Friday night’s game against Pacific contained two stories for Cal. The first is reflected by the scoreboard, an 87-79 loss. The Tigers shot all over the Bears’ defense, making half of their 26 attempts from three-point range. Pacific dominated Cal in the final ten minutes of play, sending the home crowd in Haas Pavilion packing.
But the larger story of this game was the arrival of Jaylon Tyson. The junior wing was finally granted eligibility to play on Thursday and put up an excellent performance the very next day. He scored 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out three assists in the process.
Watching Tyson on the court correlated to an interview of Denver Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth by Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer, listing his four pillars for identifying pro-level talent. Tyson can bring all of these to the Bears.
Tyson can bully opposing guards with his 6’7”, 215-pound frame.
It never felt like Tyson was forcing the issue offensively. He set up fast breaks with his passing and made good decisions in the pick-and-roll. On defense, he showed the same intelligence. Tyson was constantly communicating, anticipating rotations and helping at the rim. He also was able to jump into Pacific’s passing lanes for two steals.
Absence of skill deficiencies
Tyson shot over 40% from three on 3.5 attempts per game in his breakout 2023 season at Texas Tech. He attacks the rim, rebounds, defends and makes good decisions with the ball. The junior is a jack of all trades.
This is the most intangible of Calvin Booth’s pillars for basketball success. There’s no stat for character. But Tyson’s mere presence on this Bears team is a testament to his perseverance. He transferred from Texas Tech with disgusting stories about the racism he faced from his coaching staff. And after the NCAA denied his first appeal for eligibility, his status to play at all this season was in jeopardy.
“Went through a lot,” Tyson said after the game. “A lot of bumps and bruises throughout the way, you know, a lot of tears … Not knowing what I was going to do this year, not knowing if I’ll be able to put the uniform on.”
The new wing has already developed a relationship with Cal head coach Mark Madsen, who he called the best coach he has ever had. Madsen also raved about Tyson’s presence.
“The leadership, the presence and the veteran influence is huge for our team. And Jaylon Tyson brings that,” Madsen said.
Tyson’s debut culminated in an 18-5 run toward the beginning of the second half. In that stretch of less than five minutes, Tyson made all three field goal attempts for seven points, plus two rebounds, an assist and a steal. But on his final score of the stretch, a transition layup, he went down in pain. Haas Pavilion went silent. It seemed too cruel to be true.
Turns out, it was too cruel to be true. Tyson told reporters he was simply dealing with cramps in both legs as the Bears dodged any nightmare scenario. He briefly returned later in the fourth quarter but was pulled after continuing to experience clear discomfort. Cal fans can feel optimistic about the fact that Pacific pulled off their comeback after Tyson went down.
Two other new transfers also put up big numbers for the Bears. Jalen Cone showed off his behind-the-arc scoring arsenal with 22 points, and Fardaws Aimaq scored 18 and blocked three shots.
Cal will look for its second win at home and on the season Monday against CSU Bakersfield.