Today I have the absolute privilege of sharing my interview with Tyler Kepkay. He is arguably the best guard to come out of British Columbia since the two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash. After an illustrious high school basketball career at Handsworth Secondary, Tyler moved onto the College of Eastern Utah. During his sophomore year, he led the entire country in Junior College scoring and was named 1st-team Junior College All-American. Tyler then moved onto the University of Utah, where in his senior season he led them to the NCAA tournament as a 5 seed. He was picked as the Chevrolet Player of the Game in his first round game against the University of Arizona. After Utah, Tyler played professional basketball in Germany, and represented Canada for 3 years. During his time he competed against the best basketball players in the world such as Team USA Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Chris Paul & Dwayne Wade, as well as European elites like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker & Dirk Nowitzki. Currently he is playing professional basketball in Hong Kong for Winling where he also has his own elite basketball academy. He is also one of Adidas' marquee sponsored basketball players. Impossible is truly nothing.
PM: British Columbia (BC) has had some great players come out that have gone on to star in the NCAA, and even the NBA (Rob Sacre and Kelly Olynk). However, the vast majority of these athletes are very tall (>6’10) or are freakishly athletic wings (6’4-6’7). What allowed you as an “undersized” guard to not only survive but thrive at the collegiate and professional level?
TK: What I believe has allowed me to compete at every level I think is my skill level. Every time I stepped onto the court, I knew I was the most skilled player there. This was at every level I played. When you can step onto the court and know you are the most skilled player there no matter what, it gives you the confidence to play against anyone. Secondly, my competitiveness. I have never played against anyone who was more competitive than me.
PM: During your high school career, the North Shore had one of the strongest basketball contingents probably ever. There were a few division 1 players, a handful of high level CIS players in the 3 years you played varsity at Handsworth. What intangible(s) do you think allowed you to separate from the pack and have the career you did?
TK: Well again, my competitiveness. I was just a lot more competitive than everyone else. Then my dedication to the game. There were three kinds of kids growing up, kids who thought they worked hard but didn't, kids who worked hard, and those who were obsessive and dedicated every minute of every day to the sport. I was the third one. I can probably count on one hand how many kids were like me in the whole province at the time I was in high school.
PM: Going through my high school basketball career you were the example that all the coaches used to demonstrate how we should conduct ourselves on/off the court. Coaches always mentioned your fierceness, but more importantly your confidence. You were playing on the U-17 BC team, and were one of the better players on the team despite being a year younger than everyone. What gave you that unshakable confidence to play your game no matter what people said or who you were playing against?
TK: Well the fact that I knew I put in more time than anyone else. Therefore being more skilled than anyone else. Confidence is gained through work ethic. Not only did I put in more time than everyone else, I believe I trained smarter than everyone else too. When you know not only did you put more time in, but the time spent was of better quality, it gives you supreme confidence. When you work hard and smart, you are going to improve your skill level. When you add all those up, there is no other way to be but extremely confident.
PM: Follow-up to the last question. Your work ethic was even more legendary than your competitive fire. Coaches would talk about how you would attend a 3 hour BC team practice and then afterwards go to Delbrook and shoot for hours. What fueled that drive? What allowed you to not burn out and remain healthy despite working so hard?
TK: What fueled me was two things. First was the fact I just loved the game that much. I loved to train and I loved to figure out new ways to challenge myself while I trained. It never felt hard or like work. It felt fun and rewarding. That is also why I believe I never burned out. Second was the drive to be the best. I wanted to flat out destroy everyone in high school. I never wanted it to be in question who the best player was.
PM: You have been able to sustain a high level of performance for a very long time, which in my opinion is the true hallmark of greatness. Do you have any specific regiments or strategies you use that allow you to be a “sustainable athlete” and bounce back from tough workouts?
TK: For me its always been about consistency. Being consistent in everything you do from skill work, weight room, conditioning, mobility, recovery/rehab. Its everyday doing one or some of these things at a high level so that your body is always in condition. I am never out of shape, I am always in game shape.
PM: Lastly a questions I always like to ask. What would you recommend a young baller should do to allow them to have the opportunity to continue play basketball at the university level and maybe beyond.
TK: I get asked this a lot, and its a tough question to answer. Lots of people say work hard, or follow your dreams. But honestly that really wont help much. I believe there is one question one must ask oneself first before they embark on that journey. They must ask themselves if they truly love the game. If yes, then make the vow to commit and dedicate their entire mind, body, and soul to the game. Once that commitment has been made, it is about consistency everyday in improving yourself. Never look too far forward. Enjoy the process and this will give you the BEST chance to play after high school. I say best chance, because that's all you can do as a player, is give yourself a chance, nothing is guaranteed.
Tyler Kepkay is truly an inspiration. He embodies the virtues of industriousness, passion and discipline, and how far they can take you. To come out of North Vancouver and to excel not only at the Junior College and NCAA level but also at the professional level is a testament to his dedication to his craft. During my basketball career, he inspired me to push myself further than I thought possible because he was an "undersized" guard that had not only made it to the NCAA level but was excelling there.
I was not able to achieve my goal of playing NCAA division one basketball but I know because of having the opportunity to coach with and learn from Tyler that I most definitely gave myself the BEST chance to play at that level. I really appreciate his humbleness and maturity to realize that nothing is guaranteed and you need to earn everything. For all you young ballers out there, do not take for granted the privilege you have to chase your dreams. The opportunities to turn your dreams into reality are fleeting. Make sure that you take these lessons Tyler has so graciously shared with us today and implement them! Knowledge is NOT power but only potential power. You need to apply what you learned today!
To continue to follow and learn from Tyler Kepkay's during his career make sure to like his Facebook Page and check out his Basketball Academy.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.