Youngest Begle makes his own name

Heather Rousseau/The Herald
Jasper’s Tyler Begle (13) has long heard the comparisons to older brother Caleb, who graduated in 2012 after scoring more than 1,000 career points. But Tyler has been comfortable being a different player than his brother, with ballhandling and penetrating among Tyler’s strengths. Begle has increased his scoring, too, in recent weeks and was the sectional MVP for the Wildcats, who will meet Evansville Memorial in Saturday’s Class 3A regional at Washington.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

Does Tyler Begle exist?

Not so long ago, the answer wasn’t apparent to everyone. Rick Begle recalls the days when he’d be managing The Sports Garden store he owns in Jasper with Tyler alongside, and customers would express their surprise in discovering there was another Begle beyond older siblings Landon and Caleb.

“I just remember when he was little, how many times I heard somebody say, ”˜Oh, didn’t know Tyler existed.’ Somebody would come in here, and Tyler was here, (they’d say), ”˜Oh, you’re Caleb’s little brother. Can you shoot like your brother?’ He heard that stuff a lot,” Rick said.

It happens when you trail a guy like Caleb in terms of age, height and buttery jump shot. Anymore, though, there’s no mistaking Tyler’s identity.

At the very least, there’s a couple thousand witnesses who can speak to Tyler’s basketball chops after Saturday’s Class 3A sectional championship at a bustling Huntingburg Memorial Gym.

Serving up a sampler platter of drives to the bucket, pull-up jumpers, 3-pointers and free throws, Begle shimmered with a career-high of 20 points. Yes, the same Tyler who faced a crisis of confidence when he lost his starting spot near midseason. Yes, the same Tyler who laughs when recalling “I was a stick back then” as a 5-foot-8, 125-pound freshman two years ago. Yes, the same Tyler who didn’t become a full-time varsity player until this year as a junior but has rarely felt unsettled by the mighty shadow Caleb created during his 1,000-point career.

“It’s kind of like, you want to live up to it, but you know it’s probably not going to happen,” Tyler said of Caleb’s legacy. “Sometimes you feel that pressure, but you’ve got to just know that you’ve got to go out there every day and put in hard work and eventually you can be as good as you want to.”

Tyler has been his best as of late, garnering sectional MVP honors and spurring Jasper to its first sectional crown in 12 years and a spot in Saturday’s Class 3A regional at Washington, where the Wildcats (14-9) will tussle with Evansville Memorial (16-6) at approximately noon.

Tyler realizes there’s no dodging the comparisons between him and Caleb — the shooting guards also share the same position (shortstop) in baseball. But there’s no performance anxiety to match Caleb, because “people compare us, but we’re a lot different,” said Tyler, who’s now shot up to 6-1 and 160 pounds.

How so?

Big brother can recognize there are a few facets at which Tyler is more polished.

“I was a couple inches taller than he was, I could get shots off easier than he could. But he does a lot of things just as good or better than what I did. ... He knows that he’s his own player,” said    Caleb, who just wrapped up his sophomore season at Lincoln Trail College where he scored 10.2 points per game.

“I think he handles the ball better than what I did. He does a great job of getting to the basket. ... Maybe he doesn’t shoot as well, maybe he doesn’t jump as well, but he’s smart, he knows when to pick his spots, he’s good at changing speeds.”

Solving the game’s mental minefield has allowed Tyler to blossom further.

After starting through the season’s first 10 games, he came off the bench for the next seven as part of Jasper’s seasonlong odyssey of discovering the right starting five. Shots missed. Belief receded. He spent the entire fourth quarter of one game on the bench. Also near midseason, an aunt and grandmother died around the same time.

“There was just a lot of things going on. He was down for a little bit, psychologically, emotionally, just wasn’t quite himself,” Jasper coach John Goebel said. “But anyone who’s seen him play the last quarter of the season would never believe that anymore because he’s really matured, gotten more physically stronger, gotten a lot more confident.”

Confidence: that’s the word that pops up the most about Tyler from people who know him the best.
“Sometimes he looks a little tentative and sometimes he gets down on himself,” Caleb said. “Confidence is a big thing with him.”

With the more expressive Caleb, “if things weren’t going well for him, he’s get mad, but he’d get more determined,” said Rick, a 1977 JHS graduate. “And Tyler, (if) things didn’t go as well for him, you could tell his confidence would waver and (he’d feel) like ”˜I can’t do this.’”

But he’s a Begle. And he’s a shooter. And for Tyler — a hoops nut who spent last fall playing in a fall league at Gibson Southern and many times stopped on the way there to fire jumpers with Rick at Cabby O’Neill Gymnasium — the deficit in confidence was temporary.

“It’s tough when you get taken out of the starting lineup,” Tyler admitted, “but you’ve always got to overcome adversity and that’s what I had to do.”

Against Mount Vernon on Feb. 15, Begle netted 15 points, including the two decisive free throws in Jasper’s 54-52 getaway. That was his last game coming off the bench. In seven contests since, he’s averaged 12.5 points and shot 59 percent from the floor.

His career-high outputs have been constantly amended in the last three weeks: 15 versus Mount Vernon, 16 against Loogootee, 20 in the sectional championship. To Rick, Tyler’s newfound confidence was apparent just by looking at his face, and Goebel said Tyler is “par for the course right now” in terms of several Wildcats playing with more conviction over the last few weeks.

All along, Tyler’s been content being his own player, and his goal all along was elementary. All of it’s worked out pretty well.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to become a varsity basketball player, and this year it came true,” Tyler said. “I really wanted to show people that I deserve to be on the varsity team, and I think I did.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.





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