Nickel: From Whitnall to Kentucky to the NBA, rookie Tyler Herro is playing even better in the playoffs

The ‘Rook’ – as he is affectionately called by some public relations representatives– has made one heck of a first impression.

But the Heat embraced him as well, and that made everything easier.

Tyler Herro was an extremely talented and confident 19-year-old when Miami drafted him in June of 2019 out of Kentucky. The Whitnall High School phenom had a fluid shot and creative mind, but would the rest of his playing style and personality fit in?

“When we drafted Tyler, and everybody’s having questions I was like yeah, he’ll be ready,” said Heat center Bam Adebayo. “You know. You see now, he’s ready.”

Since opening the 2019-2020 season with a big win at Milwaukee in October at Fiserv Forum, Herro is now 20 years old with 64 games to his name, including nine in the playoffs. His remarkable run with Miami means he helped shock everyone by beating his hometown team, the Milwaukee Bucks, in the conference semifinals. Up next, in the NBA bubble in Orlando: the Eastern Conference Finals with Boston, which begin Tuesday.

The shooting guard’s numbers actually do tell the story: 13.5 points per game in an average of 27.4 minutes in the regular season.

In the playoffs, that jumps to 14.7 points in 32.3 minutes, all off the bench. He also has averaged 4.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the last nine games. He’s shooting 40% from three-point range and 86% from the line.

In fact he’s better than he was in college (14 points, 32.6 minutes, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists).

“When you go to Kentucky and you’re building the way you’re supposed to be built, I feel like you can make anywhere in this association,” said Adebayo. “Going from Kentucky to Miami is kind of like, they’re kind of similar to each other.”

Herro can make a shot with a defensive player on him but he hasn’t forced much, especially in the playoffs. It’s not just that he passes the ball out of trouble on the wing; it’s that he’ll get the ball back, more than once, sometimes on the same possession.

So he’s patient, and the Heat is disciplined at working the court with passes.

“All the above,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “He really works at it. He probably has some kind of natural touch and a fearlessness, but he doesn’t leave it to chance. For a young kid, he is pretty relentless with his work ethic and his consistency.

“And then he has teammates and veteran players that feed him with confidence and give him the ball. In those situations that really helps.

“If you have veteran players that are really hard on you, and not feeding you that confidence, there’s a history of young players that that don’t grow as quickly because of that.

“So I think our veteran leadership will help Tyler and all of our young guys.”

When Miami beat Milwaukee in five games in the last series, Herro was just another weapon the Bucks couldn’t seem to account for. In the elimination win, Herro broke a scoring stalemate by both teams when he hit baseline floater.

“Just being aggressive. That’s what I do – make plays, take shots when they’re there,” said Herro. “I felt like I had a pretty decent rhythm going.”

There’s still work for him; Herro had two turnovers in the fourth quarter in that game. But while Herro said it was “amazing” to make his first visit to the Eastern Conference Finals his first year, “we have a lot of unfinished business. We came here to for one goal and one goal only, and that’s our focus.

“It does feel good to make it to the conference championship. That is big time.”

Herro said he is confident about facing the Celtics, who also played the role of underdog, upsetting defending champion Toronto.

You don’t know what to expect,” he said. “Especially me as a rookie and our team. We have a lot of guys who haven’t been there.

“I live for the big moments I want I want the big moments. My teammates and coaches, trust me. They feed life into me but you know that’s what we work for as players. I live for the big stage.”

Message Lori Nickel on Twitter at @LoriNickel or Instagram at @bylorinickel or post a comment on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ChinUpLoriNickel

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