Weekly Feature

2013-03-20 / Sports

2013 Boys All-Bee Team

Johnathan Belton — Amherst Tigers Johnathan Belton — Amherst Tigers Most Valuable Player

Johnathan Belton — Amherst Tigers

Take out the “L” in his last name, and it leaves you with “Bet on” — as in you could bet on Johnathan Belton being there for his Amherst Tiger teammates whenever and however they needed him to be this season.

Belton’s all-around game not only allowed him to help push the Tigers to a 20-2 overall record that included both a second consecutive ECIC Division III regular-season title and a Section VI Class A-2 championship, but it also earned him quite a bit of individual recognition — including the distinction of being the 2013 All-Bee Team Boys Most Valuable Player.

Belton, a 6-foot-1 senior guard who just edged out Williamsville North’s Sterling Taplin for MVP honors by 20 votes, was a Second Team All-Bee All-star as a junior. His elevated game, however — Belton averaged 16.8 points, 7.6 assists, 4.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per contest this winter — caught the eye of area basketball coaches, who also voted Belton the ECIC Division III Player of the Year and to the All-ECIC First Team in his final high school season.

Sterling Taplin - FIRST TEAM Williamsville North Spartans Sterling Taplin - FIRST TEAM Williamsville North Spartans “There wasn’t a stat each game that he didn’t get at least a few of — and he’d always make big plays,” said Amherst coach Chris Kensy, the inaugural All-Bee Boys Coach of the Year. “He was near the triple-double mark every game. Any time we needed someone to make a big play this year, he made it. If he took a big shot, he’d hit it. If he needed to pass out of a double team, he’d find the open guy. He’d knife through lanes, hit the glass … just do whatever he needed to help this team.”

Jordan Glover - FIRST TEAM St. Joe’s Marauders Jordan Glover - FIRST TEAM St. Joe’s Marauders You might think that someone with stats as impressive as Belton’s might be all about himself, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Belton, who finished his three-year varsity career with 679 points, 322 rebounds, 218 steals, 37 blocks and a 2.4-to-1 assist to turnover ratio, led Amherst not only in points for the last year, but in assists as well.

“Johnathan is a very unselfish player,” Kensy said. “It’s very tough to lead a team in scoring and in assists, but he did that two years in a row. It just really speaks to his unselfishness, as well as his dedication to improving. He is truly the epitome of what hard work can get you. Whether it was a sprint, a drill, a scrimmage or the sectional championship game, he was our hardest working kid. A lot of our success over the last two years came from plays he was involved in, and that all stemmed from his hard work.”

Ryan Funk - FIRST TEAM Clarence Red Devils Ryan Funk - FIRST TEAM Clarence Red Devils Belton, whose stamp on the program also includes taking Amherst’s younger players under his wing and “showing them what hard work and dedication to the program can get you,” is weighing his options with a number of local colleges. But, according to Kensy, Belton will definitely be continuing his basketball career at the collegiate level somewhere next season.

Sterling Taplin - FIRST TEAM
Williamsville North Spartans

There’s good, and then there’s Sterling Taplin.

Jordan Parker - FIRST TEAM Cleveland Hill Eagles Jordan Parker - FIRST TEAM Cleveland Hill Eagles Taplin, a 6-foot-1 point guard who has started for the Spartans since eighth grade, broke Williamsville North’s 27-year-old career scoring record this winter when he surpassed the old mark of 1,318 en route to ending his junior season with 1,425 career points. Already a 1,000-point club member to start the season, the AAU standout made 43 three-point baskets — sixth most in a single season — to help him score 415 points on the year, good for nearly 22 points a game.

Taplin, the MVP of North’s Five Guys Holiday Classic Tournament, also had 109 rebounds (5.8 per game), 80 assists (4.2) and 56 steals (3) to earn Co-Player of the Year honors for ECIC I, as well as All-ECIC Player of the Year honors. He also sits just 41 assists behind the program’s all-time mark with his 273 helpers to date.

Nate Wilkinson - FIRST TEAM Iroquois Chiefs Nate Wilkinson - FIRST TEAM Iroquois Chiefs “Sterling was pretty consistent all year long,” coach Chuck Swierski said. “When he’s on, there’s no one who can stop him. And defensively, he’s guarding the best kid we’re facing each night — while scoring over 20 points per game. That comes from playing the best of the best with his AAU team; you’ve got to elevate your game, or you’re not going to be there playing for a Nike-sponsored team for very long. You can’t just get by being a good offensive player.”

One of Taplin’s best games of the year actually came against some of his Albany AAU mates, and though it was on the road — much to Swierski’s chagrin — Taplin was able to showcase why he’s been receiving serious offers from Division I schools for quite some time. It also validated Swierski’s assertion that Taplin, now a three-time First Team All-Bee All-star, plays his best when North plays top-of-the-line opposition.

