The talent of the UAB Men’s Basketball team is undeniable with the lock-down defense of Hakeem Baxter, the inhuman athleticism of Dirk Williams, the unstoppable paint scoring and rebounding of Chris Cokley and Tosin Mehinti, the scoring spark off the bench of Denzell Watts,the scoring and shot rejecting of William Lee, the offensive rebounding and energy of Tyler Madison, the fan favorite 7-foot 3-point machine Thomas Smallwood, the freshman phenoms Nate Darling and Javien Williams (who I am convinced is a clone of Dirk, like really, its kind of freaky), and the slashing to the basket dime dishing of Deion Lavender.

So, with all of this talent and ability, who can be labeled the most important or integral part of the team? Obviously the argument could be made for HaHa or Chris with their offensive production and shot swatting this year, but I think it is someone else. Someone who isn’t in the starting five.

This someone is Tyler Madison. Tyler is an effort and hustle machine. His motor never stops running.

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Tyler brings so much energy and emotion to the game. Within 30 seconds of checking into the game against Kansas he had grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled while shooting the put back, scoring our first points of that game. He is an and-1 machine with his strength and athleticism. He leads the team in free throw attempts because of this with 34 (nine more than the next closest in Hakeem). He has not converted as many of those, 21, as I am sure he would like to, but he is getting to the line after making layups and put backs off of rebounds.

Tyler is our third leading offensive rebounder with 10 offensive boards through seven games. Only Chris and Tosin, guys you would expect to have a ton of offensive boards, have more with 16 and 14 respectively. Now, on the surface, this is not a big deal until you realize that he is listed at 6-foot-5 tall. He is out rebounding, offensively at least, eight other guys on the team, some of whom are several inches taller than him. This offensive rebounding prowess was put on display two seasons ago against Iowa State when he grabbed 9 offensive rebounds. This arguably kept us in the game because we were able to score second chance points.

Last season, Tyler saw his minutes shrink to a handful a game because, this is merely speculation on my part, of friction between him and Coach Haase. This season, Coach Ehsan has been giving him many more minutes (15.1 a game) and he has been using them to great effect. He has, to my eyes, improved upon his game in every way and it shows and is being rewarded.

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Every great team has a “dirty work” player that plays at 120 percent every night for the team. They may not put up big numbers in statistical categories, but the way they effect the game is felt in other ways. I believe that Tyler is that guy for UAB. He is a strong candidate for 6th Man of the Year within Conference USA if he continues to play at this level all season.