The Georgia Southern men’s basketball team only have four new additions on this year’s team. One name may stand out over many especially to those of a certain age who have seen his father play.
Tai Strickland comes to Georgia Southern as a graduate student after playing at Temple University. His father Rod Strickland was an All-American at DePaul University and then played 17 years in the NBA where he averaged over 13 points per game and over seven assists per contest for his career.
Tai averaged eight points per game playing in 22 games for the Owls and starting in five games. Strickland will have two years of eligibility at Georgia Southern and is excited about the upcoming season.
“I was looking to come back south,” said Strickland. “After talking with all the coaching staff, I really felt at home here. I felt like this is a place where I can grow different aspects of my game. These guys are really good basketball people and I feel like they can help me take my game to the next level.”
Strickland played his high school ball in the Tampa area and was familiar with Georgia Southern after being recruited by Mark Byington and his staff while he was the Eagles head coach.
“They came down and recruited me when coach Byington was here when I was still in high school,” said Strickland. “It’s funny because now my little brother Terell plays for him at James Madison and we will play them now in the Sun Belt.”
With only four open spots on the team coach Brian Burg was looking for specific types of players to fill the voids. The Eagles only have one incoming freshman with the other three coming from the transfer portal. Burg says after doing their due diligence the Eagles felt Strickland filled an important need.
“We lost a few guards and that was an area of concern,” said Burg. “We liked what we saw on film from Tai, and he also comes from a talented family. He is a high character young man who has already graduated from Temple and still has two years of eligibility. He is very talented and has the ability to come off a ball screen and create for others. We told him we felt like we could help develop him as a player and I feel like he really liked the slower pace of a town like Statesboro instead of Philadelphia where Temple is located.”
Bouncing around is nothing new for Strickland whose family moved around a lot as his father’s NBA career included playing for nine different teams, and then coaching stops at the likes of Kentucky and Memphis among others.
“I got to watch him play when I was really little and then watch him coach after that,” said Strickland. “It was such a cool experience being around the NBA and meeting players and their families. Getting a chance to see how much he meant to so many other people helped inspire me to try and do that one day.”
Rod Strickland recently took the job as head coach at Long Island University, but also made coaching stops at Kentucky, USF and Memphis. Tai remembers heading from school right to the college practices to try and improve his game.
“As soon as I would get out of class I would head straight to the gym and watch him work the players out,” said Strickland. “I got to see firsthand how much work those guys have to put in and with a few of them making it to the pros I saw what it took from day one until the day they got drafted.”
Rod Strickland is the godfather to Kyrie Irving and Tai has spent much of his life having the opportunities to play and be around plenty of second-generation players who are becoming successful in the NBA.
"I remember some of the guys who are now in the NBA being around when my dad was playing and coaching,” said Strickland. “I played with guys like Scotty Pippen Jr. in high school and college and a few others. To see Scotty sign with the Lakers and other guys do the same it just really motivates you to continue to work and have a goal and a dream you want to fulfill.”