CLEMSON, S.C. -- Sean Tyson's career at Clemson has had more stops and starts than a public transit bus during rush hour, but he doesn't seem to mind.
"It's had its up and downs, but it's OK," said Tyson, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, on the eve of tonight's game with Maryland (7:30, WBAL-AM 1090).
First, the former Dunbar High standout had to sit out his first year under Proposition 48 guidelines. The next season, 1987-88, he averaged 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11.3 minutes per game. Then Tyson sat out the entire 1988-89 season to recover from gall bladder surgery.
Tyson was given a medical redshirt and returned last season as a sixth man, showing promise, especially in a game against Providence, where he scored 20 points and pulled down seven rebounds in 21 minutes.
He earned four starts in the postseason as minor ailments derailed center Elden Campbell. Clemson made its run in the NCAA tournament all the way to the Sweet 16.
And although his performance again improved in the postseason, including a 17-point, 11-rebound game against La Salle, Tyson unfortunately will be remembered by many as the defender over whom Connecticut's Tate George made a miracle shot at the buzzer to lift the Huskies to a 71-70 win in the regional semifinals.
Tyson worked extensively on his shooting and ballhandling during the summer, and he had reason to hope that with the departure of four Clemson seniors, he might move into the starting lineup this season.
"I felt like I was going to be a starter," he said. "And nothing changed over the summer. If anything, my play got better.
"But it really doesn't matter to me. I'm a ballplayer. I just want to play."
Like everything else attached to Clemson this year, Tyson's season to date has been disappointing.
He was suspended by coach Cliff Ellis for reasons that neither will discuss. Tyson missed four of the Tigers' early games, earning reinstatement just before the Tigers' first meeting with Maryland in College Park in early January.
"It happened," Tyson said. "It wasn't anything all that important. I don't think it was that big of a deal. I'm just glad to be playing again."
Tyson said it was tough "trying to find my way back into the groove of practice," and his ragged play suggests that.
tTC "Sean has always been a player who plays in streaks," Ellis said. "If he's hot, there's nobody better.
"He, more than anyone, will get frustrated if he's not playing well. At times, he presses himself. He's a hot/cold type player."
Tyson is third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in steals, behind Georgia Tech's Kenny Anderson and North Carolina State's Chris Corchiani, averaging 2.3 thefts per game. He's also contributing 9.5 points and 4.9 rebounds. And he is helping, along with center Dale Davis, to provide senior leadership on a Tigers team that has five freshmen.
"We're playing a good leadership role for this team," Tyson said. "With teams double- and triple-teaming Dale, it can be frustrating. It affects our team and I'm just trying to do the best I can to help."