He was a nice kid, he had a bright future. He never caused any trouble.
That seems to be the standard description of every young athlete who dies tragically, regardless of that teenagers true character, regardless of the situation.
But in Tyshawn Bierria's case, there was no embellishing.
"He was a quiet, humble kid," Newtown basketball coach Pat Torney said of Bierria. "Even as athletically gifted as he was, he didn't boast about his talents. He always had a smile on his face."
Bierria died last Thursday after suffering multiple stab wounds in a fight on the campus of SUNY Delhi in the early morning hours of April 27.
According to published reports, the altercation was over a cell phone.
Bierria was part of a close-knit group of friends who grew up in LeFrak City to play college basketball along with Will Harris (University of Virginia), Rainier Rickards (St. Francis College) and Phil Murphy (Texas Tech).
Murphy went to Flushing HS before attending Middletown High with St. John's standout Justin Burrell. In June 2006, Murphy was nearly killed when he was the victim of a shooting, needing two surgeries to fix the wounds.
Bierria borrowed money and visited Murphy in the hospital.
"Tyshawn Bierria was a good kid," said Nate Blue, who coached Bierria with Team Real Scout since he was 14. "Tyshawn was one of the easiest players to coach. Very confident on and off the court, he was a leader not a follower."
Bierria first attended Christ the King, averaging 18 points per game as a sophomore, leading the Royals to the CHSAA junior varsity title. A good student, he transferred to Newtown, where he played with Rickards, because his family couldn't afford the tuition at Christ the King.
At 6-foot-4, Bierria dominated from the outset. When Torney remembers Bierria, he thinks back to the consolation game of the New Utrecht Holiday Classic in 2002. While seated on the floor after battling for a loose ball, Bierria hit the winning shot with four seconds left for the Pioneers in a 62-61 win against Midwood. He averaged 18.6 points, 7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game as a junior, earning a spot on the TimesLedger PSAL All-Queens first team.
"He can really score, extremely tough to defend on the baseline," recruiting guru Tom Konchalski said at the time. "He's a good mid-range scorer who has a Division I body."
A year later in the same tournament, Bierria erupted for 38 points and 19 rebounds. But he would miss most of his senior season because of a mysterious illness, according to Torney and it affected his recruiting.
He attended SUNY-Delhi and played two seasons for the Broncos. He was three credits shy of graduating when he was killed.
He didn't go to Delhi to avoid trouble, because, as Blue said, "Tyshawn was never in trouble, so there was no need to avoid trouble."
Ian Walcott, another former Newtown player, was a close friend of Bierria and was with him the night he was stabbed, according to Torney.
When Bierria died last Thursday, it was Walcott's father who told Torney.
"It never gets easy," Torney said. "It's like losing one of your children."
Torney last saw Bierria in January when he watched the Pioneers play at John Bowne.
"We talked, he had a big smile on his face," Torney said. "We'd speak every few months. He was concerned about me, about the program."
Bierria had plans, he had aspirations. Blue said they spoke in December about a possible basketball coaching career after graduation.
"He seemed very into the idea, and knew more about the process than I did," Blue said.
But now it's Bierria's mother, Sharon, who is making plans she hoped she'd never have to make. Plans for a wake, for a funeral for her 22-year-old son.
Bierria was part of a group of friends who made it, who played college basketball. Now he is linked with Daryl Pelle, George Jefferson and Chris Sandy other hoops standouts who died way too young.
Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2008 Community News Group
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