Two years ago, Cameron Tyson was playing in a Final Four. Tyson was part of a resurgent University of Houston Men’s Basketball Program.
For the first time in 37 years, the Cougars made it to the Final Four. 37 years.
“Not too many people can say they’ve been to a Final Four,” Tyson said. “We had a great group of guys and created a bond over for life.”
Tyson, now an All-Conference redshirt junior at Seattle University, has a new dream in his home city.
Realistically, it’s unlikely that the Redhawks will advance to its first Final Four in 65 years. However, Tyson hopes to build the foundation for that to happen eventually in the Emerald City.
Seattle was a legendary college basketball program in the 1950s and 1960s. Most notably reaching the 1958 NCAA Championship Game with future Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor.
Seattle’s administration in the early 1980s made the decision to go from NCAA Division I to NAIA. The Redhawks returned to Division I 13 years ago. And the Redhawks are currently the reigning Western Athletic Conference (WAC) regular season champions.
Last season, Seattle U won 23 games for the first time since 1959.
They’ve been able to grow the program in recent years. The success is due in large part to hometown kids. Cam Tyson is one of those leading, growing up 20 miles away in Bothell.
“It’s been amazing playing for Seattle University,” Tyson said. “It’s everything I could ask for and more. I’m playing for something greater than myself at the end of the day. I’m representing Seattle.”
Tyson is averaging a team-high 18.8 points, along with 4.4 rebounds for the Redhawks (18-10). The Redhawks are looking to advance to their first NCAA Tournament since 1969 when they compete in the WAC Tournament next month in Las Vegas.
Second-year head coach Chris Victor was the associate head coach with the Redhawks when Tyson broke the Bothell High scoring record.
“He’s an amazing member of our program, an incredible teammate and he has one of the best work ethics I’ve ever coached,” Victor said. “He’s lifted the level of our program ever since he’s been here.”
Out of high school, Tyson chose to play for the University of Idaho – a Big Sky Conference program – five hours to the Southeast.
Tyson chose Idaho because he knew some of the players and heard good things about the school and the program. But UI’s lack of success on the court caused Tyson to re-evaluate his decision.
He entered the transfer portal and heard from Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson, who was steadily building the Cougars back into the powerhouse they were in the early 1980s.
Tyson loved the experience of playing at Houston.
“Coach Sampson held us to the highest standard – he knew how to get you there,” Tyson said. “He’s a great guy outside of basketball, and he really cares about all of his players.”
During his first year at UH, the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Cougars made the Final Four in Tyson’s second season. However, the entire tournament was played in a bubble due to COVID-19 precautions. Houston lost in the national semifinals to eventual NCAA Champion, Baylor.
Although he loved living in Houston and playing for a national-champion caliber program, the opportunity to return to Seattle was something that made sense to Tyson.
He was 10 years old when the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City. So, instead of having a favorite NBA Team, he would cheer for guys from Seattle like Jamal Crawford and Brandon Roy, who represented the city’s “strong hoop culture” on a professional level.
“I really wanted to help this program go in the right direction,” Tyson said.
It was that same love that drew him back to Seattle where he plays his home games before what is essentially a “Cameron Tyson Cheering Section.”
The Redhawks play their home games at Climate Pledge Arena, home to the NHL’s Seattle Kraken and presumably, to the Sonics whenever the NBA decides to grant Seattle a new NBA franchise.
Instead of worrying about Washington across town or Gonzaga across the state, Tyson said the Redhawks are focusing on building the program with their own blueprint and identity.
“Toughness and defense are non-negotiables in our program,” Tyson said. “We have a unique culture here.”
Tyson plans to play professional basketball and then become a school counselor. He’s already very involved in the community, according to Victor.
“He does Youth Camps and participates in activities off campus,” Victor said. “When we recruited him, we were well aware of what kind of person and what kind of player he is.”
Tyson’s older brother, D’Marques, played college basketball at the University of Portland and is an assistant on the Seattle staff.
“It’s been amazing having him in the program,” Tyson said. “Every day, he wants the best for me, and he has high expectations.”
D’ Marques is four years older. The siblings grew up playing lots of basketball together. But Cameron said coaching didn’t come into play until they were part of the Seattle program together.
Is there another run from the Tyson brothers and the Redhawks? Seattle U is 18-10 overall and 9-6 in WAC play. The Redhawks have three games remaining, two on the road, and then Senior Night to round out WAC play on March 3.
Can Tyson lead the Redhawks to the promised land? It would be the icing on the cake for a hometown hero.