Walk-on at UMass Lowell, Hudson’s Livingston tries pros in Europe
Tyler Livingston’s jumpshot has taken him from small town hoop heroics, to a Division I college scholarship, and now, a career as a professional basketball player.
It all started on the bruised pavement of his parents’ driveway, where he learned to shoot.
“I’d play all day,” said Livingston – a Hudson native and graduate of Alvirne high school – of the driveway, which sloped upward from the house to the street, allowing him to only hoist shots from the left side, or straight away.
“Over the years, it got so worn out from me and my brother playing on it that the pole holding up the backboard completely snapped in half and we had to get another hoop.”
Livingston’s repetition on concrete carried over to the hardwood. At Alvirne, the 6-foot-6 Livingston was named All-State three years in a row. In 2011, as a sophomore, he played a key-role in the middle for a Broncos team that made it all the way to the NHIAA semifinals.
But small-town, small-state high school players rarely get noticed by Division I college programs.
“No one had really gone anywhere from my high school,” Livingston said. “In New Hampshire, it’s tough to get recognized as a player because there aren’t many players who go on to play at big-time schools. The culture isn’t all about basketball, but there are definitely some good players there.”
Beyond the few Division III programs that had shown an interest in Livingston, no opportunities to continue his playing career existed. Figuring his days on the hardwood would be confined to intramurals Livingston enrolled at Umass Lowell as an engineering student in 2013 (“it was cheap and local” he said). “I came to the realization that maybe I’m not going to play college basketball,” Livingston remembered. “I was playing a lot of basketball when I first got there. I really missed it.”
Livingston dominated the rec center and the student body. Jahad Thomas, a River Hawk freshman basketball player took notice.
“He was killing it,” Thomas said. “I was impressed by how he was playing. He was doing everything – he was dunking. What stood out to me was how he was shooting the ball.”
Thomas told the coaching staff, who had already heard about Livingston though a school administrator familiar with him, about his game.
The River Hawks, in their first year of transitioning to Division I, needed extra bodies on their team. Early in the school year, head coach Pat Duquette invited Livingston to play pickup ball with the team.
“He looked like a basketball player,” Duquette said, remembering the first time he saw Livingston on campus. “It didn’t take long for everybody to realize he was a pretty good player.”
“Obviously, you are nervous because everybody is watching,” Livingston said, thinking back to his first scrimmage against DI players. “But it’s the competitor in anyone. I wanted to play well, I wanted to beat my man.”
Livingston played well enough to earn a spot on the team as a walk-on.
“The next thing you know, he ends up on the basketball team,” Thomas added with a laugh. “As a walk-on, I’m sure your mentality is different, but we all knew he was a great shooter and that he could be a big part of the program.”
Most walk-ons spend their collegiate careers toiling on the end of the bench, with their defining moments coming as practice players and towel wavers, only seeing the floor during blowouts. But Livingston started 26 games his freshman year, averaging 6.9 points.
Still, there was a period of adjustment.
“I remember my first game,” Livingston said. “I had five turnovers in a row. Coach pulled me aside and was like ‘are you okay? You are going to be fine, you just have to have confidence in yourself.’ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ”
Despite his early struggles, Livingston played himself into a scholarship the following season.
“It was one of the best days of my life (finding out about the scholarship),” Livingston said. “I had chills when I was told. It was something not to be taken for granted – a lot of money. Freshman year, I thought I was only going to play one year and that would be it.”
Over the next two seasons, Livingston continued to develop as a player coming off the bench. By his senior year he had transformed into one of the premier players of the America East conference, scoring over 13 points a game and converting jump shots like he was still in his driveway, knocking down a staggering 50 percent from the floor and a league best 46-percent from behind the arc.
Tyler Livingston imagined he’d be an engineer; that he’d be spending his first year out of college in an office somewhere.
“Growing up in Hudson, I couldn’t have imagined this,” Livingston said during a Whatsapp call from Albacete Spain.
In August, Livingston signed a contract to play professional basketball with Arcos Albacete Basket of LEB Plata – Spain’s third division.
“When I’m walking around out here, it’s like ‘man, I’m in Spain playing basketball,’ Livingston said. “I can’t rationalize it or figure out how it happened. But it happened, and I’m trying to live it.”
Through the teams’ first nine games, Livingston has contributed 9.5 points a game as a rotation player, while connecting on 42 percent of his three-point attempts.
“I’m shooting it really well,” Livingston said. “I’m just trying to do my part and help us get wins; hopefully earn a better contract somewhere next year.”
Though Albacete is currently in first place in their division with seven wins, Livingston says adjusting to the European style of play and rules has been difficult.
“Defensive schemes over here are absurd,” he said. “from what I have learned, you have to re-teach yourself everything. The screens: you can damn near hold people on screens. Illegal screens, you can do whatever you want. The refs are horrible. The home team is always going to get the calls. But, you get used to it.”
In terms of his longevity as an overseas ball player, Livingston says his outlook changes daily.
“I used to compare him to Nik Stauskas,” Thomas said. “He’d say he would like to play professionally but he didn’t know if he could. Anything is possible.”