Put a basketball in his hands, and sophomore guard Mark Tyndale gets that look in his eye.
His knuckles get white. He gets fidgety. His legs start shaking, even when he’s sitting down. The adrenaline courses through his body, and he only wants to do one thing.
“I just need to play hard, man,” Tyndale said. “All the time.”
Certain athletes in history were infamous for their work ethic. They’ve got nothing on Tyndale, according to those who have been around him.
“Tyndale’s crazy,” Philadelphia basketball guru John Hardnett said this past spring. “Nobody’s like Tyndale.”
Senior guard Mardy Collins found that out the hard way last year, when coach John Chaney roomed Tyndale, then a freshman, with Collins, the team co-captain. Many nights, as Collins crawled into bed to get some rest for the next morning’s 5 a.m. practice, Tyndale decided it was a perfect time to pepper Collins with questions.
Tyndale wanted to know more about the match-up zone. He wanted to know if he had been executing it correctly in practice. He wanted to know if the coaches saw the effort he put out. He wanted to know if his teammates thought he was good.
Fortunately for Tyndale, Collins is long on patience both on the court and off. He answered the questions, some numerous times on many different nights as the season wore on, and accepted Tyndale’s curiosity as just another part of his intense desire to get better.
“Last year, I learned a lot from Mardy Collins,” Tyndale said. “He was telling me stuff I was doing wrong on the court that I needed to improve on, when to stay aggressive, when not to play so aggressive.
“Now, Mardy’s not my roommate unfortunately, because coach is looking at me as a leader.”
The freshman Chaney put under Tyndale’s watch this year is none other than heavyweight center Anthony Ivory, whom the coaches have challenged to lose a good deal of weight. Picture Tyndale having Ivory, who Chaney said weighs around 380 pounds, up at the break of dawn to run wind sprints if the center starts to lag in his conditioning.
Part of Tyndale’s own maturation, though, is learning to reign in his own wild emotions.
“Sometimes he misuses it,” Collins said. “He plays so hard, he makes mistakes. Everyone says he’s crazy because he’s just out there playing hard. Coach tries to get him to channel those things and slow down. His mistakes aren’t because he’s not making the effort, but because he’s just going and going, trying too hard.”
Still, Tyndale’s intensity makes him a joy to watch, even for opposing coaches.
“I love Tyndale,” George Washington coach Karl Hobbs said. “He’s long, lean, and athletic. He’s versatile, and he loves getting active defensively.”
Few seem able to describe Tyndale without superlatives. His 12.5 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game averages of last season don’t entirely tell the story, because there’s no stat to measure insanity.
“I’m crazy in a good way – play hard, strong discipline, willing to learn,” Tyndale said. “I’m not afraid of getting cussed at. I don’t mind getting cussed at by Coach Chaney. When he’s hollering at you, sometimes a little negative language comes out, but that’s part of life.”
In addition, Tyndale taking a new role has affected the team in another important way; Collins now has a low-key roommate like himself in freshman guard Semaj Inge.
“Mark kept me up with a lot of questions, just ’cause he’s so eager to learn,” Collins said. “Semaj usually lets me go to sleep.”
Ben Watanabe can be reached at email@example.com.