Tyler Harvey: from walk-on to basketball royalty

After stints in the NBA D-League and Italy, Harvey has started to find his groove in France.


Former men’s basketball player Tyler Harvey uses a screen from teammate Bogdan Bliznyuk in 2014-15. Harvey currently plays professionally in France for the Antibes Sharks | Photo courtesy of The Easterner Archives

By Brandon Cline and Michael Brock

Former EWU men’s basketball star Tyler Harvey is no stranger to transformation.

In 2011, Harvey graduated from Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, California, growing an absurd 11 inches during his time there. Harvey was an unheralded recruit, partly because of his absence on the AAU circuit. He initially planned to attend NCAA Division III Whitworth University in Spokane, where Jim Hayford was the head coach at the time. When Hayford was hired away by EWU before the 2011-12 season, he promised Harvey a scholarship if he’d join him at EWU as a walk-on.

So Harvey walked on, redshirting his first year on campus. As a redshirt freshman the following season, the 6-foot-4-inch shooting guard had scored a total of just 17 points through the first 13 games he had appeared in. Then came the game against Northern Arizona University on Feb. 9, forever changing the trajectory of Harvey’s basketball career.

Harvey entered the game for the first time with 3:42 left in the second half, as the Eagles trailed 59-46 and were as good as gone. But then 11 seconds later, Harvey made a layup. And then 21 seconds later he recorded a steal. And then five seconds later he drilled a three-pointer. And the rest was history.

EWU would come all the way back to beat the Lumberjacks in overtime, as Harvey finished with 14 points in just 10 minutes of playing time, including going 4–5 from beyond the arc.

Harvey saw regular playing time in the last seven games of the season following the NAU game, starting in four of them. After averaging just 4.8 minutes per game in the first 13 games Harvey played in to start the season, he averaged 29.1 minutes per game in those final eight games, gradually playing more minutes until he played 39 minutes in each of the two final games of the season.

Basketball alum Tyler Harvey drives past a University of Washington defender in 2013-14. After leading the NCAA in scoring as a junior, Harvey was drafted 51st by the Orlando Magic in 2015 | Photo courtesy of The Easterner Archives

“It was his work ethic that put him over the top,” first-year EWU head coach Shantay Legans, who was an assistant when Harvey played, recently told The Easterner. “Everything you’d ask him to do, he’d go above and beyond.”

Harvey’s abrupt new role carried over seamlessly to his sophomore season, picking up right where he left off at the end of his redshirt freshman season. He started all 31 games, averaging 21.8 points per game and shooting 43.3 percent from beyond the arc. His 109 three-pointers that year rank fourth-most in a single season in Big Sky history, behind only the 128 he made the following year, Northern Arizona’s Stephen Sir’s 124 in 2006-07, and fellow Eagle Austin McBroom’s 115 in 2015-16.

In his final season at EWU in 2014-15, Harvey capped off a remarkable collegiate career by leading NCAA Division I in scoring, averaging 23.1 points per game. He also led the NCAA in total three-pointers made, earned honorable mention All-America honors and was named the Big Sky Conference Tournament MVP.

In the conference tournament, he dropped 42 points in the quarterfinal against Idaho, the second-highest single-game performance in the tournament’s history. He then led EWU past Montana in the championship game, in front of a pro-Montana crowd at the Grizzlies’ home court in Missoula. He scored 18 points in the game, and converted a three-point play with 43 seconds left that sealed the game for good for the Eagles, giving the program just its second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Harvey says the win was one of his most memorable experiences at EWU.

“My time at Eastern was the best,” Harvey recently told The Easterner. “I mean, coming in as a walk-on—a guy who nobody’s really looking at to do anything—to do what I was able to do was just amazing.”

Harvey parlayed his unexpected record-breaking career at EWU into leaving school a year early for the 2015 NBA Draft. After being in a league of his own the past two seasons, Harvey was now just a player trying to prove himself all over again. But due to his experience at EWU, he felt like he was prepared for the challenge of playing professionally.

“I think it prepared me a lot,” said Harvey. “I had a road, you know, going from a guy [who] sat on the bench to playing. And it just prepared me for life and for basketball. It’s not always going to be easy, playing basketball. It’s fun, but you gotta go through the tough times to enjoy the good times.”

During the three-month draft process, Harvey worked out for roughly half of the teams in the NBA and was on the road for two straight months, trying to impress potential employers.

“It was definitely a long, rigorous process but I got to see the world a little bit,” said Harvey about the draft process. “I got to go to different states, I wouldn’t change it. It was definitely fun to work out for that many teams and that that many teams wanted me to work out for them, it was humbling.”

