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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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June 8, 2024

Tough as ‘Boots’

Tyrece Radford FINISHED.png

From being overlooked as a high school prospect, to traveling nearly 900 miles across the country to play college basketball just for his coach to take another job before he had played a minute, the Aggies have a guard with something to prove in 2022.
The Texas A&M men’s basketball team took significant swings toward transfers in the 2021 offseason, adding seven players from the transfer portal alone. While several of those transfers have seen significant playing time in the 2021-22 season, one has a unique connection to the coaching staff: redshirt junior guard Tyrece “Boots” Radford.
Radford joined the Aggies in August 2021 after three seasons with Virginia Tech, one of which was spent playing for coach Buzz Williams’ Hokies.
Out of high school, there was no geographic appeal to playing in Blacksburg, Va., or College Station. The 6-foot-2 guard graduated from McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, La., where he averaged 22.0 points per game as a senior.
Despite being named second-team All-State in his final year of high school, Radford fell under the radar during the recruiting process. Although he had developed a formidable status in the Baton Rouge area, he was left unranked by online recruiting databases. The typical publicity and attention that comes standard with modern basketball recruiting largely evaded him.
He was not a mainstream prospect. In an era that praises finesse, grace and efficiency from a guard, Radford was a fighter. What he lacked as an outside shooter, he made up for with interior and midrange scoring. Despite his relatively average height, he was never afraid to get tangled up fighting for a rebound.
He was not a typical candidate for a Power Six backcourt, but his gritty, unique play style still captured the attention of the right people. Eventually, the Hokies landed the diamond in the rough of the 2018 class.
He recalled an unofficial visit with Williams, saying his family was swayed by the integrity of the coaching staff.
“We really liked what [Williams] was talking about,” Radford said. “It felt very honest, and everything just started rolling from there.”
Because of the Hokies’ talented backcourt near the end of the 2010s, Radford found himself buried in the depth chart during his freshman year. He chose to redshirt his inaugural season with Virginia Tech.
Following that initial campaign, the budding guard watched the coach who inspired him to travel across the country to play college basketball take another position, as Williams accepted the head coaching job at A&M on April 3, 2019.
Job mobility is a common aspect of collegiate athletics, but it can still be challenging for athletes to adjust to a revolving door in positions of leadership.
Radford said he did not feel any ill will toward Williams for the decision, but it forced him to mature to the reality of high-level collegiate athletics.
“I started looking at basketball at this level as more of a business,” Radford said. “I was younger then, but now I see that it was for the better. I knew I wanted to play for [Williams]. I saw what he was doing and I saw that it worked.”
Amid the unexpected change at the helm of the program, Radford made the transition from an unknown redshirt to a key contributor look effortless.
In the 2019-20 season, he played in all 32 of the Hokies games, starting 29. He led the team in rebounding, bringing down 6.2 boards per game. He also finished eighth among ACC freshmen in scoring with 10.2 points per game.
Although Radford achieved personal success in his first season of collegiate play, the Hokies struggled during the first season of coach Mike Young’s tenure, finishing 16-16.
In the 2020-21 season, he saw his role grow in Young’s offense. He started every game for the Hokies and upped his scoring to 12.2 points per game, recognized as an All-ACC honorable mention. His most notable performance came in a 74-67 win over No. 19 Duke, when he led the team in points with 18, rebounds with 12 and assists with five.
Following that win, long-time Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Radford was the difference in the contest.
“The kid, Radford, was the best player on the court,” Krzyzewski said. “His intensity and how hard he played really helps his team. He’s a really good player. They have other good players, but that kid was really the key guy in this game tonight. They won, and [Radford] had a lot to do with it.”
Not bad for an unranked high school recruit.
Radford’s expanded role coincided with further team success, as the Hokies finished the regular season ranked No. 25 in the country and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Their March Madness run was short lived, as the Hokies lost a 75-70 overtime heartbreaker in the opening round.
After earning his degree from Virginia Tech, Radford decided to reunite with the coach that took a chance on him from the start. On Aug. 18, 2021, he officially announced his intent to transfer via Twitter.
“I have decided to continue pursuing my dreams by transferring to Texas A&M and finishing what I started three years ago,” Radford’s tweet read.
Radford joins a lengthy list of athletes from all over the country who transferred to A&M during the 2021 offseason, including senior forward Ethan Henderson and sophomores, guard Marcus Williams and forward Henry Coleman.
Following Radford’s first action with the Aggies — a 76-72 exhibition victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville — coach Williams acknowledged Radford’s status as an athletic outlier in college basketball and praised his distinctive role within the offense.
“He has a nose for the ball,” coach Williams said. “I don’t think he is always aesthetically pleasing, but he makes winning play after winning play. He is efficient because he shoots shots that he can make. He is really important to what we are doing.”
Radford has started in each of the Aggies’ first 27 games. His role as an elite rebounder has carried over into the A&M system, as he is second on the team with 5.6 boards per game. He has also steadily improved his 3-pointer, shooting a career-high 34.3% from beyond the arc.
From high school to Virginia Tech to A&M, Radford has played the game his way. He has found his role in Williams’ system is enjoying the ride.
“It is just a lot of fun,” Radford said. “That is the main part of it. Everything is going our way, and the whole team is having fun right now. We need to keep it going in the right direction.”

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  • Junior guard Tyrece Radford, No. 23, celebrates the Aggies victory over the Ducks in Reed Arena on Saturday, March 19.

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