Arnold’s selfless play missing piece for Warriors
BY JOBY FAWCETT
It’s early in the morning, before the sun has risen, in the dead of a frigid winter, but Tyler Arnold is wide awake.
He changes into his workout clothes, fights the frost, jumps into his Chevy Malibu and drives to Elk Lake High School.
As the lights are still warming up to full glow, Arnold enters the Mike “Red” Wallace gymnasium before the first bell of the school day rings. He and teammates roll out the basketball balls and, with historic state championship banners serving as their inspiration, the players put in extra time at improving their game.
Coach John Warnero and assistant Marc Weisgold are working out in the makeshift weight room on the stage. They watch carefully, encouraged by the team’s commitment.
It is in these hours where Arnold is helping to carve the identity of this team. He is not the flashiest player in the Lackawanna League Division IV, nor is he the tallest. His shot is a little flat out of his hand, but it is improving.
Rather, Arnold plays the game with a total disregard for his body. The numerous bruises and brush burns tell that story. He is one of the forces behind Elk Lake’s fast start to the season.
“The coaches really love to work hard and that pumped up my intensity for basketball,” Arnold said. “If the coaches come that early, I am here. When that alarm goes off, I am always battling, but I know that I have to get up and get to the gym.”
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Getting a late start in basketball, Arnold has always had a competitive spirit. It began when he was a wrestler, developing a physical toughness under the guidance of his father, David, who was his coach.
Soon, Arnold’s skills and grit began to make contributions in several sports, including soccer.
Then, he began taking a liking to basketball.
As early as sixth and seventh grade, Warnero saw talent. Rob Heft had quickness and could shoot, Matt Woolcock and Tanner Reyan had quickness and the ability to drill outside shots, and Nick Dudock and Pete McGee had size.
Then came Arnold.
“He was the missing piece,” Warnero said.
That piece was a player willing to sacrifice his own wellness in pursuit of victory. As a junior, the 5-foot-8 guard is a relentless defender, not afraid to dive to the floor, crash into a nearby door or collide with the scorer’s table.
It’s the only way he knows how to play.
“I am always working,” Arnold said. “That’s what the coaches stress is the right way to play. I don’t care about my points in the box score. All I want to do is show the coaches how hard I play. I want to give all that I have for the team and as long as we win that’s all that matters to me.”
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A committed athlete and a solid student, Arnold’s days start in those dark morning hours and go late into the evening.
On the court, he devotes hours at practice in the gym.
At school, he is a member of the student council and the National Honor Society, citing that his mother, Sherri, emphasizes the importance of education.
After hustling from the start until the end of practice, still chasing loose balls and fighting for position in the paint against bigger athletes, Arnold also is looking to make an impact on the program in the long-term as a coach for the youth soccer and youth basketball teams.
“I try to stress to the kids the importance of working hard,” Arnold said. “And I tell them, if they work hard they will improve.”
During games, Arnold is the heart of the Warriors.
This is where everything he has put into the sport pays off. Whether it’s making a critical steal or appearing out of nowhere by sliding head first with his chest skidding along the floor to create a held ball, Arnold’s passion instills energy in the team.
“He just always pushes us to be the best we can,” Woolcock said. “We see him and how he plays and that motivates us. We kind of expect him to hit the floor.
“We just try to match his enthusiasm every game.”
Together Arnold and his teammates have enjoyed success this season.
He is averaging around six points a game, but that’s not the statistic that matters most to anyone at Elk Lake.
“There are a lot of things a player cannot control physically,” Warnero said. “But what you can control is your effort. When a guy does it like Tyler, his teammates see it, the freshmen see it, the kids in the stands see it.
“His intensity is a great influence.”
One of this season’s highlights for Arnold came during the Susquehanna County Holiday Tournament, when he was named to the all-tournament team after scoring only eight total points in two games.
“That meant a lot,” Arnold said. “I never thought that anyone would ever put me at that standard.”
Determined to lead his team to the Division IV title, Arnold will continue to work hard and improve.
Then, he and his teammates can get together, as they do after every Friday night victory, for celebratory pizza at Original Italian Pizza in Montrose.
Until then, he will still wake up before dawn each day, focused on the simple motivation to just get better.