretty much have to work our tails off. Teams are going to definitely try to knock us down and we’re not backing off for anybody this year.”