Marietta College's men's basketball team is looking forward to introducing freshman point guard Tyler Hammond to Otterbein when the two Ohio Athletic Conference schools tip off at Ban Johnson Arena at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Dick Reynolds-coached Cardinals know all about MC's other starters' Kevin Knab, Trevor Halter, Joe Puch, and Jason Humphrey, but Hammond is a relative unknown to them - at least in a Pioneer uniform he is.
After the game, the Otterbein players' tongues could be hanging.
"Tyler's fast," said Knab after the undefeated Pioneers (6-0) defeated visiting Baldwin-Wallace, 83-61 last Saturday.
"He likes to run.
"I think that's why we're scoring a lot more points this year than we did, because we're out running. We worked out butts off in the preseason conditioning. So, we're able to go for 30 minutes or however long we have to play in the game. We play hard."
No question about that, and the Cardinals will learn that soon enough.
Against B-W, the 5-foot-11 Hammond - who played his prep ball at St. Ignatius in Cleveland last year - netted nine points, and had three assists and three steals in 26 minutes of court time. He's currently averaging 4.3 assists a game to lead the Pioneers in that offensive category.
"Tyler can be a special player," said fourth-year Marietta College head coach Jon VanderWal. "I don't think I've seen or coached a freshman as ready as he was from day one to play at this level."
Coming from a winning high school program has also been a big plus. At St. Ignatius in his senior year, Hammond was instrumental in helping the Wildcats finish 19-5 and advance to the Sweet 16 in Ohio Division I.
"He makes us a lot faster, which also helps us in transition," VanderWal said. "We're getting more easy buckets than we've ever gotten."
Knab, the beneficiary of many of those easy twos, agreed.
"Even though Tyler's not a captain now, he's a leader," the 6-6 Knab said. "He's getting the ball and going. He's finding open guys. He's a big difference along with the rest of our point guards."
Marietta's other points are sophomores' Tyler Worstell and Jacob Owens. Worstell is second on the team in dishing out assists (2.3 per game), and Owens is one of the leading 3-point shooters (9 of 21).
Last year, the Pioneers beat the Cardinals, 69-55, at BJA, but lost to them at the Rike Center in Westerville, 78-69.
Now, Otterbein, meet Tyler Hammond...and good luck. Better have your running shoes on.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org