Being picked 13th in the 2019 NBA Draft left Tyler Herro with mixed feelings. One, he was happy to be going to the Miami Heat. Two, he felt he should have been drafted higher.
“I think being drafted 13 definitely motivates me, but I love where I was drafted. I mean, I love the opportunity I was drafted into, the situation. But the 12 guys ahead of me definitely are in the back of my head all the time, and I know every last one that was drafted ahead of me. And I mean, it definitely does fuel me,” Herro said. “But I think just with our team, we have a bunch of guys like that, who were doubted, who were looked over, and I think that’s the chip on our shoulder that we have.
Those doubters left him playing with a chip on his shoulder just like he did at Kentucky for one season after failing to make the McDonald’s All-American team. Just like he did at Kentucky, Herro got better and better as the season progressed and really shined in the NBA playoff bubble.
“Obviously the coaches have trust in me but I think like Coach said, the biggest thing is my teammates from top to bottom trust me. From the oldest guy to the youngest guy and that’s big,” Herro said. “The vets are like that — they really shine light on me ever since I’ve been in Miami.
“(Guard) Jimmy (Butler) has been the biggest influence for me and he just continues to teach me and help me. Without my teammates, I don’t think that would be possible, especially as a rookie.”
John Calipari, Herro’s coach at Kentucky, says not to underestimate one of Herro’s best skills — his work ethic. His 37-point game against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals got a lot of attention but Calipari results like that come because of the work Herro often does even on his own.
“How much time are you willing to spend? That usually, if it is ridiculous, your ceiling goes up and your ceiling goes up because you’re building your own self-esteem and your own self-confidence,” Calipari said.
“This kid is fearless because of his confidence. I’m not the one who built his confidence. I mean, as a matter of fact, I got after him to defend better, to pass better, that if he wasn’t a fearless, confident player that would have taken away his confidence. It didn’t do anything to this kid. He listened fine. ‘You don’t understand how good I am.’ That’s what I see on the court.”
Calipari does see another challenge coming soon for Herro after his fabulous rookie season and superb playoff performances.
“I want him to keep chasing because at some point it’s going to flip and he’s going to be the chased in the NBA. It isn’t right now. So, don’t think you’re in that mode. Keep chasing. Keep fighting because eventually now all of the sudden, you keep going now everybody is chasing you and now you have to have a different mentality on how you’re approaching this,” Calipari said.
Herro played himself in the lottery at Kentucky after he averaged 14 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists while starting 37 games during the 2018-19 season.
What did Calipari tell the Heat about his guard? That’s the question I asked him last week.
“You say, ‘Look, whatever you’re seeing, add 20-30 percent to it because this kid will never leave the gym. He’s fearless and he has built his own confidence,’” Calipari said.
“There are some signs of some passes that Tyler will throw that you’ll go, ‘Oh my gosh.’ But you’re seeing him now in pick-and-rolls. Well, when he was here, we needed him to score. He had the ball in his hands. He could make plays, but he wasn’t in pick-and-rolls. Now you’re seeing that.”
Seeing that and a lot, lot more.
Butler had been more than a mentor to the 20-year-old Herro and admits that Herro’s approach makes everyone smile and enjoy playing basketball.
“We’re all so happy for him because he knows what he’s capable of, and he just plays with so much confidence. He’s been doing it all year long. So to him, there’s no pressure or anything. He’s just going to keep playing basketball the right way,” Butler said.
The veteran NBA player doesn’t think Herro’s success is going to stop any time soon, either.
“I think he’s been playing this way for a long time. He’s comfortable. He picks his spots. He works on everything that you see him do in the game, in the pick-and-roll and the iso situation,” Butler said during the NBA Finals. “I think the game slowed down for him a long time ago. Now, he’s just playing at an incredibly high level. Y’all see it now because of where we are in the playoffs. But he’s been doing this year-long now, and we want him to continue to play that way.