Brad Tinsley was the odd duck in the family.
His father went to the University of Oregon. His older brother played club baseball there.
Growing up in Oregon City, Tinsley lived just two hours north of the campus in Eugene. As a standout point guard, he very well could have become a Duck as he was recruited heavily by then-head coach Ernie Kent.
“They were in the top five, definitely,” Tinsley said. “It was just a matter of I just decided to look at Vanderbilt and Wake Forest a little bit stronger than Oregon. It is a great city, great, unbelievable facilities. It was a tough decision.”
Tinsley initially signed a national letter of intent to play at Pepperdine. He was granted a release during his senior year of high school after Pepperdine’s head coach abruptly resigned. His search for a college opened back up and he opted to veer 2,300 miles away from home and play at Vanderbilt.
Four years later, Tinsley begins his final season against the team he grew up rooting for when the No. 7 Commodores host Oregon in the season opener for both teams at 9 p.m. (FSN South) Friday at Memorial Gymnasium.
He’ll see some familiar faces on the other side of the court — Oregon’s senior point guard Garrett Sim and junior forward E.J. Singler, whose older brother, Kyle, was a standout for Duke the last four years. He played with both on the AAU circuit and then later faced them in state tournaments.
“It is going to be a lot of fun just seeing them on the court,” Tinsley said. “I haven’t talked to them for a while so I am really looking forward to it. ... I wouldn’t say it is that tough because my allegiance lies to where I’m at.”
Tinsley is one of five returning starters for Vanderbilt and is coming off a superb season. He led the Southeastern Conference with 4.6 assists a game and was second in league in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2). He ranked fourth on the team in both points (10.6) and rebounds (3.7) per game.
He endured a minor setback in August when he broke a bone in his right hand while playing in a pickup game against his teammates. He wore a splint for nearly a month but that didn’t keep him off the hardwood. He called the injury a “blessing in disguise,” saying it forced him to dribble with his left hand more. He played 15 minutes during Vanderbilt’s exhibition game against Xavier (La.) on Monday. Before practice on Wednesday he said his right hand felt good and that his range of motion was beginning to come back.
That’s good news for Tinsley, who will have special guests in the crowd on Friday. Like they have the last three seasons, Tinsley’s parents have rented an apartment in Bellevue and will spend the entire basketball season in the Music City. But Tinsley’s sister and brother, along with two cousins, are also making the trip in from Oregon for Friday’s game.
In last year’s season opener he recorded the first triple-double in school history against Presbyterian. Odds of repeating that feat are slim but coach Kevin Stallings won’t downplay Tinsley’s value to the team — since the moment he stepped onto campus.
“His freshman year, he was probably the best shooter we had and was our best passer,” Stallings said. “We knew he was going to be very valuable from an offensive standpoint. Brad has been a really good player for us. He has been a very durable player who plays through injury and plays through pain. He has just been a very stable, very solid player for us.”