Talking to the rookies

Off the court, Tyson Hinz admittedly has his faults.

Just like many other first-year university students living away from home for the first time, Hinz has a tough time keeping tidy. Scott Ring, Hinz’s long-time friend and teammate, can speak from experience. In addition to friends and teammates, Ring and Hinz can now also call themselves roommates, as the two Ravens rookies share a suite on residence at Carleton.

“He’s a little messy, and I’m not that messy,” Ring says, who has known Hinz for nearly 10 years.

One of his faults, however, certainly isn’t a lack of honesty.

“I can’t deny it,” Hinz says, when asked to respond to Ring’s allegations. “I’m not the cleanliest person.”

But on the court, many would suggest that Hinz’s game is almost pristine. And it is for this reason that the Orleans, Ont. native was one of the most sought-after recruits by Canadian university basketball teams this past year. In fact, McGill Redmen head coach Craig Norman says Hinz was one of the top three high school recruits in all of Canada.
Hinz says some universities sent him letters of interest, while others chose to speak with him in-person or over the phone.

Despite the widespread interest, Hinz narrowed his choices down to McGill and Carleton fairly early on in the process. And this should come as no surprise, considering his strong ties to both universities. Both Hinz’s parents, Will and Susan, are members of the basketball alumni at McGill. Whereas, Hinz played for the Ottawa Guardsmen the past three seasons, which he described as “Carleton’s club team.” Carleton Ravens head coach Dave Smart is the president of the club, and Ravens assistant coach Shawn McCleery was Hinz’s head coach with the Guardsmen.

Ring, who also played for the Guardsmen, committed to Carleton before Hinz had come to a decision, and encouraged his friend to do the same.

“I tried to convince him, but he was always leaving me on the edge,” he says. “Tyson sort of kept that stuff secret.”

While it would have been easy for Hinz to make a big deal out of all the attention he was receiving, he chose to take the opposite approach.

“I’m not a big fan of the spotlight; I just like to lay low,” he says. “If people have their opinions, of course I’ll listen to them, but I feel as though it’s my decision. And I’ll keep it mine.”

By all accounts, it was a tough decision at that.  

Norman, knowing that Hinz also excels in the classroom, tried to sell him on the combination of athletics and academics at McGill, rather than taking a more aggressive approach.

“When you’re recruiting against a guy like Dave Smart, it’s difficult because he has the best program in the country,” says Norman, who had identified Hinz as a player of interest four or five years ago. “I tried not to get into a battle of Carleton versus McGill. I tried to sell the benefits of McGill.”

“He was a blue-chip recruit,” he adds. “We tried to make him feel special.”

If Norman’s recruiting techniques didn’t make him feel special enough, Hinz would have also received a bursary from the Quebec government for being an out-of-province recruit if he chose McGill. Norman says his final meeting with Hinz was a brief one at the CIS National Championships in March. There, he also went out for breakfast with Hinz’s father, Will, where they “chit chatted for about two hours.”

It wasn’t until early April, however, when Norman got the final phone call from Hinz. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the call he was hoping for.

“He was very classy about it when he called me up,” Norman says. “I think it was a tough decision for him. We knew that if we got him, he would be unbelievable for our program. It was a disappointment that we didn’t land him but it was a pleasure dealing with him throughout the process.”

On the other hand, Smart had been building a relationship with Hinz and his family for a few years, according to Hinz’s high school basketball coach Jason Wren. Wren says Smart would regularly attend school games and tournaments to only watch Hinz, but also to provide encouragement.

“Dave Smart is an excellent recruiter,” Wren says. “He built a relationship with both Tyson and his parents when Tyson was younger, and continued to stay in contact as Tyson matured as both a person and an athlete.”
“[Hinz] probably wouldn't admit it, but I do think that the pressure to decide weighed heavily on him, [but] I think he handled the process well,” he adds.

Hinz says he opted for Carleton for a number of reasons. One, because he would be able to stay close to home, while still gaining the experience of living on his own. Further, he says he believed that Carleton’s coaching staff, led by Smart, was a little more experienced. And while he also spoke highly of the campus and facilities, perhaps above all, Smart’s main selling point was one that aligned with Hinz’s goals.

“It’s definitely a competitive atmosphere,” Hinz says, who is also a casual guitarist. “You’re going to get challenged, and that’s what I want. By getting challenged, you get better. That’s the overall goal of playing here, just to be the best that I can be.”

And Hinz has been working on being the best he can be for longer than he can remember. He says he started playing basketball “a while back,” but can’t pinpoint an exact age. He also tried soccer and hockey, but always came back to the family sport.  

Years later, after playing for the Gloucester Wolverines and the St. Matthew Tigers, it appears as though the hard work is starting to pay off. Last season, Hinz led St. Matthew to a provincial championship, and eight games into this season, he is averaging 13.3 points a game with Carleton. These types of numbers are almost unheard of for a freshman, especially considering the depth within Carleton’s system.

Ring, who has played with Hinz for most of the past decade, singles out one aspect of Hinz’s game as the most effective.

“He’s a very smart player and he can flat out score.”

At 6’6”, not only is Hinz effective in the paint, but also he can also shoot the ball from the outside and is a very underrated defender, according to both Ring and Norman.

“I’ll tell you what, at the end of last year when I saw him play, I thought that technically he might be the best kid that I’ve seen play at that age,” Norman says, who says if Hinz continues to develop at the pace he has, he could one day play for the Canadian national basketball team.

He’s a great player, but the thing is, he’s a pretty great kid and pretty great student as well,” adds Norman. “He’s one of these rare kids that come along once in a while.”

And it seems as though Smart and the Carleton Ravens land these rare kids year after year. No wonder they have won six of the last seven CIS National Championships. Not many of these kids come in and contribute right away like Hinz has, though. Many of them, including Ring, pay their dues on the practice roster for at least a year before they suit up with the big club.