Kentucky signee Saniah Tyler has a knack for rising to the occasion

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(Courtesy of Dan Rolfes)

In the first minute of her final high school basketball game, Saniah Tyler showed why she’s one of the top ranked seniors in the country.

Tyler, the Incarnate Word (St. Louis, Mo.) point guard, scored a quick four points in the Class 6 state title game, prompting Kickapoo (Springfield, Mo.) to burn a timeout. The Kentucky signee would score 24 points by the contest’s end, leading the Red Knights to a 67-50 win and their fifth straight state title.

The performance was emblematic of Tyler’s special high school career and earned her JWS Player of the Week honors.

“She always rises to the occasion in big games,” Incarnate Word coach Dan Rolfes said.

The 5-foot-6 Tyler will be on the shorter end of Division I point guards next season, but Rolfes is confident Tyler has the ability to succeed at the next level. An explosive player who can get to the rim and shoot confidently from long range, Tyler is also a high-level passer.

As a freshman, Tyler played behind then-senior Marisa Warren, who averaged 7.9 points and 3.8 assists for Saint Louis in 2021-22. It was Warren, Rolfes said, who showed Tyler what it takes to be a selfless passer.

“Marisa was a crazy good passer, and I think Saniyah realized that she just doesn’t always have to score,” Rolfes said. “Being a good passer and setting up her teammates is another way to lead our team.

“Our team gets so excited by a great pass.”

Still, it is Tyler’s scoring ability that generates the most attention. On Jan. 17, during a West coast road trip, Tyler scored 25 points as the Red Knights beat St. Mary’s (Stockton, Calif.) in a 65-61 thriller. The game was full of college coaches, including one assistant from Kentucky.

As he was watching back film, Rolfes said he noticed the Kentucky coach cheering as Tyler ripped through the opposing defense.

“She was hands down the best kid in the gym,” Rolfes said. “It was fun to see her rise to the occasion. … (The Kentucky coach) was like, ‘That’s my girl!’”

Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.