Harvey was surprised when his name was called with the 51st pick of the draft, selected by the Orlando Magic. The Magic were one of the 14 or 15 teams that he hadn’t worked out for, leading him to believe he wasn’t even on the team’s radar. He is the first EWU alum to be selected in the NBA Draft since Rodney Stuckey was selected 15th overall by the Detroit Pistons in 2007.

Going from college walk-on—where he received no Division I, II or III scholarship offers—to NBA draftee, Harvey’s transformation from afterthought to awe-inspiring is remarkable.

After playing five games in the 2015 Summer League for the Magic, Harvey spent his first year playing professional basketball in Erie, Pennsylvania, situated along Lake Erie and 1,090 miles north of Orlando, Florida. Like several other second-round draft picks, Harvey was assigned to his team’s D-League affiliate, the Magic’s being the Erie Bayhawks.

Eagle alum Tyler Harvey shoots a layup against the University of Washington in 2013-14. Harvey has played professionally in the NBA D-League and overseas in Italy and France | Photo courtesy of The Easterner Archives

In the 2015-16 season, Harvey started in 13 of the 37 games he played in for the Bayhawks, averaging 11.9 points per game and 26.6 minutes per game, both sharply down from his last two years at EWU. His role had changed from “the guy” to “a guy” on the basketball court, which Harvey says took some time to adjust to.

“Obviously you’re not going to play 40 minutes a game,” said Harvey about the transition. “I mean, I was playing 40 minutes a game in college, which was great. But you’ve got to adapt to your teammates and your role. That goes with discovering what your team needs, or what your coach wants out of you. It was just a lot of learning and trying to be coachable. It could be tough […] but I just tried to stick true to who I am and try to find my role within that.”

Far and away the biggest highlight of Harvey’s one season with the Bayhawks was on Dec. 29, 2015, as the Bayhawks faced the Texas Legends. With 7:45 left in the fourth quarter and his team trailing by 21 points, Harvey led his team back nearly single-handedly to win the game 125-120 in double overtime. He hit nine three-pointers—including a span where he made six in a row—in the fourth quarter and two overtime periods, finishing the game with 29 points despite opening the game 1-8 from beyond the arc.

“Everyone thought the game was pretty much over, so there was really nothing to lose,” said Harvey. “I don’t really know, something must’ve just [flipped]. I just fell into a zone. You see a couple go in and think, ‘oh okay, maybe something could happen.’”

Harvey again played in the Summer League for the Magic. Then on July 21, 2016, Harvey signed a one-year deal with Manital Torino, a team in Italy’s top professional league based in the industrial city of Turin.

In 29 games for the club in 2016-17, Harvey averaged 11.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals in 27 minutes per game, connecting on 36.7 percent of his three-pointers. He scored in double digits 15 times, and over 20 points on three occasions, including putting up 27 points and 6 rebounds against Caserta on Feb. 9, 2017.

After leading the NCAA in scoring as a junior and playing in the D-League the following year, Harvey had to adjust him game yet again, this time to match the style of play overseas.

“It’s not a lot of isolation ball here,” said Harvey. “A lot of U.S. guys are used to playing isolation, but here they emphasize team ball and getting the best shot […] When you’re back in the U.S. you’re trying to just get a bucket however way you can.”

Following the season in Italy, Harvey played three more Summer League games for the Magic, who still held his draft rights at that point. On August 16, 2017, Harvey signed a one-year deal with the Antibes Sharks of the top French league. Antibes is located in the middle of the French Riviera, halfway between Cannes and Nice.

Through 18 games, Harvey has averaged 10.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.9 steals in 20.4 minutes per game for Antibes. His three-point percentage is up to 42.3 percent (on 5.4 attempts) from 36.7 percent a season ago.

The Sharks are currently 8–10, with 14 regular season games remaining. As the season continues, Harvey is playing and scoring at a more consistent level.

In the team’s first eight games (3–5), Harvey averaged 9.9 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 18.5 minutes. His playing time has bumped up to 21.9 minutes per contest in the last 10 games, and his overall numbers have seen a spike as well, to 10.9 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

“It’s just about finding your rhythm,” said Harvey. “Basketball’s all about rhythm, and I think as the year goes on I’m progressing […] My coach has helped me tremendously with that, and I’m just starting to really come into my own a little bit and hopefully we can get some more wins.”

Diving deeper, Harvey’s overall shooting percentage in the first eight games was 34.2 percent. In the last 10, he’s knocking down 45.2 percent of his total attempts. Harvey’s three-point accuracy has seen a rise from 30.2 percent in the first eight, to a staggering 50 percent in the last 10.

“The adjustment period for me took a little time,” said Harvey. “My first couple years out [of college, I was] trying to discover what my role was going to be, trying to find my niche. But this year I really feel like I’ve found who I am as a player.”