Prep Profile - Tilton School
With five NEPSAC championships in the last ten years, the Tilton School has set the standard of excellence in Class AA of the NEPSAC, and Class B before that.
This year though, they’re hearing some of the same whispers that Brewster Academy is hearing in Class AAA.
“Tilton is down this year.”
Those doing the whispering though clearly don’t have very long memories. In fact, the Rams were hearing similar sentiments a year ago despite the presence of Terance Mann and a terrific supporting cast. Nevertheless, they came together to become perhaps greater than the sum of their individual parts and won their latest NEPSAC crown in the process.
Could we see a repeat performance during the upcoming season?
The Rams don’t have that one true leader like they had in Mann last year and they are certainly on the young side, but when you visit a Tilton open gym it becomes clear that this is a team with a collective chip on their shoulder and one that it would be unwise to bet against.
The team’s three returning seniors – Robert Martin Jr., Brett Hanson, Sarju Patel and Cem Koyuncu – are representative of the group as a whole in that all three are probably underrated.
Martin is best known for being a role player extraordinaire for BABC over the last two years and while he’s a potential elite level defender because of his versatility, his offense has come a long way in recent years as well and you can expect him to prove that this season.
Similarly, Hanson was a sparkplug off the bench this summer but can flat out score the basketball and will need to be a significant piece of the Rams’ offense for them to reach their potential this season. He’s a threat to create his own shot in all three ranges on the floor and is an equally capable playmaker on the defensive end.
Finally, Sarju is a guy that many people don’t yet know about despite the fact that he played valuable minutes last season. He had a breakout summer on the AAU circuit playing close to his home in Virginia and now he too is ready to make a statement in his senior season as a top notch shot-maker and very heady player.
Koyuncu too, may never be a star, but he’s developed himself into a serviceable role player who stretches opposing defenses and has a college ready body.
The arrival of two post-graduates, Kyle Wright and Phil Edwards, will also help to add to the team’s experience level. Edwards is a California native with some ambidextrous playmaking ability while Wright will join Martin to form a frontcourt tandem that might not be the biggest but will take a backseat to no one when it comes to sheer strength and physical maturity.
For this team to be truly successful though they’ll need important contributions from all three of their high profile underclassmen – junior forward Ryan Layman, sophomore forward Max Zegarowski and his twin brother sophomore guard Marcus Zegarowski.
Layman continues to trend in the direction of his older brother, Maryland senior star Jake Layman, as he appears to have grown an inch or two in recent months and so is clearly still not a finished product physically, yet already a notable pick and pop threat from the three-point line.
The Zegarowski twins are already household names in New England as the younger brothers of Milwaukee Bucks star and former NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. They helped lead Hamilton-Wenham to a state championship last year in the MIAA and are ready to play important roles from day one in the NEPSAC. Both seem to be shooting the ball as well as ever as Marcus could be the team’s best lead guard and Max able to offer minutes at a variety of different positions.
Of course, the one constant over the last decade has been the presence of head coach Marcus O’Neil. His program has produced some of the region’s biggest stars like Alex Oriakhi, Nerlens Noel, Wayne Selden and Georges Niang among others and he’s proven he’s both able to mold highly talented individuals into cohesive units as well as he can take lesser known players and get them to overachieve by dictating tempo, taking care of the ball and developing each individual player.
Will anyone doubt him and his program this year? Apparently so, but don’t be shocked if history repeats itself and those people are proven wrong once again.