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Kellen Tynes embodies defense and effort

The Maine guard led DI in steals last season, averaging 3.3 per contest

NCAA Basketball: Maine at Ohio State
Kellen Tynes was the first America East Defensive Player of the Year in Maine history.
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Kellen Tynes was in a category by himself last season. Tynes was the only Division I player to average more than 3.0 steals per game as he averaged 3.3 steals per contest. That was nearly six-tenths higher than the second-most in the country.

Tynes’ journey to the Maine Black Bears was a long one. He grew up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where he developed a love for the game while growing up in an athletic family.

“Basketball is really big here, but I just don’t think it gets the exposure it deserves because it’s so far away from the United States,” he said. “I’ve been playing basketball ever since I can remember. I’d always go with my brother and friends to the YMCA. We just played basketball all day.”

It was always a dream for Tynes to play at the college level.

Throughout his high school career, Tynes was at the forefront of success and accolades. Tynes played at Rothesay Netherwood School in Rothesay, New Brunswick, where he averaged 22.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 4.7 steals per contest. Yes, 4.7 steals per game.

The 6-foot-3-inch guard views defense as his calling card.

“A big part of that is trying to separate myself from other players,” Tynes said. “Everybody can shoot the ball nowadays, but I wanted to separate myself. From an early age, I was taught that you can always have good defensive games because at the end of the day, defense is about focus, intensity and effort.”

His Division-I basketball journey began at Montana State.

Tynes arrived in Bozeman, Mont., in advance of the season of 2020-21.

“It was eye-opening,” he said. “I got cooked a lot in practice. I learned that there were a lot of things I could get away with in high school, where now in college, I couldn’t.”

Tynes’ minutes were minimal during his freshman year. He started one game, and averaged 11.1 minutes. He ended the season by playing 25 minutes in the Big Sky Championship against Eastern Washington.

“Especially as a freshman, the best thing you can do is soak in all the advice from everyone,” he said. “The best thing you can do is listen and have attention to detail.”

Tynes hoped that be seeing his minutes increase toward the end of his rookie season, it would jumpstart his second year in Bozeman. But, it turned out to be the opposite. During his second year at Montana State, he didn’t even see eight minutes per game.

“I wouldn’t say I lost confidence, but it was tough,” he said. “I wasn’t used to playing that little of the game, so I had to adapt. I needed to find my role.”

Tynes was open-minded and continued to learn and listen. After spending two seasons at Montana State and appearing in a March Madness game against Texas Tech, Tynes announced he would enter the transfer portal.

Tynes moved closer to home and committed to the University of Maine.

“Chris Markwood trusted me,” Tynes said. “Even though I didn’t have the stats compared to other guys in the portal, he trusted me and believed in my game.”

Tynes flipped the script at Maine. Wasting no time, he played a major role in Maine shocking Boston College 69-64 in the third game of the season. Tynes stole the ball in the final seconds to help secure the win.

Tynes ended the game with 17 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals. This was a pretty common stat line for Tynes.

Do-it all.

At the end of the year, Tynes lit up the box scores. He ended up averaging 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.3 steals per game while starting all 30 games. He was named the America East Defensive Player of the Year.

“The game had slowed down for me because of what I learned my first two years,” Tynes said. “I was making the right reads... I love defense, I love picking up 94 feet. I want to guard the best player on every team we play. You can change games with defense.”

Tynes is living proof that hard work does in fact, pay off.

“The work will show,” he said. “Stay down and wait your turn. Don’t hate on anybody, be grateful for the opportunity.”