OXFORD, Ohio - With Kent State leading Miami 56-54 with 4:21 left in the game, Miami's Tyler Dierkers had the ball just outside the lane. He jumped up and shot the ball, it left his hand, kissed the glass and went through the net.
The game was now tied at 56-56 and it was just another clutch shot that Dierkers makes during a typical game. Sunday night, Dierkers finished a double-double with a solid 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Miami won this game 68-63 behind Michael Bramos' 34 points and the contributions by Dierkers.
When you think of star players in the Mid-American Conference you think of Miami's Michael Bramos, Ohio's Jerome Tillman, Kent State's Al Fisher or maybe Darion Anderson of Northern Illinois.
All of those guys are big scorers. But guys that set the screens, make the critical passes, pull down the offensive rebound tend to be quiet players and do not get the headlines.
Tyler Dierkers is one of those quiet players that scores loud points. On Sunday, in addition to the jumper to tie the game late in the second half, he hit a big 3-pointer to put the game away by putting the RedHawks up by seven points with 1:46 left.
"He can score six or eight points and they tend to be loud. They are the ones you remember," said Kent State coach Geno Ford. "He tipped a couple of balls and kept them alive on the offensive glass early. We lost him around the rim a couple of time and he caught it and finished. Then he hit the 3-pointer which was the game. That was the dagger shot right there."
Long-time Miami play-by-play announcer Steve Baker really likes how hard Dierkers works at the little things like passing and his footwork.
He said, "Dierkers is one of the better post defenders in the MAC. He really works at the things that make him good. He passes the ball really well for a big guy. I really like the way he works around the basket, he does a lot of little things."
Dierkers averages 9.2 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game which are not that different from the 13 ppg and 8 rpg he averaged at Moeller High School his senior year in Cincinnati. He played on a very, very good high school team with several other good players that went on to play Division I basketball, so learning to do things other than scoring helped him to fit in on that team and has helped him become an important piece of this Miami basketball team.
Dierkers sees his assets as being versatile, being able to do several things to help the team and understanding what needs to be done in a given situation to help his team get the win.
"I see myself as doing a little bit of everything, handling the ball, shooting, bang down low, which has been more my calling card this year. That includes getting in there down low trying to get rebounds and put-backs. I try to understand the game and help our team however I need to, to get the win." explained Dierkers.
Being a smart player, Dierkers tries to pick up things from his opponents to get an edge during the game.
He said, "It is something that comes from many years of playing and studying the game. It is putting yourself in there and letting yourself become part of the game. You try to notice little tendencies in opposing players. Sometimes it gets you in trouble because you guess wrong, but for the most part I have been able to capitalize on my opponent's mistakes."
Sometimes his coach, Charlie Coles sees things a little differently when he is on defense.
"He is a very smart defender as a team defender. I think he is as not good as an individual defender. I think he is a guy that if he sees something going over there he can break it up. Now sometimes he has trouble stopping his guy, explained Coles. "I told him at halftime he should be in the Peace Corps, then, he could go around helping everybody. He is guarding every man out there but his own man. That was my sarcastic way of dealing with him."
Upon reflection Dierkers thinks his defense could improve a little to match his offense. "I think my offense has picked up a little this year, but my defense has maybe slacked off a little this year," he said. "I try to go out early and establish myself offensively and defensively, trying to do whatever the team needs. Sometimes you need to take a step back to figure what is going on in the game and go from there."
Aside from an occasional defensive lapse Coles enjoys coaching him and sees a little bit of himself in Dierkers. "He is a great person. He reminds me a little bit of me. Gosh I don't know if I can say this (lowering his voice to a whisper) but he is a smart ass, just like me. Those guys are always good to coach because they keep you on your toes," said Coles. "He is a team player and an interesting guy, unselfish and players like him and that is the important thing. I wouldn't call him headstrong as much as I would call him creative. He does things a little bit different."
Cole enjoys the give and take that goes on between himself and Dierkers.
"I like him far more than he thinks I do, but I am not going to tell him I like him because I think that wouldn't be as fun. I enjoy getting on him," said Coles with a chuckle.
I wanted to know from Coles something that people don't realize about him and he gave me two things. "His teachers at Moeller actually adored him. I don't see how any teacher would adore him. He would seem like a guy that would be into things, but I met two teachers at Moeller that swear by him, a wonderful kid," said Coles.
The other thing Coles mentioned was that he is very good at ball reversal, which as he explained it involves your team attacking on one side of the court and then reversing and immediately attacking on the other side.
Something I doubt many fans pick up.
Back to the smart player aspect of Dierkers. Ford thinks he is very smart and that makes other players better.
"Tyler has the highest basketball IQ of any front court player in our league. He always seems to be in the right place. When you watch tape he is always where he should be to make a play," explained Ford. "He is not a guy who is a catch-it- and-clear-it-out-for-him type of player. He finds a way to not only make other players better, but also be very, very productive within the confines of what they are trying to do offensively."
"He thinks a turnover is a sandwich that you get uptown."