By Josh Decker
For Tytist Dean, the journey to Cedarville has been full of surprising turns. An MBA student and a member of the Cedarville men’s basketball team, Dean transferred this year after playing three years for NCAA Division I Liberty University.
But basketball is only part of the story for Dean. Off the court, the St. Paul, Minnesota, native also produces Christian rap music.
“I’ve been involved with music my whole life,” Dean said. “But when I was 17, I started taking it seriously and writing songs a little more often.”
Dean began developing tracks and recording his songs in his family’s home-owned studio, and he released his first extended play (EP) recording titled, “What Can I Say?” in November 2017.
Since then, Dean has dropped two full albums, with “I Am Liberty” released in 2018 and “Paid It All” debuting in 2020.
Dean described his style of music as “melodic rap.”
“Definitely Christian-based,” Dean said. “I always want to glorify God in my music. My whole purpose is to lead people to Christ.”
If he could describe his life in one word, it would be “unique.”
“There’s been favor that God has given me that no one would have seen coming,” Dean said. “My journey has been very unorthodox and unexpected.”
From an early age, Dean was a sports fanatic and had dreams of playing college basketball. He spent countless hours in the gym crafting his basketball skills.
“Working towards my goal of playing Division I took a lot of sacrifice,” Dean said.
He trained with his dad Monday through Friday and then got up early on Saturday mornings during the summer to work out.
Despite his commitment to basketball, Dean was not highly recruited in high school. “I played AAU and got some interest from coaches letting me know about their schools, but no offers came,” Dean said.
After playing his last high school game, Dean thought his basketball career was over. “The final buzzer sounded and I just froze,” Dean said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is it — it’s over.’”
About a month later, however, a family friend who knew the head coach of the Liberty men’s basketball team made a call and secured Dean a tryout with the Flames.
After Dean’s visit to the Liberty campus and tryout with the basketball team, head coach Ritchie McKay offered Dean a preferred walk-on position, guaranteeing him a spot on the roster.
After redshirting his freshman season, Dean played in 26 games as a point guard during his three years in Lynchburg.
“The experience was great,” Dean said. “One of my favorite memories was the first time we won our conference tournament and just knowing we were going to March Madness.”
The Flames won the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament the next two years, though Dean only got to participate in the NCAA Tournament two of his three years at Liberty due to COVID-19 canceling the 2020 tournament.
After graduating in only three years, Dean still had eligibility remaining and decided to enter the transfer portal.
“My opportunity to get any significant minutes was looking very slim,” Dean said. “I had a passion to play, so I figured it was the best timing to see if I could play somewhere else.”
A couple of Dean’s friends who were connected to Cedarville talked about how the Yellow Jackets might be a good fit for him. Liberty’s head coach also reached out to Yellow Jackets’ head coach Pat Estepp to see if there might be any interest.
Estepp called Dean, offering for him to come visit the campus and practice with the team in a tryout. After visiting, Dean was not only sold on the basketball program but also the school’s campus and biblical foundation for academics.
“Cedarville and Liberty are pretty similar in nature, just being Christian-based universities,” Dean said. “Ultimately, being able to practice with the guys at Cedarville and bond with them, I could really see myself being able to contribute.”
A week after his visit, Estepp offered Dean a full-ride scholarship to play for the Jackets, and Dean committed to Cedarville.
Dean is pursuing his MBA degree at Cedarville and has continued to make strides in his music career between his busy schedule of academics and athletics.
“I always get as much done as I can in the summers,” Dean said. “I just write a lot during the school year and then when I get home, I record a bunch.”
His family has a home studio back in Minnesota, a lux – ury that comes with a family that is involved in the music industry.
Dean has had the opportunity to perform his music in the spotlight on some big stages in the past few years.
“The biggest one I did was a festival called Pulse Twin Cities,” Dean said. “It was a one-day revival in front of 60,000 people, which was the biggest crowd I’ve per – formed in front of.”
“I definitely get more nervous before basketball games though,” Dean said with a laugh. “Music is like I won’t get nervous until 10 seconds before I have to say my first word, but basketball is a different story.”
Dean and his sister Celena Lena, who is also involved with music, got the chance to play on Cedarville’s campus this past fall. The sibling duo, who goes by the name “Sis N Lil Bro,” performed at this year’s annual “Moonlight Madness,” which kicked off the Cedarville men’s and women’s basketball seasons.
Through all of the obstacles and successes in his life, Dean has remained rooted in his walk with God. “My relationship with Christ is the number one thing above anything else I do,” Dean said.“I try to live out my faith every day, and it’s extremely important to be able to be grounded in your faith.”
For now, Dean isn’t sure what the future holds, but he recognizes that the Lord is in control of his life. “I’m not rushing it because I know whatever God’s plan is,” he said,
“I’m going to accept it and do it to the best of my abilities.”
Josh Decker is a senior Sport Business Management major, and a sports reporter for Cedars. He loves playing sports with friends, and spends much of his free time as a student assistant for the Cedarville men’s basketball team