Gateway: Sports

His coach challenged him to be more consistent. Now Peninsula’s Spurlock has become the team’s go-to scorer

Peninsula guard Tyler Spurlock in Peninsula’s game against North Thurston on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.
Peninsula guard Tyler Spurlock in Peninsula’s game against North Thurston on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.

Thinking back on last year, Peninsula High School senior guard remembers jogging through the pregame layup line and doing things at half speed.

That’s changed this year.

“My first shot in warmups is a full-speed layup now,” Spurlock said.

It might seem like a small, unimportant change, but that charge to the rim is symbolic of a mentality shift for Spurlock, who has become the focal point of Peninsula’s offense this year.

No more going through the motions. No taking plays off. No sitting in the background silently. No following the lead of others.

“It’s easy for us to see the consistency in his game,” said Peninsula coach Matt Robles. “He has to be vocal for us, which is a little out of his personality.”

Spurlock said he figured he would just lead by example, by Robles challenged him before the season to step up as a vocal leader for the Seahawks this season, after the team lost its most vocal players to graduation. Losing the team’s starting five, including players like Sam Miller and Jared Brinkman, left Peninsula with a void heading into the 2018-19 season.

“I’ve taken that challenge,” Spurlock said. “I’m not a loud guy. But I think I’m getting used to it. Last year, I just kind of sat in the huddle and listened. I’d just be a follower. I’ve tried to step in and put myself in the leadership position, giving halftime and pregame speeches, just trying to get everyone on the same energy level.”

Mostly, Spurlock has worked to be a more consistent player. A season ago, he showed flashes as a sixth man off the bench for the Seahawks. At his best, he was talented enough to be a starter for Peninsula.

“He’s just taken on so much, from where he was last year, as a role guy off the bench for us and being kind of streaky,” Robles said. “To be a consistent guy, that’s a big jump. We’re proud of what he’s done so far.”

This season, Spurlock is averaging 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He’s been the Seahawks’ go-to scorer.

“If we want to win, I know I’m going to have to contribute,” Spurlock said. “My main goal is just to give my full effort. I’m confident in the work I’ve done on and off the court.”

Spurlock was named to the all-tournament team for the “Tournament of Champions” hosted by Franklin High School in Seattle during the holiday break, averaging 14 points per game for Peninsula, which went 2-2 in the tournament, posting wins over Cleveland and Stanwood.

Where Robles has noticed the switch flipped most for Spurlock is in practice, where the 6-foot-3 guard has brought an increased seriousness to the gym.

“Every day in practice, he’s been there leading the guys, leading by example,” Robles said. “That’s what I’m most proud of. He’s done it every day.”

Spurlock said he’s also worked individually with a trainer during the offseason fine-tuning his game. He said the biggest tangible difference from his offseason workouts has been improved ball handling, which has translated to a more confident all-around game.

“Last year, I could barely bring the ball up past half court,” Spurlock said. “I had stupid turnovers. I’ve cut down the nervous energy and filled it with confidence. I worked a lot on game-time simulations. I’d just do the same move over and over and over again, until that repitition just became muscle memory. That was my main focus.”

Robles called Spurlock a “gym rat,” saying he’s always finding time to work on his game, in addition to being a good student in the classroom.

“He’s just a great young guy,” Robles said. “All the success he has, he has earned it. It’s cool to see.”