SPRINGDALE -- Like the bounce of a basketball dribble, the Springdale Har-Ber boys basketball team has had its share of ups and downs.
It wasn't that long ago that the program was a doormat in the 7A-West Conference with six losing seasons over a seven-year span. The Wildcats made their only state title game appearance in just the second year of the school opening in the 2006-07 season when former coach Eric Burnett guided the team to a 20-6 record.
AT A GLANCE
SCHOOL Springdale Har-Ber
NOTABLE Went over the 1,000 career scoring mark in December against Webb City, Mo. He is the first Har-Ber player in school history to score more than 1,000 career points. … Has been a starter since his freshman season after moving to Springdale from Fort Smith. … Leads the 7A-West in scoring at 22.8 points per game in five league games.
SCHOOL Springdale Har-Ber
NOTABLE Became the second Har-Ber player to eclipse the 1,000 career point mark against Fayetteville, joining teammate Tylor Perry, who hit the milestone in December. … Ranks fourth in the 7A-West in scoring at 20.0 points per game in league play. … Has a younger brother, Austin, who is also a starter for the Wildcats as a sophomore. … Played his freshman season at Springdale High before moving to Har-Ber as a sophomore.
Burnett lasted three more seasons, but the high mark was a 13-12 record in 2008-09. Burnett left for his hometown of Fort Smith, where he coached Northside to a state championship last season. Burnett's Northside team defeated Har-Ber in the state semifinals last season.
The past three seasons have seen a drastic change in the program with the hiring of Scott Bowlin, who'd had much success at Green County Tech near Jonesboro. Last season the Wildcats were 22-8 with a young team. This season has been even better, thanks to the stellar play of guards Tyler Garrett and Tylor Perry.
Perry, a 5-foot-11 junior, leads the 7A-West Conference in scoring at 22 points per game. He also etched his name in the school record book as the first Wildcat player to eclipse the 1,000-point career scoring mark, hitting the milestone in December against Webb City, Mo., in Wildcat Arena.
Garrett, a 6-2 senior, ranks fourth in the conference in scoring at 20 points per game. He also topped the 1,000-point career mark this season.
"When you come in and you're trying to build a program in that first year, you usually have to go with what you've got," Bowlin said of his first season when Har-Ber was 12-17. "Then you start looking at what's coming. I've just always been one of those guys that I start young kids if I can."
Bowlin said then-sophomore J.P Brandon was a prime example of giving young players their chance. Brandon blossomed into a 6-foot-5 star at Har-Ber and is currently at Harding University.
Perry arrived at Har-Ber as a freshman, moving from Fort Smith. Garrett transferred from cross-town Springdale High before his sophomore season. The dynamic duo made their mark quickly.
"When Tylor and Tyler came in, that's when I decided that's what we were going to do," Bowlin said. "We were looking to the future, and I knew they were both going to be really good players. But I knew we were going to have some bumps in the road."
Perry recalls the early days when the Wildcats were not on anyone's radar of Arkansas basketball elite. Perry played junior high basketball at Fort Smith Darby against current Arkansas signee Isaiah Joe. Perry said he is also a cousin to former Duke star Jahlil Okafor, who was born in Fort Smith.
"We really started from the bottom," Perry said. "It's been amazing."
As a freshman, Perry was thrown into the fire quickly, taking the floor against Hot Springs in the season opener.
"My heart almost beat out of my chest," he recalled. "I remember going in the first time and Coach Bowlin looking down at the bench and saying, 'young'un, come on.' I ran to the table. I'll never forget it.
"Then I was in help defense and my man hit a 3 right in my face. That kind of gave me a wake-up call."
Garrett went through the same growing pains as a sophomore, even though he had seen some varsity time as a freshman at Springdale.
"Just getting my shot off was hard back then," he said. "I could get to the basket, but getting my shot off in the right direction was hard. I was thinking too much and I needed to just play."
Bowlin called the two guards the best he's coached in more than 30 years of high school basketball.
"It's been tough sometimes, and it's been great sometimes," Bowlin said. "What's more important is that I'm seeing two guys becoming young men. My relationship with them is about more than coach-player. I see two guys who are going to be successful in life."
Garrett has a younger brother on the team -- Austin Garrett, a 6-5 sophomore with incredible athletic skill. Tyler Garrett said he has relished the time with his younger brother, but also admits that it's frustrating at times.
"I see the game different than him," Tyler Garrett said. "And I don't want to mess that up for him because that's my little brother, but I also want to help him. So sometimes I just let him learn by himself because that's how I learned, to just go out there and play your game."
Off the court, Perry said he enjoys reading, citing Earl Nightingale's "The Essence of Success" as one of his favorites, along with Michael Jordan's "Salt In His Shoes."
Tyler Garrett said music helps him take his mind off the game and he listens to a wide variety of music including country, where Blake Shelton's "She's Got A Way With Words" is one of his favorites.
A number of colleges are talking to the duo. Perry said he has received interest from Wichita State, UCA and Lamar. Tyler Garrett is being recruited by Lamar, Missouri Southern and Arkansas-Little Rock.
Both are looking ahead to the postseason and hoping the Wildcats can take that next step.
"Last year, Coach Bowlin told us he was giving us the keys," Perry said. "He said it's on us now. To see how we've been able to turn it around and be able to grow together, what more could you ask for?"
Sports on 01/28/2018
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