Prep Profile Tilton School
The Tilton School had become the standard of excellence by which others were judged in class B of the NEPSAC.
To say they had been dominant in recent years would be an understatement as the Rams had won the last three class B titles and even made a Cinderella run to the 2009 National Prep Championship.
If they hope to claim their fourth title in as many years, the path will be even more challenging than in recent years. NEPSAC realignment finds them in the newly formed class AA along with all of their traditional class B rivals including Marianapolis, St. Andrew’s, Cushing, Hotchkiss, Proctor and others along with new competitors including Worcester Academy, St. Mark’s, Lawrence Academy, and Wilbraham & Monson.
The good news for Tilton fans is that the Rams have reloaded with what could be their most talented roster ever. But with talent comes youth and inexperience as head coach Marcus O’Neil has only two post-graduates and no seniors in his top eight players.
One of the biggest questions going into the season is what type of line-up will O’Neil choose to go with. The potential is there to go big and play all three at the same time thanks to Niang and Okonoboh’s perimeter skills. If O’Neil chooses to start one of his three big men on the bench, they could give a huge potential boost as one of the league’s best sixth-men.
While Niang is just coming out of his breakout summer, his production is nothing new for Tilton fans. The skilled and efficient forward has been a contributor on each of the last three championship squads and seems to take his game to whole new levels each year.
Okonoboh returns for his second year at the school after more than holding his own against players three and four years his senior as a freshman. And speaking of breakout performances, no one had a bigger national coming out party this summer than Noel.
Six-foot-six junior power forward Mike Swanson, who doubles as a star pitcher for the school’s baseball team, will provide more quality size and depth off the bench.
Bull and Selden were especially impressive when we visited the Tilton gym last month, both having seemingly taken their game to new levels since we saw them last in July.
For Bull, fresh of his commitment to Rhode Island, the difference was in a more cut up physique which made him a step quicker attacking the basket and making his trademark plays off the dribble.
But no one was more impressive than Selden as the O’Bryant transfer had become so much more explosive in all aspects of his game and had star potential written all over him.
The point guard tandem will be formed by two post-graduates in Tony Lester and Aaron Law. Ironically, both come to Tilton by way of North Carolina and combine to form a one-two punch with complementary skills. Lester is a physical guard who is an aggressive playmaker and impressive athlete while Law is more shifty and cerebral, lulling his defender to sleep before accelerating for a drive or making a nifty pass. Together the duo will not only share the point guard responsibilities, but also promises to see plenty of time together in the backcourt.
The wealth of talent on this year’s Tilton roster has not gone unnoticed by college coaches. On the one day that NERR was in the gym we were joined by Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith and New Hampshire head coach Bill Herrion along with assistants from Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Purdue, and UNLV.
But high levels of interest from college coaches are a foregone conclusion for this bunch. The goal is to overcome their relative youth and capitalize on their tremendous talent to claim what would be the Tilton School’s fourth consecutive NEPSAC championship.