Dennis Tinnon, however, took the long road. His path toward a professional basketball career was a winding one that included more than a few self-inflicted roadblocks. “I wasn’t headed in the right direction,” Tinnon said. “I was misled. Bad choice of friends. And I paid the price for that.”
After showing plenty of promise on the court, Tinnon was primed for success as a high school junior. College coaches and scholarship offers were likely on their way for the 6-foot-8 double-double machine. Instead, Tinnon found himself in legal trouble and kicked out of his high school for the second time. After failing to complete the community service requirements that resulted from the legal issues, Tinnon was sentenced to three weekends in jail.
Tinnon was resilient and battled back. With the help of dedicated teachers and coaches, Tinnon returned to school for his senior season, where he averaged 18 points and 15 rebounds per game en route to honorable mention All-State recognition. Despite the success on the court, Tinnon’s past still plagued him. His inconsistent attendance left him a few credits short of graduating from high school and his academic status left him without many college options.
Ultimately, Tinnon attended a junior college in North Dakota where he could train with the team while he pursued his GED. Once again, Tinnon found himself in trouble. In October, before he ever stepped foot on a court for an official game or practice, Tinnon was involved in another legal issue and eventually left North Dakota.
His misdemeanor violated his probation from the previous legal issues he had in high school. The result: another weekend in jail. In less than two years, Tinnon had gone from an inmate to an All-State basketball performer to an inmate again. That ultimately served as a wake-up call for Tinnon. Enough was enough.
After his release, Tinnon avoided roadblocks. Faced with a harsh reality and a criminal record, Tinnon had no basketball options remaining. Instead, he took a job at a meat processing plant to support himself and his pregnant girlfriend. He thought basketball was behind him and feared he would spend the rest of his life working on the processing line.
An old friend asked Tinnon to play in a local basketball tournament, which eventually led Tinnon to a tryout at Kansas City Kansas Community College. The rest is history.
“My first year, I had 13 points and 10 rebounds a game,” Tinnon said. “My sophomore year was actually my breakout year, where I averaged 23 points and almost 14 rebounds per game. That was a big year. I had a lot of D-1 colleges that were looking at me after that.”
Tinnon ended up at Marshall University, where he averaged a double-double for two years and established himself as an NBA prospect or at least an overseas professional. After so many missteps along the way, Tinnon finally found himself on track for a professional basketball career. He worked out for a few NBA teams but eventually landed in Germany, where he’s played professionally the past few years.
Tinnon learned from his mistakes and worked hard to create a better life for himself and his family. He knows what it’s like to be at the bottom, and he doesn’t have any interest in going back.