Tyler Dorsey never dreamed he’d be wearing the Greek colours in international competition, but the realisation that he will be representing the men’s national basketball team in Olympic qualification has hit home.
“I never thought I would represent Greece,” Dorsey told Neos Kosmos from Oregon.
“It was something that just happened. I’m happy and honoured to play for the Greek national team.
“To wear the blue and white colours, and represent Greece is going to be a great experience if we qualify.”
Born in California to an American father and a Greek mother, Dorsey quickly made a name for himself in US college basketball during his first NCAA season in 2015-16, averaging 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists, all the while helping lead the Oregon Ducks to March Madness action.
Prior to that, in 2014, Dorsey was cut from a USA Basketball tryout camp for its U18 national team — a serendipitous turn of events that set the wheels in motion to get the teenager to Greece.
“My mum and family said why not figure out [a way] to get on the Greek team,” Dorsey said.
To do so required a bit of guile, and luck.
As it happened, the Ducks’ assistant coach, Tony Stubblefield, was good friends with Nick Papaioannou, Editor-in-Chief of MSN, and a well-respected blogger for NBA Greece.
Papaioannou has been covering the NBA since 1996, and has developed close relationships with many players in the NBA.
Over dinner, Stubblefield told Papaioannou about Dorsey. “He told me that his mother is Greek and that he wanted to play for the national team,” Papaioannou remembers.
“I contacted the president of the Greek Basketball Federation, Georgios Vassilakopoulos, and the federation’s executive, Panagiotis Fassoulas.
“They asked me to have his parents send the papers that proved his Greek origin. Within three weeks, Tyler had a Greek passport and was playing with the U19 National team at the World Championship.”
Dorsey received his Greek passport on the Tuesday before the U19s began and was added to the Greek roster at the last minute before the tournament kicked off in Crete. Despite his lack of familiarity with his new teammates, he led the team in points and minutes as the young Greeks finished fourth in the tournament.
More impressive was the fact that he came off the bench in every game he played. “The great thing about him was how easy he adjusted in an unknown environment,” added Papaioannou.
“Playing with players that he saw for the first time in his life, on a semi-pro level, even though he was coming from high school basketball.”
Perhaps buoyed by his impressive showings at both the international and college level, Dorsey entered his name as one of 162 early-entry candidates that initially declared for the 2016 NBA Draft, only to withdraw just before the deadline, but not before working out for teams like the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz.
Dorsey said he realised he needed more time to develop as a player before making the leap into the NBA. “It’s a lifestyle you gotta be prepared for,” Dorsey said about his NBA workouts.
“I just thought going back to Oregon would be the best decision for me.
“I know what I have to work on. I just thought I’d prepare myself this year and come back next year [and try for the NBA].”
Before focusing on the college season ahead, Dorsey was formally invited to the men’s national team training camp on Monday 6 June, and he will have an opportunity to fight for a spot on the roster as the Greeks look to secure Olympic qualification in Italy next month.
“We definitely have a good chance to qualify,” he stated assertively. “We play some tough teams in our pool – Italy at home – but we have a good chance, we have a good team.”