When you come to a Panther basketball game it is not hard to spot Matt Tiby. The 6’8″ forward can easily be recognized on the court by his long curly hair that most men envy. But if that doesn’t impress you, his game will.
Tiby, who is playing his first year here at Milwaukee, is off to a quick start. The Panthers are currently 5-2 which is already over half of their wins from last year. A lot of this has to do with the impact Tiby has provided. The sophomore is averaging 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in seven games this season. Both are team highs.
For a kid who came from a junior college just last year and sat out last season, that is an impressive start. His story is also impressive.
Tiby grew up in Urbandale, Iowa which is where his love of basketball began. There, he was known as Matt “Too Tall” Tiby. He attended Urbandale High-school and played basketball and baseball. After having some success in basketball, Matt’s high school basketball coach gave him some advice. He told him to quit baseball after his sophomore year and focus on basketball.
“That’s the best advice anyone has ever given me,” Tiby recalls.
After focusing on basketball the remaining two years of high school, Matt didn’t get the Division-1 looks he had hoped for.
“I wasn’t recruited very well after high-school,” he said.”I had mainly Division-2 offers and the rest were JUCO’s (junior colleges) and people didn’t really give me a shot at Division-1.”
Matt didn’t let that get in the way of his dream, which was to play at the D-1 level. He agreed to play at Kirkwood Community College, a junior college in Urbandale. He played there one season, averaging 11.3 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game. He was set to return to Kirkwood for his second season, but really wanted to see if he could play at the Division 1 level.
“I went back and just thought it was a mistake to go back,” Tiby said “I just thought in my head maybe I can get bigger schools. At the end of the day I just wanted to play Division-1.”
He was right. During this time, Milwaukee assistant coach Chad Boudreau had been recruiting him. After sitting back and weighing his options, Tiby decided to take the offer to Milwaukee and not return to Kirkwood. So far that decision has turned out to be a great one. Tiby has been producing at a good level and brings energy to this team. But he recognizes how junior college helped him get to this point.
“It gets you the fundamentals and what you need to do to become a better athlete. Its less physical at JUCO but its a building process and gets you prepared.”
As far as his season expectations go, it’s all about his team.
“I’m hear to bring energy, I want to get rebounds and get people involved in the offense. I want to be confident and I want to bring an edge for me and my teammates.”
Tiby emits a sense of great demeanor and confidence when you talk with him. No stage seems to big for him. He credits his fast start to advice his dad (who is a Hall of Fame high-school girls coach) gave him in high -school.
“Basketball just comes easy to me. I just let the game come to me. I don’t over think it. That’s what my dad always taught me.”
He gives additional credit to his mother, explaining how his motivation to play the game comes from her.
“My mom taught me everything, so my mom really got me into basketball,” he said.
“Too Tall” can be a household name here in Milwaukee if they are able to make the NCAA tournament and the team keeps up the pace they are at. That is something Tiby thinks they can do.
“Our chances are very high right now,” he expresses. “We are very inexperienced, but we have a good chance to win the Horizon League.”
It is still very early in the season, but Matt and the Panthers basketball team has impressed. They can be the first Milwaukee team since 2006 to make the big dance. Matt is hoping Milwaukee fans are ready and have their dancing shoes as well. Tiby says he plans to cut his hair if they make the tournament and give it to charity. If he keeps playing like this, Tiby might want to reconsider that.
The old joke goes that there must be something in the water here in Milwaukee. But its not the water; its got to be the hair.