Posts filed under ‘Alumni’

Tyler Smith, A True Basketball Globetrotter

Our Nov./Dec. 17 issue includes an item on a new book by former Nittany Lion basketball player Tyler Smith, who spent much of his career overseas chasing a professional basketball contract. As you might guess, the extensive traveling involved in such a venture could lend itself to stories, and Smith ’02 has some pretty good ones. He detailed most of them in emails home to family and friends—having to take toilet paper to away games, playing on odd surfaces, and 30-hour bus trips one way just to get to games. It all lent itself to a pretty good outline for a book.

And so Smith compiled them all into just that: Called for Traveling: My Nomadic Life Playing Pro Basketball Around the World was released in October by Sports Publishing. “People seemed to get a kick out of the stories,” Smith said when we caught up with him by phone recently. “I loved hearing them kind of laugh through their emails.”

Smith’s LinkedIn profile tells the story. On it is a line: “Pro Basketball Player, 2002­–2013.” Under locations it lists Holland, Italy, Uruguay, Argentina, Utah Jazz, NBA D-League, Japan, and Thailand. “It’s such an unorthodox lifestyle—you’re in these foreign countries, you don’t speak the language, sometimes teams don’t pay you, you’re away from everybody and everything you know,” Smith said. “People wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that happens. They think, ‘Ohh, it’s traveling the world, and living this amazing life.’ Sometimes we have some pretty cool experiences and sometimes you’re bringing your own toilet paper to away games.”

He counts playing in Holland and Italy among the better experiences he had. Then there was Argentina: “I took a 30-hour bus ride, one-way, to play a game. They brought two bus drivers because we’d just drive as long as we could until one of them had to pull over and have a smoke.”

“I played in Uruguay three times, and the first time I went down there was the most shocking because there’s 16 teams in the league, and only four of them had wooden-floor courts,” he said. “It was like some kind of concrete or a tile or I don’t even know what you call it—you’re sliding all over the place. One time we were playing a game and my point guard wasn’t running back on defense and our coach is yelling at him and he says he can’t, his shoe is stuck in the floor. There, literally, was a hole in the floor and his shoe got caught in it.”

Still, Smith considers himself lucky to have had the experiences over an 11-year playing career. But the nomadic lifestyle is still in him: Smith has spent the past four years working as a medical device sales representative, still travelling across states to consult on medical equipment and prosthetic implants.

As for the book, “You don’t have to be a hardcore basketball junkie to like this book,” he says. “There’s a little bit of everything in there. I talk about family and bringing my kids with me—that adds a whole new element of challenge to the journey—and talking about my faith. I don’t know if anybody other than the three ladies in my mom’s book club are gonna read it, but if nothing else it’ll be down on paper and I can show it to my daughters.”

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

 

 

 

 

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November 7, 2017 at 10:58 am 2 comments

A Blue-White Weigh-in

Illustration via Corrine Furjanic

Weigh-offs before a mixed martial arts fight have a reputation for lots of posturing, stare-downs and the occasional scuffle. School spirit, not so much. But before his January 2012 fight against Rashad Evans, light heavyweight Phil Davis ’08 stepped on the scale wearing a Penn State singlet, the kind he would have worn as a four-time all-American and 2008 national champion for the Nittany Lions.

“It was a time where we needed a little morale,” said Davis during a promotional visit to Happy Valley ahead of the Bellator MMA promotion’s debut in the Bryce Jordan Center. Davis, along with three-time national champion Ed Ruth ’14, will be fighting Nov. 3 on a Spike-televised event from the same arena that would be packed to the rafters when they wrestled. As he prepares for a homecoming in the cage, the time seems right to bring the singlet back. “I might have to get a hold of one of those fatigue ones, man. That was sick,” says Davis, referring to the blue and white digi camo singlet that makes occasional appearances on the mat. “We’ll have to talk to somebody.”

The light heavyweight, known for donning pink shorts in the cage, said he appreciates the individualism afforded a fighter, mixing it with the team-first mentality of his college days. “Our values are that the basic blue and white, and uniformity is how we achieve together,” he said. “No names on the back. That’s who we are. Penn State, the wrestling singlet was unchanged for 100 years, and on our 100th-year anniversary we went from a blue singlet with white writing—get this, it’s going to get crazy—to a white singlet with blue writing. And that was living on the wild side. … I feel like I come to love and appreciate that mindset, and then take that forward with me into the world. But also, I think it’s fun to showcase my uniqueness and character a little bit. But not too much personality.”

