Garfield's Tucker Haymond is brilliant on court, in classroom
The straight-A student has been a revelation as a junior for the Bulldogs, becoming KingCo 4A MVP and leader of a team with state-title hopes.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle Times reporters pick the championship
Mason Kelley's picks
Boys — Garfield 65, Bothell 58
Girls — Mount Rainier 60, Skyview 57
Sandy Ringer's picks
Boys — Davis 62, Garfield 59
Girls — Mount Rainier 52, Woodinville 51
Tucker Haymond doesn't remember how it happened. But there he was, standing in a gym watching The Home Team — Seattle's hoops heroes — run the floor.
He was captivated. Too young to play, he studied Jamal Crawford and Brandon Roy like their games were his favorite class.
"I was just happy to be in the gym with them," Haymond said.
If The Home Team was working out, Haymond was there. He became an unofficial ball boy.
That was a few years ago. Haymond is no longer on the sideline. He's in the game. Garfield's 6-foot-5 junior is the premier piece of a state-title contender.
"I always thought I could play with them," said Haymond, who leads the third-ranked Bulldogs into Thursday's 9 p.m. Class 4A quarterfinal matchup with No. 2 Central Valley of Spokane. "Even when I was younger, I would always wonder why I wasn't on the court. Since I was with them, I thought I was just as big as they were."
During his freshman and sophomore seasons at Garfield, Haymond was a role player. He started a few games his first year, but spent most of his time studying the Bulldogs' system. He was always in the gym, working with local legend Joyce Walker.
"She totally transformed my game," Haymond said.
As a sophomore, the Bulldogs were Tony Wroten Jr.'s team. Haymond understood that. He continued to grow his game.
"I tried to nitpick at some stuff that he did to make him successful, as far as leadership and on the court," Haymond said. "I tried to put that in my game."
This year, Haymond has been a revelation. He was named the KingCo 4A Conference MVP, averaging a double-double (22 points and 10 rebounds). He scores inside and out, crashes the glass and creates opportunities for teammates.
Garfield coach Ed Haskins said he expected nothing less from Haymond.
"It's pretty simple, no doubt about it," Haskins said. "I know the work he's put in, in the offseason. I know Tucker feeds off proving something, and he still feels like he has a lot to prove."
Over the years Haymond has cultivated his confidence through hours in the gym. The time invested and well-rounded game it produced led to Crawford inviting Haymond to play in his pro-am this summer, joining a team with former Garfield and Washington standout Will Conroy and Franklin product Alvin Snow.
"It brought a whole new dimension to my game," Haymond said. "It made me so much better."
In addition to being the Bulldogs' leading scorer, he sets an example in the classroom. He's a 4.0 student.
"I have never, in 14 years of coaching, coached a kid who was my best player and was also a straight-A student," Haskins said. "That, for me, epitomizes what a student-athlete is.
"He's thriving. He's not surviving."
The Bulldogs are headed to the state tournament for the second straight year, looking to improve on last season's third-place finish.
"Last year, we thought we were going to win," Haymond said. "It's not always the top-ranked team. It's the team with the best chemistry that comes in with the will to win it that night."
The Bulldogs are building championship-caliber chemistry. Haymond leads the way, setting the standard on the floor and in the classroom.
"That's my dude," junior forward Tre'Vaunte' Williams said. "He will have your back. He's one guy you can depend on. That's the man right there."
Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org