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Catching up with Tyler Griffey, the guy who once made that layup

“They’ve done it, Tess!”

You’re not alone. Tyler Griffey still thinks about ‘the shot’ — the layup that beat No. 1 Indiana at the buzzer in 2013 and sent Griffey on the arms of his teammates and Orange Krush members who rushed the court — all the time, but not because he really wants to.

For Griffey, he considers himself “indifferent” to it five years later, even if “it’s one of the more defining moments of [his] career.”

Griffey — now 27 and working as a specialist at World Wide Technology in St. Louis — often relives the layup because of those around him. Last August, Griffey was speaking in front of his company at a Friday morning meeting when, unbeknownst to him, someone in the office’s chat posted the link to the video (presumably this one).

“My boss, who was sitting in the very last row, she tells me that while I was up there speaking, everyone who had a computer in the room was watching the YouTube link that was posted and not paying any attention to what the hell I’m saying,” Griffey said. “Afterward, the CEO says, ‘You did a great job, Tyler, thank you,’ and I start walking off the stage.

“Then he says, ‘Oh, we’re not done with you, man, hold on.’ They played the video in front of the whole company. A $10 billion organization, and the owner of my company is calling my shot out.”

One of the benefits of working for a tech company is that Griffey sometimes heads out west to the Bay Area for work trips.

The Golden State Warriors were in town during his trip earlier in 2018, and they were playing former Illini and Griffey’s teammate Meyers Leonard and the Portland Trailblazers. Leonard set Griffey up with some tickets, and he says the duo still keeps in touch.

As a whole, though, the team isn’t as tight knit as it may have once seemed.

“No group chat or anything like that, but we follow everyone on social media,” Griffey said. “We always hear and see what they’re doing on Facebook and Twitter, but I don’t keep in touch regularly with really any of the guys.

“We get to Champaign, at least for me twice a year — one for a game and one during summer for a reunion.”

Three of Griffey’s Illinois teammates eventually made it to the NBA: Leonard, Brandon Paul and Myke Henry (who spent his final two years at DePaul).

I didn’t ask Griffey about Henry (his stint with the Memphis Grizzlies was brief this season, and so was that with the Illini), but he could tell that Leonard and Paul would eventually make the NBA and be successful professionally.

On Leonard: “You could definitely tell with Meyers. I don’t think he ever had the attitude like it, but just being the specimen that he is. He was at (trainer) Ben Bruno’s, and he’s 7-foot-1, trapbar deadlifting 400 pounds like for 10 reps touch and go like it was nothing. You look at guys who do things like that, and they’re just destined for something.”

And he thought Brandon Paul, who made his NBA debut with the San Antonio Spurs last season, had more of the attitude that he would appear in the NBA.

“On the reverse, Brandon always had the attitude. He had the confidence, the attitude — not cocky or anything — but you could just tell.”

If you didn’t follow along over the last few weeks of June, Griffey won the first TCR GIF Tournament. (It’s kind of a big deal.)

We had 32 GIFs, and they were voted down to one — Griffey’s layup.

“My buddy, who was a former head manager at Illinois that I’m very close with sent me the link and said, ‘Dude, you’ve got to check out some of the GIFs, like look at Groce, look at Weber.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, by the way, you’re about to win this thing.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, cool.’ I voted a couple of times, retweeted it, so I think it’s great [to win].

“I saw the one with Weber with the Custard Cup coming in there. That was hilarious.”

He’s referring to this GIF of Bruce Weber scarfing down on some Jarling’s Custard Cup.

Weber was actually part of a team that saved Custard Cup in 2016. (TCR once proposed buying Jarling’s, but that’s for another article.)

So did Weber actually love Custard Cup that much? Well, yes.

“[Weber] would bring it up, asking us what we’re going to do and where we’re going to take our girls on Sunday night, and he would always suggest Jarling’s.”

Can you imagine it? Bruce Weber telling his players to take their dates to Custard Cup? Too good to be true.

Being a collegiate athlete, you don’t really get time to study abroad. To still get the opportunity, Griffey spent two years after college playing for Swans Gmunden of the Austrian Bundesliga from 2013-15.

“I just wanted to live abroad, and I figured that’d be the easiest way to do it, go over there, get paid and play ball,” Griffey said. “I was in a real small town in Austria, right next to the Swiss Alps in the mountain range. Absolutely gorgeous.

A photo of Swans Gmunden playing.

“Team took care of me and the club was competitive. They gave me a car, gave me an apartment, they kind of hooked us up. I had a couple of American teammates, who I got along with really well, so great experience.”

Griffey averaged 15.4 points and started 18 games during the 2014-15 season, and he thought he would go back the following year — until the offer at his current job came along.

Now Griffey doesn’t really pick up a basketball too often.

When asked if he still shoots, he said, “Hardly ever.”

Griffey does run some skills training camps in St. Louis, looking to help high schoolers make their high school or varsity teams, but he spends more time doing non-basketball activities.

“A little bit of sand volleyball here and there,” Griffey said. “Other than that, I’m just in the weight room and doing my thing.”

Did you really think I would interview Griffey and not ask him the important stuff?

Favorite place on campus? Legends.

“I went to KAMs this past year, and what the hell happened there. Joe’s was hot back then, Red Lion was hot, but I’m going to say Legends because that’s where I went to hang out and chill before I really went out.”

Favorite road trip? Wisconsin or Michigan State, but definitely not Indiana.

“Indiana was the hardest place to play. It’s old. The people are on top of you. They use Adidas basketballs. That one felt the most different.”

What teammate would’ve been best at Fortnite?

“Meyers. Or [Joseph] Bertrand.”

You got me: I also asked him about the current state of Illinois Basketball with Brad Underwood and renovations to Ubben.

On Ubben, Griffey said that it was apparent that it needed renovations, even when he was playing at Illinois. One time Griffey watched Michigan practice, and head coach John Beilein rolled in a smart board to watch a certain play.

“Ubben was not set up to do that,” Griffey said.

The renovations are important, in his mind, but more important is that “they’ve got to start winning ballgames.”

The man tasked with winning ballgames is Underwood, entering his second year with the Illini. Many people see Underwood as aggressive and always yelling on the sidelines. Griffey sees that too, but he’s also seen a different side, especially when he attended a practice and spoke to some players.

“He’s intense, they say he’s one intense man, and he’s not afraid to yell and cuss at you. But what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen is that afterwards, he comes and talks and explains to you what you did wrong in more of a conversational tone.

“It’s all about how they deliver their message. If the guys can respond to that, more power to him. I’m excited to see what he can do.”

Griffey has kept himself busy since sending Illini Nation into a frenzy in 2013, the last time the team made the tournament. As a result, his shot continues to be remembered — until something eventually takes its place.

He was at a wedding recently in the St. Louis area with his girlfriend, and he had the following exchange with one of his girlfriend’s friend’s dates.

“You played basketball?” the guy, who went to Kentucky, asked.

“Yeah,” Griffey said.

“At Illinois?”




“Who’d you play with?”

“Brandon and Meyers.”

“Wasn’t there a game where you guys won on a buzzer beater?

“Yeah, dude, that was me.”

To which Griffey told me, “That happens quite a bit.”

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