Brad Tinsley hasn’t abandoned his lifelong goal of reaching the NBA. At the same time, the former Vanderbilt point guard won’t let pride stop him from exploring other opportunities.
Tinsley recently returned from a tryout in Germany. By September, the guy who recorded the second-most assists in Vanderbilt history hopes to be on the professional circuit overseas.
“It has always been my dream to play in the NBA. I’m definitely going to keep trying until I can’t play anymore,” Tinsley said. “Hopefully maybe have a good year this year overseas, and then try to get some [NBA] workouts and make a summer league team next year is kind of the plan. I’m slowly trying to get better, learn the professional game and hopefully maybe I can make that jump to the NBA.
“If not, then I’ll definitely be happy with playing overseas until my career is over.”
Back in his hometown of Oregon City, Ore., Tinsley is waiting to hear from a club in Tubingen, which he visited two weeks ago and plays in the Basketball Bundesliga League — the top league in Germany.
The 23-year-old said numerous German teams are interested and he has received a “handful of offers” from teams from Romania to the Netherlands. But he hesitates to jump on board with anyone quite yet. He’s waiting for the giants of European basketball — teams in France, Italy and Spain — to begin stirring.
“I’ve kind of learned how crazy this part is — you never know what day you’ll get an offer and what day a team will pull out,” Tinsley said. “It’s kind of tough to juggle if you should take an offer now or if you should wait for a little bit. I’ve had friends who have benefitted from it and who have suffered from it.”
Tinsley isn’t the only recent Vanderbilt grad still weighing his options. After failing to land on an NBA Summer League team, Lance Goulbourne, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward, is also beginning to delve into the market overseas.
Steve Tchiengang, however, said he is staying stateside — for now. The 6-foot-9 forward and the Commodores’ top reserve last season doesn’t want to play overseas and instead is trying to earn an NBA workout or a spot in training camp, which begins in September.
Three former Commodores taken in last month’s draft are already getting their feet wet in the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas, which runs through Sunday.
After three games, shooting guard and Hendersonville native John Jenkins, taken 23rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks, is averaging 14.7 points. Charlotte Bobcats forward Jeffery Taylor, the first pick of the second round, has averaged 10.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in three games. Festus Ezeli, the 30th overall pick, is averaging seven points and six rebounds through two contests for the Golden State Warriors.
Former Middle Tennessee State standout and undrafted forward LaRon Dendy is averaging four points and two rebounds for the Washington Wizards.
For the 6-foot-3 Tinsley, playing in Europe offers the chance to build off a memorable college career in which he started all but nine of 134 games. His 482 career assists are second to only Atiba Prater, who dished out 517 assists from 1996 to 2000.
Tinsley holds the only triple-double in the 112-year history of the program and ranks 26th all-time in scoring with 1,252 points. Yet, he was often criticized for who he wasn’t. He didn’t offer the same athletic exploits like John Wall or Bradley Beal. Too many, a dynamic point guard was the missing piece for the Commodores.
“I accepted whatever I had to do to win, which is the most important thing, and we were successful at Vanderbilt,” Tinsley said. “I was definitely happy at Vanderbilt. The coaching staff gave me the utmost freedom to do a lot of things. I definitely did show my game there.”
Still, Tinsley concedes there is more potential to tap into. In college, he developed a reputation as a distributor but in high school he was more complete. He averaged 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assistants and three steals as a senior at Oregon City. He left the state ranked fourth all-time in scoring.
High school and professional basketball, of course, are two different worlds. But Tinsley believes he can regain that dominance — if he takes the initiative.
“I think just that mentality of being the guy, I think I’ve got to bring that back from what I had in high school. That’s a big one,” Tinsley said. “Obviously, my defense [needs to improve] but that is more of a mentality thing … I got to start getting that mentality back into my mind and really take it personal. I think if I can up my defense at the point guard position, which will definitely be tough, it will definitely help me be successful.”