I had the chance to sit down and talk with freshman guard Brad Tinsley on several topics prior to Wednesday's practice. As a high school senior, Tinsley was the Player of the Year in the state of Oregon, averaging 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. He is expected to contribute at both guard positions in his first season at Vanderbilt. The Commodores will open their 2008-09 campaign with a home exhibition against Alabama-Huntsville on November 9.
First off, Brad, how are things going so far at practice? "I think things are going really well. The team's coming together. Our team chemistry is really, really coming together. I think all of the guys are playing hard, and we're learning a lot of stuff because we're a young group. We're ready to get this season going."
Talk about the older members of the team working with the new guys. "I think both of our juniors George (Drake) and Jermaine (Beal) have been a great help, at least to me and I think with the team as well, just making sure guys are where they need to be, making the effort and intensity are there. I think it's been a big help to us rookies."
How's the adjustment been going from high school to college ball? "I think it's a huge jump. This might be the biggest jump, if not from the college to the pros. The fastness of the game, the intelligence and just everything that goes with it are way more intense and on a different level than high school. "
Where do you see yourself on the court this year, at the No. 1 and the No. 2 position? "Yes; both positions."
Do you feel more comfortable with either of them? "I think I feel comfortable playing both equally, whatever I have to do to make my team better I'm willing to do."
Do you see yourself logging a lot of minutes immediately? "Yeah, if that's what Coach Stallings feels that I need to do, then I'm definitely willing to step in and play some more minutes, but whatever is best for the team is fine with me."
Coach Stallings said that you could be the best shooter and passer on the team. How do you assess that, and do you think your better at one in particular? "I really don't know. I really don't pay attention to that stuff, but when it comes down to it all that matters is getting wins. You could be the best shooter, passer, best athlete on the team, but if you don't get wins it doesn't matter at all. It's a great acknowledgment for him to say that, and I'll take that and try to help my team win."
You're pretty humble right now. When you step on the court do you feel more confident with your game? "As a player in college and especially the SEC, you have to be somewhat confident in order to perform. I kind of turn it on once I get on the court, because your opponent doesn't care whether you're humble or you're cocky."
Have you had any freshmen moments that make you scratch your head yet? "Yeah, it's almost every day. As freshmen, it's pretty tough to learn all the stuff at once as we're going 100 miles per hour and the season's just around the corner. All of us are learning, we've come a long way, and I think that it'll be an awesome season."
When it's frustrating do the older guys pick you up? "Yeah, they're definitely awesome with that and just keeping us encouraged. A lot of us, including me, are making a lot of turnovers in practice, and Beal's always there to put his arm around me to say `Hey, don't worry about it. It happened to me, and it'll get better just as long as you keep working hard and learning the offense.'"
Why do you wear the No. 1? Did you have to get that number from Festus (Ezeli)? "I really didn't know what number I was going to be. I was No. 4 in high school, and I kind of wanted to change when I got into college. So, I just picked No. 1. There's no significance to it, and I think Festus wanted to switch to No. 3 before I picked mine."
Why did you choose to come to Vanderbilt? "I think the biggest reason was the coaching staff. I really had a strong connection with the coaching staff, every single one of them. And then when I got here, I felt another strong connection with the players, and it just went from there."
How's the adjustment going from Oregon to Tennessee? "It's been a huge adjustment. The South is a polar opposite from the Northwest, but it's been a great transition. All of the guys and the coaches have helped me all the way through it. It's a lot different. I haven't really been around the East coast or the South, unless it was for an AAU tournament or something. So, it's definitely a big transition, but I think I'm handling it well."
What do you miss most about back home? "My family."
Can you see them making the trip down here? "Yeah, my parents are trying to get a house, and stay for the season. So, that would be nice."
You also played baseball in high school. Did you have any thoughts on playing collegiate baseball? Was there a big decision? "Maybe, there was the idea of that, but I don't even know if I'm good enough to play. It's a tough league in baseball, so I don't even know if I'm good enough or not."
The media guide says that your favorite meal to cook is shrimp alfredo. Are you a pretty good cook? "Back at home I used to try to cook once a week for my family. That was my main dish that I liked to cook. I just like providing for other people, helping other people out. It's kind of become a little bit of a hobby of mine. I'm not that good to where I could make a big-time five star meal, but I'm getting there."
Have you cooked for anyone on the team yet? "Not yet."
Coach Stallings said that there are a lot of people on the squad with an others-first attitude rather than a me-first attitude. Have you seen that? "Definitely. If you're a player, coach or just a spectator I think you can see that within the first couple of minutes of practice or a game. You can tell that there aren't any selfish guys on this team, and everyone just wants to win and contribute to the team."
What are you other hobbies off of the court? "Just hanging out with friends. Once basketball's started you don't have time for the other stuff."
What's something that Commodore fans might not know about you? "I can play the piano. I like to play the piano. I took lessons when I was younger, and that's been a little hobby of mine."
Does singing go along with it? "No, I'm a terrible singer. I just stick to the keys."
What type of music do you play? "Classical."
Who are you rooming with right now, and how has that gone? "Steve (Tchiengang). It's been awesome, especially connecting with a person from a different country. It's very humbling, and it kind of gives you a sense of how he grew up, and what different things he went through compared to what I went through. It's just awesome that we can connect with different stuff. We're best of friends, and we feel like we could tell each other anything."
Who decides what you watch on TV? "It's his TV. He had the TV in the room, but I use the controller most of the time. He's not a big TV watcher."
Finally, how excited are you for the first exhibition game? "I am crazy excited. I cannot wait. I just want to play, especially when you're deep into practice. All of the guys just want to play. I think that everyone's anxious for it, and I think we're all ready for it."
VIDEO OF THE DAY
I really wanted to see Tampa Bay and David Price win the World Series, but unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be as the Rays fell to Philadelphia in five games.
The only good thing that can be taken from the loss?
I was told by a credible source that sometime during the postgame celebration,
Philly's in-game music coordinator blared Sammy Hagar's "Winner Takes It All" over the loudspeakers.
It's best known for being the guitar-heavy pump up song in the final scene of Stallone's arm wrestling gem Over the Top.
(and you know how I feel about that movie).
I just have to say brilliant choice, man.
You could have stuck with playing generic victory songs across the board, but you didn't give in to peer pressure.
You bucked the norm and brought something much more inspiring and original.
You, my friend, are a hero.
So in honor of you, whoever you are, I now present the video of the day. I may have posted it before in an old blog, but it doesn't matter. It's worth it.