Hungry for success, Tyger Campbell’s three-point plan is a winning recipe for UCLA

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell shoots against California's Jalen Celestine (32) and Andre Kelly (22) on Saturday in Berkeley.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)
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The Fat Tyger is a hungry college kid’s godsend and a cardiologist’s menace.

A highly fattening blend of textures and flavors stuffed between a soft, warm baguette, the Fat Sal’s sandwich features crisp mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers and fries complemented by succulent chunks of ham and gooey Swiss cheese, all pulled together by a honey mustard sauce that adds a touch of sweetness to balance the savory overload.

Given its popularity since the $16.50 creation designed in collaboration with UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell debuted in October, the Fat Tyger may stick around longer than the limited-time offering as planned.

“I think it’s going to be permanent,” Jessica Pugach, who was taking orders at the Westwood location, said earlier this week. “A lot of people love it.”

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The Fat Tyger, a sandwich named in honor of UCLA's Tyger Campbell.
The Fat Tyger, a sandwich named in honor of Tyger Campbell, appears to be growing in popularity among hungry college students in the Westwood area.
(Ben Bolch / Los Angeles Times)

For all his succulent success with the name, image and likeness deal, Campbell’s greatest concoction can be found inside Pauley Pavilion. Like another layer in his sandwich, the floppy-haired playmaker has added the one ingredient that was missing from his repertoire: a trustworthy three-pointer.

In his first two college seasons, Campbell made only 25.9% of his shots from beyond the arc. Defenders backed away, daring him to shoot. His inability to make them regret that choice prevented the Bruins from spacing the floor. At times, it felt as if they were playing four on five.

Cody Riley and Jaime Jaquez Jr., sidelined by injuries recently, provided the lift UCLA needed for a 60-52 win at Cal on a night when guard Tyger Campbell did the rest.

“During our tournament run last year,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said, referring to his team reaching the Final Four, “that was our one weakness offensively and teams that weren’t guarding him. Now we hope they don’t guard him.”

California complied with those wishes Saturday and Campbell thanked the Golden Bears by sinking two of three three-pointers to sustain his seasonlong rampage from long distance. The redshirt junior has made 24 of 48 three-pointers heading into the No. 3 Bruins’ game against Oregon on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion, his 50% success rate ranking as the best in the Pac-12 and doubling the 25% he made last season.

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Big gains have come from tiny tweaks. Campbell is keeping his left guide hand up, finishing on his toes instead of flat-footed and holding his follow-through. He perfected his form during summer shooting sessions in which he would hoist 200 to 300 three-pointers, wearing out the nets as well as the student managers who fetched rebounds.

“I just tried to shoot,” Campbell said, “until it felt comfortable.”

The drive to enhance his game came after Cronin had challenged Campbell, telling him that he needed to go from good to great while refusing to be satisfied with having just helped his team reach the Bruins’ first Final Four since 2008.

“You eat one and you’re full for about a couple of days.”

UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell on his namesake sandwich at Fat Sal’s

Even as he watched one shot after another go through the rim, emerging as the team’s best shooter all summer, Campbell wasn’t sure if it would carry over to the season.

“You can make a lot of shots in practice and a lot of shots in your workouts,” Campbell said, “but you don’t really know how it’s going to translate to the game.”

He found out during the opener against Cal State Bakersfield, when he sank both of his three-pointers. By the fourth game, when he made all four of his attempts against North Florida, he was shooting 61.1% and it was clear the improvement was real.

“You’ve got to put in about 10,000 shots in the offseason for that to become natural for the next season, and he did that,” Cronin said. “So he’s just reaping the benefits. When you work on something the right way, it’s like putting money in the bank — you’re going to get to take it out later.”

Campbell cashed in by becoming Pac-12 player of the week for the first time in his career after starring in victories over Long Beach State and Cal. In a reminder of his all-around excellence, Campbell logged 11 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers against the Beach. Debates raged on message boards about whether Campbell had overtaken top scorers Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. as the team’s most valuable player.

Tyger Campbell guards Long Beach State's Joel Murray on Jan. 6 at Pauley Pavilion.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
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His 4.33 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks third in the nation, making Campbell among the best college passers as well as shooters. He continues to thrive as a distributor, saying he savors any pass that leads to a basket, even if it’s the pass before the assist.

“Just seeing my teammates score,” Campbell said of his greatest joy on the court.

Campbell’s dual excellence could explain why teams haven’t sagged off him near the three-point line, fearing he could beat them with a drive that leads to a pass or one of his deadly midrange floaters. There’s no shortage of worries when it comes to stopping the 5-foot-11 dynamo who’s averaging a career-high 12.8 points to go with 4.7 assists and only 1.1 turnovers per game.

After home games, Campbell can sometimes be found munching on his sandwich at Fat Sal’s alongside his younger brother and father, who also enjoy the casual eatery about a half-mile from Pauley Pavilion. Campbell cracked that he had no comment when asked how many Fat Tygers he had downed before acknowledging that it was a significant number.

“It’s just hard sometimes,” Campbell said, “because you eat one and you’re full for about a couple of days.”

UCLA coach Mick Cronin says senior Jules Bernard is one of the best wings in the nation and is a ‘great kid with a great attitude.’

UCLA vs. Oregon

When: Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Pauley Pavilion.

On the air: TV: ESPN; Radio: 1150.

Update: This will be the first time Oregon has faced UCLA at Pauley Pavilion in Cronin’s three seasons. The Ducks were not on the Bruins’ home schedule during the 2019-2020 season and were on a COVID-19 pause when the teams were supposed to play at Pauley Pavilion in January 2021. As is customary under coach Dana Altman, the Ducks (9-6 overall, 2-2 Pac-12) seem to be gaining strength as the season progresses, having won three consecutive games as their offense rounds into form. Senior guard Will Richardson averages a team-leading 13.4 points per game for Oregon.