MEQUON, Wisconsin — The NY2LA Summer Jam ended in heartbreaking fashion for Meanstreets point guard Tyler Beard.
Leading Phemon University 61-59 with five seconds left in the 16U semifinals, Beard went to the line to ice the game. He had scored or assisted on six of the Meanstreets' past eight points, so he was exactly who you'd want at the charity stripe.
But he missed the front end.
Five-star forward Jalen Johnson, who picked up a Duke offer last week, snared the rebound, streaked across half-court and fired off a 30-foot, game-winning 3-pointer ... that banked in off the glass.
As commotion rained around him, Beard stood still under the basket, hands on his knees, staring at the ground. He remained there for a good 20 seconds.
In reality, this game didn't mean a whole lot. There was no state title on the line. Loads of college coaches had already watched the Meanstreets this week, so this wasn't a missed opportunity for exposure.
But that didn't matter to Beard, a fast-rising, four-star prospect in the 2020 class.
This game meant the world to him. All do. He plays each contest like it's his last.
Combined with his obvious skill set, it's that full-hearted devotion to basketball — that single-minded dedication to winning — that makes Beard such an attractive high-major prospect.
Iowa offered him in June. You can expect a thorough recruitment from the Hawkeyes, who watched several of Beard's games at the Summer Jam.
The Register was also on hand for many of Beard's games — both at the 16U and 17U levels. Here's a scouting report from what we saw.
Holy defense, Batman
Beard grew up studying the defense of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, and it shows. He clearly loves the challenge of guarding the other team's best player.
Remember Johnson? The 6-foot-8 Duke target that sunk the game-winning 3? Yeah, Beard guarded him on switches for much of the game, aggressively fronting him and preventing him from owning the paint.
Beard reminds you a little bit of former West Virginia guard Jevon Carter, another Chicago-area product, in the way he applies full-court pressure.
Beyond attitude, Beard also has the tangibles required of an elite perimeter defender. He's got solid length, terrific lateral speed, strength, a low center of gravity, quick reaction time, good anticipation and an impressive knowledge of how plays are developing around him. It was only a matter of time before Beard would jump a passing lane or create a deflection during his games.
Threading the needle like a QB
While he moves well off the ball, Beard is a pure point guard whose main offensive strength is setting up teammates. He worked wonders in the pick-and-roll at the Summer Jam, and he forces the issue in transition.
Maybe most impressive, though, are his passing skills. In other words: He looks like a high-IQ floor leader out there. He makes the right passes, often firing them through tight windows. Like a quarterback passes his receivers open, Beard passes his teammates open in transition or on pick-and-rolls or cuts to the basket. Simply put: He makes it very easy for his teammates to score.
It's fun to watch.
Slashing scorer; shots will eventually fall
If there's an area of Beard's game that needs the most improvement, it's his perimeter scoring. There isn't anything technically wrong here, though. His shooting mechanics are good. He gets a nice arc on his shot and the ball rotation is what you want.
This is more a question of repetition. Beard just needs to take more shots. Not just in practice, but in games with the added pressure of win-loss implications.
His AAU and high school coach, Tyrone Slaughter, said he's seen significant growth in Beard's jump shot. He said he wouldn't even attempt shots at this time last year. Now, Beard is growing more comfortable, and Slaughter expects that growth to continue this year with Whitney Young.
None of this is to say Beard can't score. He's a skilled slasher who can knife his way to the bucket for points in the paint. He can beat most guards one-on-one and has a nice left-handed finish. He'll need to continue to get craftier around the rim, and a floater would add another threat to keep post defenders honest.
Vocal leader, on the court and on the bench
Beard is constantly talking, whether it's barking out calls on offense, communicating on defense, pumping his teammates up or supporting them after a mistake.
And that's not just on the court. Beard is still one of the loudest players in the gym when he's on the bench. That part of his game might not make any highlight reel, but college coaches will notice and appreciate it.
Beard is close to a complete player — both in talent and mental make-up.
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.