Friday, July 8, 2016


Today we travel 25 minutes feet from my place in Lake Worth, FL to scenic Elev8 Prep here in sun-scorched South Florida. Now defunct though it is, this smurf-small school churned out a steady wave of ballers.

 Guys such as Kobie Eubanks (Texas A & M), Jamall Gregory, Tyson Jolly (Baylor), Levi Cook (DePaul), Rodney Culver (Ohio), Sandro Noel (Southern) and a surplus of others are notable alum.

Tyson Jolly's world was smothered by darkness. 

Putnam City West's then-junior guard went from one of Oklahoma City's most electrifying playmakers to a young man plagued by restless uncertainty. There was a dreadful fear of the unknown.

It had all unfolded so rapidly.

After sustaining a nasty spill during a game, the seven blood clots found in Jolly's lungs forced the 6-foot-4, 200-pound combination guard to shut it down for the season.

His legs were also hampered by this case of pulmonary embolism, rendering him immovable for the final 13 games of his junior year. 

 The timing couldn't have been worse. Putnam City West had reeled off 18 straight wins, with state championship aspirations well in view. 

Jolly now had to come to grips with a larger issue, one far greater than basketball. 

Pulmonary Embolism, which Jolly survived, was initially categorized as life-threatening for the teenager. Jolly has vivid recollections of lying in a hospital bed, struggling to manage the high-speed thoughts which circulated his mind uncontrollably. 

 They jolted him out of sleep, breaking into his solitary dreams relentlessly. 

When the thoughts intensified, he was up all hours of the night. Jolly, who didn't play organized basketball until the ninth grade, was just starting to flourish as a defensive catalyst and balanced scorer. 

He's made tweaks to his health. He bounced back completely as a senior, averaging 20.1 points, 9.1 boards, and 3.1 assists en route Putnam City West's berth in the class 6A state semifinal.

Jolly no longer entertains fear. Setbacks and adversity will likely never affect him as they will other people. Any piece of adversity he's faced since has been nothing like such a mind-rattling experience.

"It was a life-changing experience, especially not knowing if I was going to be able to play basketball again," said Jolly, who will spend a post-graduate year at Elev8 Sports Institute in Delray Beach, Fla. 

"It made me stronger. It made me more mentally focused. It made me more humble about the game. It made me appreciate being able to play everyday, being able to put in work everyday. It showed me basketball is not forever, it can be taken from you any day. Don't take it for granted at any time."

A combo guard buoyed by an innate knack for scoring on the drive, Jolly will adjust to operating a quick-paced offense rife with Division-I talent. 

The uptick in in-house competition at Elev8, where NBA players are regular guests alongside trainers Ganon Baker and Cody Toppert, has kept Jolly hungry for more. 

"Competing everyday in practice will help him contribute more right away (at Cal)," said Elev8 head coach Chad Myers. 

"He'll know what it takes to be successful against other elite players. He'll know how to practice every day. As far as him contributing at Cal, it could be dependent on some of the guys who are there. I think he's very aware that guys like Jaylen Brown could be there for a year. So he might have to step in and shoulder the load right away."