MCC's Sykes to call Louisiana Tech home for more than one reason
By Fritz Polt, T-R Sports Editor

A year ago, moving on to the next level of college basketball used to be an open door for Marshalltown Community College big man Joe Sykes, but now it is something he is comfortable with.

Recently it was announced the 6-foot-10 sophomore will not only head on to the next level ... he is heading home in a way, as he will lace his shoes up on the campus of Louisiana Tech next fall.

"It kind feels like a reunion going down there," Sykes said. "I have a couple of grandmas, some aunts and uncles that live down there ... it's a comfortable place to be."

Sykes, who currently hails from Radcliffe, Ky., lived in Ruston, La., the home of the Bulldogs, until he was 14, as his father was stationed at Fort Polk. But then his father was transferred to Fort Knox, and that became home for him until he transferred to become a Tiger under Swanson this past season.

But it was last year, back in the Bluegrass State, that Swanson wondered if Sykes was intending on moving up to the NCAA Division I ranks. Sykes, himself, was not sure.

"Coach Swanson asked me back at St. Catherine if I was thinking about going bigger (to a NCAA Division I school). I said I was open to anything. He (Swanson) told me about La. Tech and that kind of got into my head," Sykes added.

While the thought of being among family was a small part of heading down to cajun country, the big motivator for Sykes was the fact that the Bulldogs will become part of the Western Athletic Conference next season, after being part of the Sun Belt Conference since 1992, except for football. All of Louisiana Tech's athletic programs will be a part of the WAC next year.

"It would have probably made a difference (in making his decision) if they would have still been in the Sun Belt. Now that they are moving to the WAC, there's a little better exposure ... everything's better," Sykes said.

While it is common for junior college players to move up in college hoops, Sykes is the first player ever to sign early for Swanson, who has had 13 players head to the upper echelon of college basketball in his three years as a head coach. Even though through his own admission, as Swanson would rather have players wait to sign with a Division I program, the time was right for Sykes to make his commitment to Louisiana Tech.

"I like having the carrot out there for them," Swanson said. "Guys like Trevor (Harvey) and Derek (Huff), who you know are going to get recruited, like having Division I coaches come in and see them, because it gets other guys more exposure. We also knew that letting Joe sign early would help benefit the other sophomores on our team."

Just like Sykes feeling comfortable about heading down to the Bulldogs, Swanson felt comfortable about his player making his early decision for a couple of reasons.

First, Swanson knows one of the assistant coaches at Louisiana Tech, Steve Forbes, who Swanson was an assistant for while at Barton Community College. Second, he trusts Sykes in making his decision early in that he will not rest on his laurels.

"I trust Steve (Forbes) and that he will take care of Joe down there. I also let Joe sign early, because he was the kind of kid that wanted to win when he signed and that made me feel very comfortable in him doing that," Swanson added on.

Swanson had helped narrow down the list of schools to two, with Kansas State being the other big recruiter for Sykes' abilities. But if he had not made his decision early, the doors would have opened back up for other schools to take a look, as the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and Texas A&M were also interested having Sykes grace their respective courts.

Currently Sykes is averaging eight points per game, seven rebounds and one block for 45 percent from the field and 66 percent from the free throw line during his average 20 minutes of play. Though MCC has an ample supply of big men to go to during a game, one might think that Sykes' numbers are less than to be expected.

Not true, as Swanson sees Sykes doing his job well for the Tigers.

"Joe is not the kind of kid that is going to go out and get 20 points a night. He is the kind of player that if you have good players around him, he is going to be solid with 10 points and 10 rebounds ... Joe does the little things that don't show up in the score book.

"That was never more evident when we played Indian Hills last week. When they went on their run in the second half, it was because Joe was sitting right next to me on the bench in foul trouble," Swanson added.

For Swanson, this early signing may be the beginning of having seven or eight of his players head up to the NCAA Division I level, and believes that Sykes has made the right decision.

"This is a great situation for Joe and I am really happy for him," said Swanson.