For Hillsdale native point guard and shooting guard Tyler Laser, basketball has shown him the world.
Tyler Laser graduated from Hillsdale High School in 2006, went on to play Division 1 basketball at Eastern Illinois University, and now plays professional basketball in Europe.
“Sitting in Cyprus, I thought to myself: what an unlikely circumstance that a kid from Hillsdale, Mich., and guys from Mississippi, and California and two Croatians are sitting hangin out,” Tyler Laser said. “Basketball has been so cool; it’s allowed me to meet so many people, travel the world and get paid for it, and I’m so thankful that God put it in my life.”
Tyler Laser started his career playing basketball in the driveway with his brother, Luke Laser, the Hillsdale College assistant men’s basketball coach.
“We’ve always held each other to a standard and expected perfection, and it’s fun to have someone to push you like that,” Luke Laser said.
During his freshmen year at Hillsdale High, Tyler joined Luke- at that time a junior- on the varsity men’s basketball team.
“Hillsdale was always the joke of the conference, always getting smacked around,” Tyler said. “When we came through, we dominated.”
Hillsdale High School basketball coach Brad Felix said the year that Tyler was a sophomore and his brother a senior, was and still is today the school’s best record.
“We wouldn’t have had the season that we did without them. We went 25 – 1 and made it to the Elite Eight- the semifinals in the state tournament,” Felix said. “Those boys hold a special place in my heart; coaching them was a great experience.”
Throughout his high school career, Tyler said he was approached with offers for many colleges, but after being ejected from a game during his senior year, the best offer remaining was from Eastern Illinois University.
“The fact that they were loyal to me at a time where I didn’t show my best character, I wanted to be loyal to them and that’s why I went there,” Tyler said.
During college, Tyler said the team was rebuilding and he wasn’t used to losing, which almost caused him to transfer; however, he stuck with EIU because of their loyalty shown towards him in the past, and his junior year proved successful for him and the team. He earned first team all-conference and the team finished third in their league, which was the highest the school had ranked in 12 years.
Going into his senior year at EIU, Tyler said he was misdiagnosed by the trainers who said he had a pulled hamstring when he actually had herniated discs in his lower back. Tyler could not play the rest of his senior year and was unable to qualify for a redshirt.
“I was getting all the preseason accolades and then that sort of popped my balloon. It was devastating,” Tyler said.
Since he was finished playing in the NCAA, Tyler Laser began looking for new opportunities in the basketball world.
Tyler went to Sweden after graduating to play for the Solna Vikings, and then played for APOEL- the biggest professional club in Cyprus- for about a month and a half earlier this year.
“He’s very passionate about basketball and he always wanted to play at the highest level possible,” Luke Laser said. “He’s playing against the best in the world in Europe, so he gets that challenge over there.”
Tyler said he was a leading scorer on the Cyprus team, but after a four-game losing streak, the team cut almost half of their players, and unfortunately, he was one of them.
“They are very cut throat in Europe,” Tyler said. “There’s so much talent and if you don’t perform, they get rid of you and they’ll keep getting someone else. There’s guys there for two days- didn’t like the way they went through practice, so they didn’t even get a chance to play in a game, but that’s the business, and a lot of people aren’t mentally strong enough to deal with it.”
Tyler said he hopes to be playing in South America this coming summer and then return to Europe in the fall.
In order to stay in shape, Tyler works out with the Chargers and the Hillsdale Hornets, and he still plays basketball with Luke in a men’s league about twice a week.
“When I say Tyler’s comin’ in, all the guys get fired up,” Felix said. “He’s a great guy- always comes back and he wears the Hornet colors every chance he gets.”
Tyler said he likes helping kids out with basketball and he plans on starting AAU teams in the future.
“I like to tell kids-if you really are passionate for it and you try to make it happen, you can’t easily give up on yourself when things go wrong,” Tyler said. “I’m just a kid from small Hillsdale, now when I come home, I’ll see kids and they’ll say ‘hey, I scored 40 points with you on my video game,’ it’s just cool.”