By Joseph Garcia
An abundance of finalities took place on Tuesday when senior Tyler Eyre put pen to paper in the Liberty Hill High School Library to play basketball for William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
He was the final Liberty Hill senior to sign his national letter of intent to play college basketball from this year’s team. He was the final Liberty Hill athlete to sign his NLI in 2013. But he was also the last Liberty Hill athlete to perform the life-changing, exciting ceremony in the old LHHS Library.
For a student athlete whose only year at LHHS was his senior year, Eyre certainly left a big impact on the school’s history.
“It’s crazy thinking of all the people who have signed (in this room) and gone off to do really well in college,” Eyre said. “To think that I am the last to sign at this school is a good feeling. It’s been a joy to come here.”
Tuesday’s signing felt great for Eyre once it was official. He can finally say he is a college basketball player.
“It feels really good,” he said. “I’ve always told my family that I want to play college basketball and it feels really good to be able to sign and tell them that I made it and was able to get an athletic scholarship.”
Last season as a junior, Eyre played on a senior-laden Vandegrift High School team that made the 4A playoffs. The Vipers did not make it nearly as far as Liberty Hill, losing in the second round of the playoffs and Eyre thought he would be back for his senior season.
He is sure glad he did not.
“Here, basketball is more important for the school,” Eyre said. “Nobody really cared about basketball at Vandegrift. Basketball here is a big deal.”
Eyre did not just find a new home in the area; he also inherited a new family with its patriarch being Liberty Hill basketball Coach Barry Boren. Boren not only accepted him immediately, but began scheming for the 6-3 forward as soon as he knew the transfer was imminent.
Now after another 30-win season, Boren wishes Eyre could have gotten to Liberty Hill earlier. He is proud of the 18-year old for making what Eyre described as a successful year.
“I just looked at the yearbook today and the quote with his name said he would consider this year a success if he were able to continue to play basketball out of high school,” Boren said. “I said to him, ‘how ironic it was that he said that.’ That was the quote. This is a testament to him sticking to what he wanted. He’s worked hard. It speaks to a kid working towards a goal and achieving it.”
Eyre said the most important thing he took away from Coach Boren was to take care of the basketball.
“Value every possession,” he said. “You never know when one possession will came back to make the difference.”
Eyre plans to value each possession in every game. But he will also embrace the opportunity to receive a great education on a scholarship.
He said he really likes the way William Penn University’s education system runs. With the institution’s focus on leadership and developing future business managers, it seemed like it was a “good fit” for him.
For months, Eyre was considering playing his college ball at Southwestern University in nearby Georgetown. Eyre said his mother, Jennifer, certainly would have appreciated it, but William Penn was just the better fit for him.
The head basketball coach, John Henry, seemed to want Eyre just as much.
“She kept on begging me to go to Southwestern in Georgetown,” he explained. “William Penn had been sending me letters since before the basketball season. I kept getting these hand-written letters from (Coach John Henry). He would draw a picture of a basketball and say come play basketball at William Penn, come score buckets at William Penn.
“I always had them in the back of my head. I was looking at a bunch of other schools and then when I heard about William Penn and how well they were doing, for a while they were 20-1 and they finished the season 34-4. They were the national runner-up for NAIA and their championship game was on CBS,” he said.
Information Technologies will be Eyre’s major focus of study at William Penn. He not only hopes to make an impact on the basketball court for the Statesmen, but he also would like to tackle some global issues with the education he receives from the university.
“I want to go into the technology field and be able to work on programming cars. Computers are becoming a more important part of cars and I’d like to be able to make a difference in the field of economy cars so we can slow down the world crisis a little bit and not make it such a big deal to go get a gallon of gas.”
Eyre is the second Panther to sign with a school in Iowa this year as teammate Blake Danielak, who was on hand Tuesday afternoon, signed with Drake University, located in Des Moines. The schools are separated by less than 60 miles, which makes a trip to Iowa next season doable for Boren to catch his now-former players on the same trip.
Eyre will visit the campus following graduation. With his transfer to Liberty Hill just this year, Coach Boren feels Eyre will thrive at the university in Iowa.
“Because he has changed schools before, he is a little better equipped than some might be to make an adjustment somewhere new. It’s an opportunity and he’s going to seize that. I’m looking forward to seeing good things from him,” Boren said.