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Tested By Pressure: Tyler Pygon

Rory Arnold

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It all started with a basketball hoop—a four-foot tall hoop in the center of his childhood living room, to be precise—where hours were spent shooting and playing with his dad. This fond memory would fuel an infatuation with the sport for years, eventually presenting Tyler Pygon with the most distressing decision of his life: whether or not he should leave the game forever.  

Pygon, a junior communication major on the Millikin men’s basketball team was first brought to the team by former head coach Matt Nadelhoffer. After Nadelhoffer’s coaching performance showed less than satisfactory last season, Mark Scherer was hired as the new head coach. This change in staff presented a new outlook as well as harder challenges for players who had remained on the team through the transition.

“The players who I came here with, the coaches who I came here with, the offense and defense we were going to run was all different,” Pygon said. “It was a big transition, and I think it was tougher for the returners coming back.”

Over the course of the last offseason, a large majority of the team quit, causing Pygon to feel alone: “My best friend quit, all my roommates quit . . . my friends who I always hang out with, they quit.”  

In the midst of this confusion and pressure, Pygon began evaluating himself and the game of basketball, attempting to make sense of his tested passion for the sport. “Quitting was something I thought about doing,” he said. “But I thought about what was best for me, and I thought that looking back after college over all these years, I would regret it.”

In his decision to keep with the program, Pygon recognized that the changes would bring about a lot of adversity he would have to face, which included a shift in his position on the team.  

“The role I had changed. Last year I was starting point guard and looked upon to score, but now I have a new role of coming off the bench—which I have no problem with. I’m a team player 100 percent, so whatever coach asks, I’ll do. Whatever coach thinks is best for the team, I will do it to my best ability,” Pygon said.  

After staying with the team and understanding his new role, Pygon has experienced his best collegiate season yet, with the team winning over three times more games than last season, and beating Wheaton College—who is ranked second best in the conference—by 19 points.

Pygon explained that the team’s potential is “through the roof.” The team is headed in a direction that is brighter than what has been seen by Millikin in years, and it is all due to the way the players, both old and new, have chosen to come together over the course of the last year.

“We’re all really close,” Pygon said. “We hang out all the time. On the court and off the court, we have great relationships.”

Pygon sees his new teammates as being at the core of Millikin’s swing into a positive program. “The players we got this year added a lot of dimensions that we didn’t have in previous years.” This attitude as a team player is why he is an important piece to the rising success of the program.

Pygon’s journey with basketball started with a hoop in his childhood living room, and it coursed through years of practice, dedication, sweat, and tears, heading in and out of hotter-than-hell gyms, eventually leading to a simple decision that could change everything, and Tyler Pygon made the right choice.  

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