Tyrus McGee loves basketball.
After being picked up to play in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) for the Hilton Magic Legends last season, it didn’t take the former Cyclone more than a trip to a car to ask where he could find a hoop.
The guy just loves the game. There was almost no one better to build a roster around when general manager Matt Crawford was creating this year’s team.
“They said I was the first player they asked,” McGee recently told Cyclone Fanatic. “First of all, we’re representing the whole state of Iowa. They reached out and contacted me and of course I wanted to represent Iowa State – for sure.”
McGee – beside with Iowa’s Peter Jok – formed the first pair of signings to the nine-man roster that features talent from each of the state’s four division one universities.
In the past two TBT tournaments, the Iowa State-exclusive teams featured McGee on the roster, but he is confident that the new venture in Iowa United will work out.
“We didn’t have enough people show up,” McGee said. “[Players] said they were coming and didn’t show up. It was a different thing each year. This year, I think it’s going to be a solid team.”
Even though McGee is a couple years older than most of the other players on the team, he’s excited to get to work.
“For me, I like to play basketball,” McGee said. “I’d like to come back to Iowa and play with some players I played against [their schools] in college. I really don’t know them because some of them just finished college. When I was playing with guys from these schools, they were a little older than me, but I’m excited to be playing with some newer, younger guys.”
Joining McGee from Iowa State will be Marcus Fizer – who actually coached the Hilton Magic Legends, though he will be back in the paint playing for Iowa United.
The two are the lone Iowa State players on the roster, but former Cyclone Jake Sullivan will be leading the team as head coach.
“I don’t know [Sullivan] very well. I want to say I had met him once, but I’m excited to see what Jake is going to do with the team,” McGee said.
McGee spent two seasons at Iowa State playing in the transfer era under Fred Hoiberg and was part of the first team to return to the NCAA Tournament during the modern era of Cyclone hoops.
“I think I’ll be remembered for bringing the energy man, and shooting the ball very well,” McGee said. “Every time I put the ball up, I can always remember hearing ‘McGee for three’ with the crowd going crazy. That’s just something I’ll never forget – having that much support and playing in front of so many people each night.”
During his two seasons, McGee also helped sharp-shoot Iowa State into a Big 12 Tournament championship. The team that accomplished that helped build the foundation around what has become ‘Hilton South.’
“My favorite moment was playing in the NCAA Tournament beating UConn and playing against KU [in the Big 12 Tournament semifinal],” McGee said. “I had a really good game against them. I feel like I couldn’t miss a shot. Those are the main moments for me, individual-wise. Team-wise, I was just there enjoying every moment. I was only there for two years, so I had to embrace it every day.”
Since his Iowa State days, McGee has spent his career playing basketball overseas. Though, it’s come with an amount of adversity this year – which is different than what he is used to.
“It’s a different vibe overseas,” McGee said. “You’re leaving college trying to make a name for yourself. This year was a little difficult for me. I started off in Turkey, but unfortunately the team didn’t have the money to pay me and I ended up leaving.”
McGee returned to Italy – in the league that he was familiar with after being recruited by a coach to join Dynamo Sassari, his current team.
Everything was familiar to him, until he got hit with another moment of adversity. The coach that recruited him quit the team two weeks after McGee’s arrival.
All of the sudden, the Oklahoma native was the new veteran in town learning new plays on a roster that he wasn’t familiar with.
Before McGee got to the team, they were a very offensive minded group, but since then the veteran leadership he’s brought has helped them pick things up.
McGee’s squad won 13 games in a row to round out their season, concluding with a second FIBA Cup Championship to add to his collection on Wednesday.
“Since I got here, I’ve changed the team and made guys have a defensive mentality,” McGee said. “Everyone knew I had a championship in this league before, so I tried to give them my experience. At first, they didn’t like me because I was just being honest with them, telling them what they need to do. [With] everything I told them, I was trying to make them better, and now they’re seeing that.”
McGee hopes to bring the same type of experience to help lead Iowa United this year out of their respective regional.