There’s more on Davis and Ruth and their transition to the MMA cage in our Nov./Dec. 2017 issue, already arriving in mailboxes.

Bill Zimmerman, special to PennStaterMag.com

October 26, 2017 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Barry Myers Tabbed to Lead NOAA

President Trump has nominated a Penn State alumnus to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Barry Myers ’67 Lib, CEO of State College-based AccuWeather, was tabbed by Trump on Wednesday to lead NOAA, the agency that oversees the National Weather Service, conducts weather and climate research, and monitors U.S. coast lines. His pick is a departure from previous NOAA nominees, who tend to come from scientific backgrounds, but in keeping with Trump’s preference for candidates from the business world.

Myers’ nomination is controversial to some: As The Washington Post reports, his role as head of a private business that uses National Weather Service data has inspired conflict of interest concerns, both among ex-NOAA staffers and the NWS employee union, which released a statement arguing that Myers would “be in a position to fundamentally alter the nature of weather services that NOAA provides the nation, to the benefit of his family-owned business.”

The nomination was greeted more warmly by the Weather Coalition, an advocacy group of which both AccuWeather and the Penn State Department of Meteorology are members. A Weather Coalition spokesman said Myers “brings a strong track record in growing one of the most successful companies in the weather industry.”

Ryan Jones, deputy editor

 

October 12, 2017 at 11:08 am 1 comment

It’s Good to Be the King

Don Roy King’s already-packed trophy case added another Emmy on Sunday night. King ’69, a 2016 recipient of Penn State’s Distinguished Alumni Award, won the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series for his work on the April 15, 2017 episode of Saturday Night Live, the first in the program’s history that aired live in all four major American time zones.

After receiving his seventh Emmy since becoming the director of the long-running show, King took one question from the press about comedy’s place in America’s “fraught political climate.” Saying that he’s always been “proud of the show,” King said that the 42nd season of Saturday Night Live “felt different, more important” and that it mixed “holding people accountable” with “doing some healing.”

Bill Difilippo, online editor

September 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm 1 comment

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

When we met Mike Karns ’11 for our Sep./Oct. 2015 feature on alums making their way on Broadway, his digital startup Marathon Live Entertainment was handling social media for small, off-Broadway clients, a few real estate agents, and was in the infancy of its current stint with a show that had just started its run on Broadway, Hamilton. And just as the “ten dollar founding father’s” star has risen, so has Karns’ profile.

Today, he oversees a digital and social media empire for the Broadway phenomenon, which still plays to packed houses in New York City and has spawned a national tour. With tickets still in high demand, merchandising for the show has grown to include a mixtape, an instrumental soundtrack, and now a smartphone app—launched Aug. 11 by Karns’ company—that recently surpassed 750,000 downloads.

His social media efforts have attracted more than two million followers. In addition to Hamilton, Marathon Live handles the digital marketing for a number of other Broadway and off-Broadway productions, and he himself has become a Tony-nominated producer, after having latched on as a co-producer with Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, a Broadway musical that has featured, among others, Josh Groban and Ingrid Michaelson. Away from Broadway, he’s president of the School of Theatre Alumni Program Group and a recipient of the 2017 Alumni Achievement Award.

Not bad for a guy whose claim to fame (more…)

September 5, 2017 at 1:46 pm 1 comment

A First-Person Account of Surviving Harvey

Scrolling through my Twitter feed last night, I came across this first-person account of a family in the Houston suburbs that tried to ride out the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey, only to be forced out of—and rescued from—their half-submerged home. Turns out the piece was written by my old Daily Collegian colleague Ramit Plushnick-Masti ’95.

The attention to detail in Ramit’s account is no accident: She spent most of her career as a journalist, including more than a dozen years with the Associated Press, before relocating to Texas to work as communications director for the Houston Forensic Science Center. She hasn’t lost a bit of her reporting chops—it’s a compelling read. Great to hear that she, her husband, and their three sons made it out OK.

On the topic, the folks at the Alumni Association’s Houston Chapter have been posting throughout the storm on their Facebook page, including links for people looking to donate.

Ryan Jones, deputy editor

August 30, 2017 at 2:47 pm Leave a comment

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