By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
MANCHESTER – The night before the highest scoring game of Tyler Horky’s life, one of his closest friends was involved in a car wreck.
“It was bad,” Horky said. “He was hit right on the driver’s side door. It was a pretty bad accident. It was life-threatening.”
When Manchester went on the road the next night to play at Vandercook Lake, the 6-foot-1 junior wrote “RH” on his wrist tape in honor of his friend, Michigan Center standout Roger Hayward, the teenager in the crash. Hayward reportedly required multiple surgeries in the days after the wreck.
“We played AAU basketball together,” Horky said. “I was really motivated that night. I thought about the accident a lot that night.”
Once he hit the basketball floor, though, there was little stopping Horky. Manchester fell behind, but Horky led a valiant comeback to push the game into overtime. Although Manchester lost, Horky finished with 47 points and showed he was going to be a force in the Cascades Conference this season.
“Believe it or not, it was a quiet 47,” said Manchester head coach Mike Ahrens. “He also contributed three assists, had six steals and only turned the ball over once. It was a unique, fast-paced game.”
Horky has showed the 47-point outburst wasn’t a mirage. Through 13 games, he’s averaging 26 points a game, and has had nights of 36, 31, 31, 27, 25, 25 and 24 points. Even coach Ahrens was a little surprised at how well Horky is scoring this season.
“I envisioned this kind of game could happen next season,” he said.
Horky has always had the talent. As a freshman, however, he broke his arm and missed the entire season. As a sophomore, coming off the injury, he lacked confidence but still averaged 12 points a game.
“I put in a lot of work in the offseason,” Horky said. “I worked a lot with the team, my travel team and my dad. It’s been a climb. This year it has really opened up for me.”
Horky’s scoring spree began with the season opener when he scored 25 against Clinton.
“Since then, I’ve been facing double and triple teams almost every game,” he said. “Some teams start denying me the ball as soon as I cross halfcourt. My teammates have taken a lot of the pressure off me, both by scoring inside and with ball-handling.
“Our coach does a great job of just letting us play, run the pick-and-roll with our bigs and coming off screens.”
Ahrens said while Horky is a great scorer, that’s not his only strength.
“He gives 110 percent effort in all of our drills,” Ahrens said. “He takes pride on defense and leads by example. He listens really well, which is an underrated skill.”
Ahrens, in his first year coaching at his alma mater, picks a defensive player of the game for all of the Dutchmen contests. Horky has earned that honor four times.
“I sincerely believe he is getting better and better at every practice and every game,” Ahrens said.
This past summer Horky, who plays travel basketball with the Ann Arbor Basketball Academy, attended camps at Grand Valley State University and Central Michigan University.
Horky said his AAU experience – particularly the speed of the game and frequent fast breaks and man-to-man defense – helped prepare him for the Cascades Conference this season.
The league is rugged with state-ranked Hanover-Horton (12-1), Michigan Center (11-2) and Vandercook Lake (10-4). Horky’s Dutchmen check in fourth at 7-6 overall with games against Michigan Center (Feb. 5) and Hanover-Horton (Feb. 8) coming up.
Horky is a three-sport athlete at Manchester and carries a 3.9 grade-point average as a member of the National Honor Society. He is the quarterback on the Dutchmen football team.
“Basketball is probably my favorite but when it’s football season, then it’s only football on my mind,” he said. “Football is special.”
Horky is the son of Corey and Abbie Horky. His father is in the Blissfield High School Athletic Hall of Fame and his mother was a high jumper at the University of Michigan following a multiple-sport career at Onsted High School. He has two younger brothers, ages 9 and 12.
He wants to play college basketball. “My ultimate goal is to try to play basketball at the highest level I can,” he said, noting U-M is his dream hoops destination.
Horky still has to finish out this season and has his senior season ahead of him to continue his scoring and filling out as an all-around basketball player. Ahrens, who has coached at various levels for nearly 40 years, said Horky has what it takes to get to the next level.
“He not only pushes himself, but will push teammates as well,” he said. “He truly understands there is more to the game than just scoring.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTO: Manchester junior Tyler Horky brings the ball upcourt. (Photo by Doug Donnelly.)