Favorite athlete: Lebron James
Favorite team: 76ers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning Warminster league championship in 2016
Funniest memory competing in sports: When I was younger, I used to have 1-on-1 games with my friends outside, and it always ended with some crazy shot. We were always outside until it was pitch black dark outside.
Music on playlist: Rap, R&B, Pop, Alternative
Future plans: Go to college for computer science
One goal before turning 30: Be financially stable and take care of my family.
One thing people don’t know about me: I like building computers.
By Mary Jane Souder
Dan Heiland preaches a simple philosophy to his players – whatever your role may be, embrace it.
“It doesn’t mean it’s your role for the season, it could be for one game, it could be for a week or month,” the Upper Moreland boys’ basketball coach said.
Ralph Tyler could well be the posterchild for Heiland’s coaching philosophy.
The UM senior was voted a captain by his coaches and teammates, but he doesn’t occupy a starting spot. Instead, he is the sixth man for a Golden Bears’ squad that is 10-2 out of the gate, and whether Tyler stays in that role for the next week or the entire season, he’ll be just fine with Heiland’s decision.
Tyler gets it. Plain and simple, and if anybody understands what being a captain and teammate is about, the senior guard does.
“Being a captain, you really have to embody what the program is about,” he said. “You’re the main person everybody leans toward.”
And what is UM’s program about?
“Just everybody buying into their role,” Tyler said. “Not everybody is going to be a 20-point scorer. There might be nights when Colson (Campbell) will have 27 points and other nights he might only have 10.
“Sometimes I might score a decent amount, other nights I might not score at all. It’s not about us having one player to rely on, it’s mainly us coming together and playing as a team.”
If it sounds like Tyler is a coach’s dream, he just might be.
“Ralph’s a pretty easygoing kid,” Heiland said. “He seemed to take not only my coaching but the other coaches on the staff. He’s a very coachable kid.
“He’s one of those kids that just puts his head down and works really hard. When he has a question or he’s unsure about something, he definitely comes up to you and makes sure he’s doing it the way you want him to do it. He’s a kid you can throw in any situation, and you feel that he’s going to come through and make the best of the situation or make a moment.”
Tyler’s journey to his role as a captain of the Golden Bears was hardly your typical one. Born in the United States to parents who immigrated from Liberia in the late ‘90s, he grew up playing soccer, and he excelled, competing on both the travel and highly competitive academy circuit. Tyler began playing basketball when he was eight, and by the time he was 12, he stopped playing soccer to focus on basketball.
“It’s kind of a situation where you’re good at something, but you’re not really interested in it,” he said. “I was interested in soccer at the start but felt like it was a chore later on.”
Basketball has never been a chore, although his journey was not always easy.
At the end of basketball season freshman year, Tyler transferred from William Tennent to Upper Moreland. Before he had a chance to get acclimated, the schools were closed because of the COVID pandemic.
“The first couple of days (at Upper Moreland) it was awkward because I was by myself,” he said. “But once I started meeting people, it started to get better and then that happened and shut everything down.”
Tyler maintained contact with friends, but as a result of the pandemic, basketball fell by the wayside, and he didn’t go out for UM’s team sophomore year.
“It was kind of like being on the bench and you’re not getting any kind of (playing) time,” Tyler said of his winter without basketball. “I wanted to play, but my mom works as a nurse, and she also does home care, so she was really cautious about everything.
“I was like – I’d rather not put everybody at risk, but to be honest, it was really tough. It took a toll on me mentally because the one sport I really enjoyed doing I couldn’t play it as much. I couldn’t really do much besides stay in the house or go out once or twice to see family. Mentally, I was like – why is this happening? It felt like the end of the world, but I started to realize more and more, it was better that way than putting everything at risk.”
Tyler seriously considered the possibility of not playing competitive basketball again.
“There was some doubt because mentally I was going through that, and also, I’m pretty sure everybody had a tough time with school during that whole COVID thing,” he said. “There was a point where I just wanted to hang it up, but I stuck through it and decided I’d try it one more time and see how it goes. Having a passion for that, it’s something you can’t explain. It’s a feeling – you just can’t stop thinking about it.”
So back to the gym he went.
“At first it was pretty rough,” Tyler said. “We had open gyms, and I was kind of getting used to how everybody played, but once I started getting into the motions of everything, it was smooth sailing.
“Coach helped me a lot, and I’ve improved. Even though I got injured last season, which was a big downfall, I was still learning everywhere. Anything I could ask I was asking, kind of taking everything in.”
As for the injury, Tyler, who dressed for varsity but saw limited time, suffered a toe sprain and a fracture of a bone in the middle of his foot.
“I was playing, and I went up to block a shot – I got the block but landed weird,” he said. “I didn’t feel it until the day after because my adrenalin’s rushing when I was on the court.
“I went to sleep that night, and when I woke up, my whole foot was on fire. I went to school and tried to get through it, but I went to the nurse – it was unbearable.”
Tyler was projected to be out a month or two but was back in three weeks. In the offseason, he committed himself to improving his game.
“What Ralph and a lot of guys that are contributing this season have done a really good job of is – as soon as workouts opened back up after last year’s season, they’ve been there every day rain or shine,” Heiland said. “They don’t stop working. Even when they leave workouts, they go to the Y, they go to an outside court, and they just constantly play together.
“It’s a big part of this team. These are a bunch of new faces, new guys and new pieces, but because of the work they’ve all put in, it has helped this team grow together and why we’re doing some nice things this early on in the season.”
This season, Tyler is healthy and contributing whether he’s on the court or off.
“He’s one of those guys that on the bench is constantly talking when he’s not in the game,” Heiland said. “When he comes in, he brings energy, he brings a different style of play for us in the sense that he’s going to be physical.
“We want to play an up-tempo physical style at times, and when he comes into the game, he can do that. We don’t miss a beat.”
The Golden Bears coach recalls Tyler’s role in the Golden Bears’ win over perennial SOL power Cheltenham earlier this season.
“It wasn’t so much in the box score as far as points, but we had four of our five starters get in foul trouble,” Heiland said. “Ralph and a bunch of other members of our team stepped up and allowed us to continue to hold onto the lead and go into halftime with it.
“He is one of those guys that during timeouts or stoppages, he’s again being a court general, talking to everyone and making sure they know – we’re in this defense, who they have. Everything you want your guard or point guard to do.”
Coming as no surprise, Tyler is equally committed to his work in the classroom.
“My family emigrated from Liberia, so hard work is a big priority when it comes to everything we do,” he said. “My mom is still in school, and she’s almost 40 years old. She’s still in school trying to better herself. I look at that and use it as an inspiration how far she’s come.”
Tyler has not chosen a college but would like to continue his basketball career while majoring in computer science.
“Computer science is one of the things I want to do because it builds into a lot of things you can do with computers,” he said. “I can network on the computer, I can program a web site for different jobs or I could even make my own business and start selling things online. There are multiple ventures you can do with computer science and computer engineering.”
For now, Tyler is focusing on his final basketball season and his role as a leader of the team.
“I’m not really that much of a super vocal person,” he said. “I try to show and lead by example.
“If I see something someone can improve on, I’ll pull them to the side and talk to them, kind of being the big brother of the whole entire team, making sure everyone is taken care of.”
There’s no sixth man of the year award in the SOL, but if there was, Tyler would certainly be a candidate.
“Ralph has had an impact really in every game,” Heiland said. “He has been a constant guy we can rely on at any moment of the game. He’s a huge reason why we are continuing to have success this year so far.”