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#Elite Player Spotlight: Tyon Grant-Foster (Kansas)

By Reese Holliday (@TMCvision)

They try to attach negative connotations to junior college basketball for various reasons, but the it’s considered as one of the most important basketball divisions at the collegiate level.The first edition of our #elite player spotlight, we put the attention on a young man named Tyon Grant-Foster. A name you may not know yet, but you will soon.

Grant-Foster hails from Kansas City, Kansas and stands at 6 feet 7 inches with a 7 foot 1 inch wingspan. Coming out of high school in 2018, he wasn’t known as some heralded prospect in his own city, let alone the region. After he considered a prep year, Tyon just did two years of JUCO at Indian Hills Community College, where he received a full ride scholarship. Even though Tyon’s name wasn’t one that rung bells yet, the people who could see him compete always spoke of how much potential oozed from the baby-faced kid from Wyandotte County.

In his freshman stint at Indian Hills CC, Tyon averaged 8.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG while shooting 38.3% from the field and 29.7% from the 3. These numbers may seem pedestrian at first glance, but this was a tale of two seasons. The more games that were played, the better Tyon’s performances became. His FG% and 3FG% raised considerably by the time conference play rolled around and Tyon was producing at a high level in a limited role. Indian Hills finished with a 27–7 record that ranked them 12th in the country before suffering their season ending defeat in the NJCAA Tournament to Florida Southwestern. Tyon finished his freshman year on a firm note against the #5 team in America. Totaling 25 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks on the biggest stage in junior college basketball.

Tyon saw a spike in his recruitment after the season ended. During that year he had been in contact with several schools. But once the offseason came rolling around, his phone began ringing off the hook with high major schools. In just a matter of months he had garnered offers from schools all across the country from the likes of St. John’s Oregon, LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma St, Miami, Texas and a slew of others. But there was one offer that stood out from the rest.

“Growing up as a kid from KCK, we all dream about being able to play at KU one day. Dudes from over here rarely get the opportunity to go play at a high level D1. So when Bill Self called me and offered a scholarship to come be a Jayhawk, it felt completely different from every other offer I had gotten before that.”

Roughly two months after receiving the offer, Tyon committed to Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks on his official visit in November 2019. He wasted no time. He knew what he wanted. “I saw everything I needed to see. I was awarded the opportunity to be a symbol of hope for young guys from my city. Show them that if they work, they can be at KU one day. Or wherever it is they want to end up.”

Prior to the start of his sophomore campaign, Tyon was the 2nd best JUCO basketball prospect in the country by jucorecruiting.com and a preseason first-team All-American by Street and Smith Magazine. Having already decided on where he was going to attend school the following year, Tyon could turn all of his focus to his last season at Indian Hills and academics. When asked what his season goals were for his sophomore season, Grant-Foster said simply, “A national championship.”

He was no longer a hidden gym on the junior college scene at this point. And with his newfound status from being a Kansas commitment raised the expectations even higher than ever. An early season matchup against John A. Logan Community College which featured the #1 ranked JUCO player in the nation Jay Scrubb was circled on the calendar immediately once they announced it.

“This is the guy everyone says is going to get drafted. I’ve seen the highlight tapes. People saying he’s the best guy in JUCO. I respect it, but that means nothing to me. I was never ranked a day in my life until right now. Winning the game was the only goal.” And with upward of double digit NBA scouts in attendance, the Indian Hills Warriors did just that. Not only did Grant-Foster win the matchup with Scrubb, but he completely stole the spotlight with a 24 point 5 rebound performance on 57% shooting from the field.

From then on, Indian Hills won 29 of their next 32 games on the way to a 30–3 record for the 2019–20 season. They kept that momentum rolling into the Region XI championships where they averaged a 19.6 point differential per game and also earned them an automatic bid to the NJCAA National tournament. Tyon led the way by doubling his per game output from his freshman season. Averaging 16.5 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game while upping his shooting percentages to 48.3% from the field and 33.5% from the 3.

The production elevated to an even higher level once regular season play ended. In the 3 Region XI playoff games, Tyon posted averages of 20.3 points and 7 rebounds per game along with a championship game explosion where he went for 29 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. With Indian Hills being an overwhelming favorite to win the National Championship, they entered the tournament with a #2 overall seed.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit before the ball could even touch the floor in Hutchinson Sports Arena. Even though his goals of winning a national championship were not met, Tyon still felt like a lot was accomplished and he grew on and off the court. I’m sure being honorably mentioned as a JUCO All-American wasn’t half bad either.

With graduating from Indian Hills CC and moving on to the University of Kansas, it's starting from scratch. Those rankings and awards don’t matter anymore, and Tyon knows that.

“I am at one of the best college programs in the country…in history. It isn’t going to be easy here, and I know that. I love that.”

A guy with his kind of talent isn’t the one to bet against. He will be a vital part to Kansas’ championship aspirations this season. Off the strength of a significant group of returners from the likes of Marcus Garrett, Christian Braun, Ochai Agbaji and incoming players such as Tyon, DuJuan Harris and Bryce Thompson, Kansas is coming into the 2020–21 season with a top 10 preseason ranking. They will be a heavy favorite come tournament time and don’t be shocked if Tyon Grant-Foster is the reason.

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Trevor Trout

@totaltroutmove Just a guy with some thoughts, a phone, and some pretty dope peers.