The 25-year-old was an all-state performer for Unicoi County High School, a two-time Carolinas Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year at King University, and went on to play professionally in Australia — where he had a key role in the Ringwood Hawks winning their third Big V Championship.
Now back home in Unicoi, he has begun a new set of adventures like a cross-country trip with his brothers in a 1963 Volkswagen double-cab bus. Next up, he’s ready to embark on a hike across the entire Appalachian Trail with his Jack Russell Terrier named Jax.
Lyle's exploits on the basketball court have been well documented.
He graduated in 2011 as the all-time leading scorer in Unicoi County history with 1,889 points, a record he held until Trevor Hensley broke it this past season. Lyle then went to King University, where averaged 15 points per game for his career, finishing with 1,751 points. Late in his senior season, he ranked as the leader in all the NCAA divisions with made 3-point shots, and finished that year averaging 16.7 points per game.
He recalled the experiences of playing for two of the area's most successful coaches, John English at Unicoi County and George Pitts at King University.
"Coach English and Coach Pitts were similar in a lot of ways," Lyle said. "They would both push you to your limits. You see coaches like that have all their success and it makes you a little nervous as a young player. Coach English and Coach Pitts were guys who both had talent, but their success is getting the most out of the talent they've had."
With dreams of playing professionally, Lyle was drafted by the Lake Michigan Admirals of the Premiere Basketball League and got his first taste of international basketball when the team took a trip to England and Spain. He found a different style of play than he was used to in the United States.
"It was good to get that mixture of play," Lyle said. "It was a more physical game overseas. In college, it was fast-paced, get more shots up, but overseas was more beating and banging, the old-style NBA play. London and Spain introduced that to me."
The Melbourne-based Ringwood Hawks took notice, especially of his smooth jump shot and his ability to fire up shots quickly. As a rookie, Lyle set a team record by making a dozen 3-point goals in one game, which came in just 18 attempts.
Lyle, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, averaged 16.5 points per game in leading Ringwood to a sweep in the Big V championship series with the Corio Bay Stingrays. To compare them to a team back home, the Hawks were much like an Australian version of the San Antonio Spurs. Lyle explained the opportunity to even play Down Under was unique in itself.
"I didn't promote myself at all for that. The coach at Australia was looking at stats and then found me on Facebook," Lyle recalled. "I knew going in that Ringwood had won the championship two years before. As soon as I got there, the coach told me, 'We run a successful club here and we're going to be hard on you. We expect a lot out of you.'
"I knew I had better be playing well or they could send me home. It took a couple of games to find our niche, but we linked up real well and we were able to bring that championship banner back to them."
However, his Australian adventure was about more than basketball. He explored the outback, visited the country's most famous sites like the Sydney Opera House and surfed the legendary waves along the coast.
Back home in Unicoi County last summer, Lyle and his brothers, Freddy and Ethan, had been working on a 1963 Volkswagen bus with help from a friend in Kingsport who rebuilt the motor. The story behind the vehicle is the previous owner was a huge Grateful Dead fan who followed the group around the country and even helped the band once by hauling their drums to a concert when one of their vehicles broke down.
The van still has a rough exterior with the Grateful Dead stickers on the back, and the brothers' plan wasn't the typical vacation to the West Coast. Instead, they were going to find free camping sites every night and they would travel not only Interstate 40, but the legendary Route 66 and other back roads over an epic one-month journey.
While it sounds like something planned months in advance, Lyle said it was actually more spur of the moment. Only a couple of days after deciding to do it, they were on the road.
"We always had this idea of the great American road trip," he said. "My brother bought the 1963 Volkswagen double cab a couple of years ago. It shows the age of the vehicle and its character. But literally from a Monday to a Wednesday, we decided to go on the trip. It was like let's pile this thing up and let's go."
Photos from the trip include sights from the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. But the trip, which also included a drive up the California coast and stops at Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, ultimately turned out to be more about family.
"It's not as much about what you end up doing, but who you end up doing it with," Lyle said. "Our motto for the trip was whatever happens, happens. It wasn't like I had been disconnected from my brothers, but it's not like when you're together every day growing up. I got back from Australia after not seeing them for nine months and that was the perfect way to do something together. We built a bond that most families never get to."
A NEW ADVENTURE
After a trip which included the bus breaking down in Oklahoma City and a guy from Oregon rushing them parts for free to get back on the road, the next journey will have more of a home feel to it.
Lyle recently decided he was going to do a solo hike with his dog over the entire Appalachian Trail. Originally, he was going to start in Maine, work his way South and go non-stop to the end. With a close friend's wedding coming up, he will instead start in Georgia, hike for a month, stop close to home and resume his journey afterward.
"The Appalachian Trail goes through our town and I've been around it my whole life, riding horses on it or hiking," he said. "I wish one of my brothers could go with me, but one's working and one's in school — so other than my dog, this is a journey with solitude."
According to Lyle, the travels have taught him there are good people all over the world and the good Lord has laid out a plan which eventually reveals itself. As to what meaning he looks to find through his latest journey, he's keeping an open mind.
"I guess I will find what nature is going to teach me," he said. "I don't know what it is yet, but I'm anxious to find out."