A year ago, Ty Outlaw’s chances of playing basketball again were in serious jeopardy. After being cleared, he was not seeing many minutes as the eighth man in the rotation. His shooting prowess was noted during his time in JUCO, as he was one of the best perimeter threats in the nation at that level. It has been a test of resilience and patience for the redshirt junior to make his mark, and last night’s record setting performance is a monumental milestone in his journey through the hardships he has endured.
“Watching all year last year, we had our ups and downs. I was wishing I could be a part of it, I wanted to be a part of it,” said Outlaw.
Due to his heart condition, his debut in a Virginia Tech uniform was delayed. Before his recent hot shooting streak, Outlaw was certainly contributing but nowhere near the level he did last night, where he essentially carried the team to a victory over a ranked Miami team.
One of the gutsier performances by the Hokies this season was in their comeback, double overtime win against Virginia. That game also provided one of the more gut-wrenching moments of the season, as Chris Clarke suffered a season-ending knee injury. However, that injury allowed Outlaw to take center stage in the sophomore forward’s absence.
“It’s like something out of a movie, it’s a dream come true,” said Outlaw, who finished with a game high 24 points. “Hate that Chris got hurt. But it’s a perfect opportunity to step up and show what I can do and I’m glad I got the opportunity.
Outlaw has not only taken the opportunity, but has become a rising star on a team that seems destined for the NCAA’s for the first time in a decade. Obviously, losing an integral piece of the puzzle like Clarke undoubtedly hurts. However, since Clarke tore his ACL against Virginia, the Hokies have not missed a beat, winning five of their last six games. The offense has even improved to a certain extent. While Outlaw may not possess Clarke’s handles, explosive athleticism, or passing ability, he has allowed Virginia Tech to space the floor incredibly well, to a point where they are the best three-point shooting team in the conference - and it’s not even close.
“Chris is more athlete, fast, push the tempo, rebound, and a playmaker,” said Seth Allen, contrasting Clarke and Outlaw’s styles of play. “Ty is a more of a scorer, great shooter, great teammate, great rebounder. So they give you a lot of different things.
“And spreading the floor, it’s hard to guard. It’s hard to guard because there’s so much space. Who are you going to help off of? Ty, Bibbs, Med, me?”
Over the last six games, the Hokies are shooting an unheard of 51.1% from downtown and have made at least ten three-pointers in five straight games. Coming into last night’s contest, Virginia Tech had three of the top nine three-point shooters in the conference. To no surprise, Outlaw has been leading the surging Hokies with his proficiency from behind the arc. Over the last two games, he is 13-of-15 (86.7%) from deep, and since Valentine’s Day, he is 21-of-29 (72.4%) from three.
Last night’s eight triple performance was a combination of having trust from his teammates, as well simply having more minutes in place of the injured Clarke. He played 38 minutes tonight, much higher than his season average of 15.2 minutes per game.
“We are deep into the season and I’m getting more minutes, so it’s a rhythm thing,” said Outlaw. “That’s why they wanted me to come here because I could shoot, and me having confidence and my team having confidence in me.”
“We all know he can shoot, so when people give him space we want him to shoot. It was such a good night to see all his hard work pay off,” said Allen, who referred to Outlaw at one point as his little brother.
Perhaps no one in the program believes more in hard work than head coach Buzz Williams, who has the walls of the Hahn Hurst practice facility littered with inspirational quotes. When prompted to speak to Ty Outlaw’s character, Williams praised his attitude and resilience.
“He had every reason up until that point to be disenchanted with how we were using him. But how he handled all of that prior to the UVA game, was as mature as any kid I have ever coached,” said Williams postgame. “That’s why he set the school record. I think the ownership that he’s had since he arrived, and you guys understand that he came in the summer, summer session two, and was not allowed to sweat. That in it of itself is a life-changing story.”
“I think that says a lot about who he is.”
Sometimes great teams are not the most talented, but just have the right mix of guys who compliment each other well and play tough. Outlaw has now proven that he is a key part of this group that has now locked up a first round bye in next week’s ACC tournament.