Five seconds after he was inserted into the game, Torin Tinnin had the ball in his hands outside the perimeter. The Tacoma College player tasked with defending the South Puget Sound forward elected to play Tinnin tight, closely guarding the sophomore.
In one fluid motion, Tinnin put the ball on the floor and briskly jetted by the defender, almost at ease, ending the play with a pretty finger roll.
Following a Clippers’ stop, Tinnin once again found himself setting up shop outside the 3-point line, this time on the opposite side of the court. Not wanting to be beaten off the dribble on consecutive possessions, the Tacoma player gave Tinnin a much more generous cushion this time.
Tinnin calmly drained a 3. The Clippers’ bench exploded in celebration while the Titans called a timeout.
“Torin is instant offense,” said SPSCC men’s basketball coach Andrew Green. “I think when he’s got into some of these games, the other teams have taken him for granted and he’s made them pay for it.”
This was certainly the case during South Puget Sound’s win over Tacoma. Two possessions, 30 seconds, 5 points – instant offense indeed.
However, when talking about Tinnin’s journey to South Puget Sound, there’s nothing instant about it.
At the age of 26, Tinnin is easily the Clippers’ oldest player. While his teammates are all a year or two removed from graduating high school, Tinnin will soon be celebrating his 10-year reunion.
“They kind of make jokes about me,” Tinnin said.
It’s true, but the laughs are of the loving variety as despite the age gap Tinnin has turned into the perfect player for the Clippers.
“It really took a while for us to test the waters and figure out where Torin fit into the mix,” Green said, “but he’s showed his maturity and his leadership. He’s really the glue that has been holding us together from a mentality of leadership and positivity whether that’s on the floor or from the bench.”
Tinnin’s place on any college squad didn’t seem bleak even a year ago. A 2011 graduate of Tacoma’s Wilson High School, the 6-foot-2 Tinnin initially played at Centralia College, albeit nearly seven years ago.
It wasn’t long into his collegiate career when obstacles began to surface. His great-grandfather had passed away, forcing him to move back closer to home, and with that came transportation issues as it was becoming increasingly tougher to make the daily trip south. It all became overwhelming and Tinnin left Centralia, seemingly ending his playing career.
“Some things kept me away from it,” Tinnin said, “but I always planned on returning.”
The game had always been his escape – a way to leave behind the “struggles, such as gang violence, that were going on in the area where I grew up.”
As the years piled up, so did his doubters telling him it wasn’t going to happen. Too much time had passed since he last played. He was now closer to 30 than he was 20.
“A lot of people told me I should just stop and pursue other things,” Tinnin said, “but that’s not who I am.”
Six months ago, the kid who always dreamed about playing college ball, was now the man who was filling out a prospect form for South Puget Sound.
“I just felt like now was the perfect timing for me,” Tinnin said. “I had got into a pretty bad car accident at the start of last year and lost my job because of the injuries I suffered in the accident. It was just the perfect time to look at going back to school.”
Green, who was entering his first season with the Clippers, was immediately interested in meeting Tinnin, but also wondered how the inclusion of a player seven or eight years older than most of his roster would fit in. It didn’t take him long to find the answer.
“We talk about it all the time that not always do you get a second chance,” Green said, “but the stars aligned with where he was at with life, where I was at with the program, where we were at on a timeline of building a team, and specifically where he was at academically that he was ready to give it another go. While it stated out as a trial experiment, it has really turned out to be a positive thing for him, for me and for the entire team.”
And while he does provide a powerful offensive spark off the bench, it doesn’t compare to the bonfire of experience, leadership and wisdom he supplies his teammates, something Green believes will go a long way in helping this year’s Clippers’ team.
“It just shows no matter how old you are,” Tinnin said, “no matter how many times people say you can’t do stuff as long as you put hard work in and dedication and you’re patient, everything will fall into place.”