Competitiveness and hustle drive Hyland to the basket

Sophomore guard Bones Hyland shoots a 3-pointer against JMU on Dec. 22. Photo by Megan Lee

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

When sophomore guard Nah’shon “Bones” Hyland rose up for a deep 3-pointer at La Salle last season, his high school coach sat in the stands and said “layup.” It turned the heads of those who sat around him, but Rod Griffin knew the ball was going in.

The shot swished through the basket at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia. It was something Griffin had seen from Hyland since his eighth grade season — the first time he saw the Wilmington, Delaware native on a basketball court. 

“I saw him as an eighth grader, this long, lanky kid,” Griffin said. “He could shoot, and he made great passes. So he’s always been that way. He’s always had that ability to shoot from anywhere.”

The 6-foot-3-inch guard’s shooting ability was on full display a year ago, logging the most 3-pointers as a freshman in program history, knocking down 63. 

His consistent shooting quickly made him a fan favorite. Some fans made signs with the words “Bone Yard,” and others held plastic bones in the air. The signs and props are a tribute to Hyland’s childhood nickname, “Bones,” attributed to his slender frame.

“Bones is like the Pied Piper,” Griffin said. “He puts cheeks in the seats. People come to see him play.” 

Competitive Edge

When Hyland steps into the gym, he’s locked in, said Mar Mason, his trainer in Delaware. He said the “dog” in Hyland is what sets him apart from others — he wants to be the best. 

“One of the sayings is don’t let anyone outwork you,” Mason said. “There ain’t too many people that are going to outwork him in the gym.”

Mason has trained Hyland since his eighth grade season, and said Hyland’s drive and competitive spirit has made the sophomore a better player. Mason said Hyland finds it unacceptable if he misses twice in a row during drills. 

“No matter what, I’ve always been a competitive guy who always wants to win,” Hyland said. “I’ve always had that drive since I was younger.”

Griffin, who coached Hyland all four years at St. Georges Tech in Middletown, Delaware, said Hyland’s biggest strength is being competitive. 

“He was going to make sure he was going to compete on every single play and be the best player on the court,” Griffin said. “His competitive nature and toughness has always been a couple of things that he’s always done well.”

Hyland’s motivation is on his arm and he looks at it every day — a tattoo memorializing his grandmother and baby cousin who passed away in a house fire in 2018. 

“I just know like it’s just a voice in the back of my head, ‘we’re proud of you just keep going,’ even though I miss them,” Hyland said. “But every day I look to my arm and say ‘This is who I’m doing it for.’”

Hyland said his mother motivates him each day after he watched her take care of his cousins on her own without any excuses. He said that her “no excuse” attitude is what he channels each day. 

“Taking care of numerous cousins and numerous nephews and nieces just on her own,” Hyland said. “Just seeing her be so strong and wise and not complaining ever since I was a younger age.” 

Repetition and then some

Hyland’s ability to knock down 3-pointers on a consistent basis has come from spending hours in the gym, working on his craft. 

With the amount of time Hyland has dedicated to the sport, Mason equated basketball to being Hyland’s job.

“It’s all repetitions,” Mason said. “It’s about being effective, about efficiency. So when he gets in a game, it’s like he’s already been through it. … It comes naturally.”

Hyland’s mid-range shot was something Griffin focused on at St. Georges. He was able to work with Hyland on his jump shot and ball handling, and it surprised college coaches when they saw him play, Griffin said. 

Hyland’s jump shot is on point, but this season he’s been able to showcase his ability to get to the rim. 

Opposing teams have tried to limit his opportunities to shoot open 3-pointers this season by face guarding, or playing tight on him at the arc. 

“Just staying aggressive and strong, and just mentally tougher than my opponent because I know he’s gonna try to throw me off my game,” Hyland said. “So just try to stay locked in throughout the game plan.”

Mason said Hyland is the type of player that requires a watchful eye from the opposing team. 

“You can’t really leave him alone, and you got to play up on him,” Mason said. “If you play up on him, he’s going right by you. So that definitely makes him a bigger threat than most.”

Hyland, who isn’t known for being the most physical player on the court, said size doesn’t matter, but the drive to succeed does.

“I’m not the biggest, not the strongest, but I would say I’m the most competitive guy who can step out there and compete on the floor,” Hyland said. “If your mind, your mentality is stronger, I feel as though you can go a long way as far as competing and out winning a guy.”

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