“When we played at Green Tech, which has a couple of kids and Sterling’s AAU teammates who are going Division I on basketball scholarships, he put up 31 points and just really outplayed them,” Swierski said. “I kind of wish that game was in Buffalo so people could’ve seen him at his best.”

Jordan Glover - FIRST TEAM
St. Joe’s Marauders

Running the show is not only a physically taxing prospect, but can be mentally exhausting as well — but St. Joe’s senior Jordan Glover was up for the challenge.

As a two-year starter, the 5-foot-10 point guard “was our floor general,” Marauders coach Mark Simon said. Glover backed off ever so slightly in the scoring department this year, dropping just over half a point from his 2011-12 average to score 8.4 points per game this winter, but picked up his game in every other facet. Glover dished out two and a half more assists and gained just over one additional steal per contest this season while dropping 202 points en route to helping the Marauders finish 18-6 in his appearances.

“We went as well as Jordan went this year,” Simon said. “He really stepped into more of a leadership role this year, which was good to see, and he definitely became tougher mentally as a senior. He was our warrior; he played virtually every minute of every game, especially when it mattered most, as our only true point guard.”

For his career, Glover finished with 421 points, 195 assists, 155 steals and 131 rebounds, bolstered by this season’s 127 assists, 90 steals and 72 rebounds. Glover is hoping his standout senior campaign was good enough to draw interest from Division III collegiate programs, since he aspires to continue his playing career at the next level.

“Jordan did whatever we asked him to do,” Simon said. “When we needed to run, he made sure we ran. When we needed to ratchet it up defensively, we’d follow his lead. And when he turned things up offensively, we were very tough to beat.”

Ryan Funk - FIRST TEAM
Clarence Red Devils

Clarence’s Ryan Funk had a deep desire to move away from the basket following a career spent mainly in the post, and his hard work during the offseason made it apparent that the shift to the backcourt was a wise move.

Funk, a 6-foot-4 junior guard who made just one three-point basket as a center during his sophomore year, connected on 43 long-distance shots this season, including multiple trifectas during 30-plus point outputs against Maritime Charter (30), Lockport (33) and Lancaster (career-high 37).

For the season, the First Team ECIC I and All-ECIC All-star averaged 18 points and five rebounds per game, while connecting on 70 percent of his chances from the foul line and 34 percent from the three-point arc.

“Ryan’s commitment and dedication during this past offseason is the big reason he had the type of year that he did,” Clarence coach Todd Banaszak said. “He’s committed to playing the game year round through AAU ball, and whether it’s at Clarence, at Medaille, or at the park, if there’s an opportunity for a workout, he’s there. I’d be surprised if there was anyone who worked as hard as Ryan did from his sophomore to his junior season.”

Banaszak pointed to Funk’s effort against Lockport in the Section VI Class AA quarterfinal round as being especially prophetic of what’s in store for Funk’s senior season, so long as Funk continues to plug away at his game as he has in the past.

“Ryan just took over the second half of that game against Lockport, hitting some big threes to help us pull away,” Banaszak said. “It was part of a solid end to the season that should hopefully fuel him for next year.”

Jordan Parker - FIRST TEAM
Cleveland Hill Eagles

Cleveland Hill’s Jordan Parker certainly had a senior season to remember.

The 5-foot-11 guard made the most of the final of his three varsity campaigns, posting a third or more of his career 518 points (313), 236 rebounds (116), 54 assists (33), 49 steals (24) and 16 blocks (5) this winter. As a result, the Maryvale Holiday Tournament MVP was named the ECIC IV Co-Player of the Year and an All-ECIC First Team All-star.

“Jordan showed significant improvement this year, skills wise, and his ability to involve his teammates improved tremendously too,” Cleveland Hill coach Jason Przybysz said. “He very often filled the shoes of our go-to guy. His teammates depended on him to make tough plays and tough shots, but if defenses keyed on him, he found the open players. That’s what made us really special this year.”

Przybysz didn’t hesitate for a second to tab Parker as being “instrumental” to the Eagles’ undefeated run though their Division IV schedule, citing his 18 and 20 points in their two games against perennial foe Lackawanna as being especially important to the team’s success. And Parker did all of the things leaders do without officially carrying that title this winter.

“Despite not being a captain, he was definitely a leader for us in practices and during games,” Przybysz said. “He didn’t let anything affect him personally, and he really learned from the good players who were around him over the years. He took his offseason workouts pretty seriously, and he reaped the benefits of that hard work.”

Nate Wilkinson - FIRST TEAM
Iroquois Chiefs

Game in and game out, Nate Wilkinson was a force to be reckoned with offensively for Iroquois.

Wilkinson’s varsity career concluded with him posting the second-most points per game for a career (20.1), as he scored 823 points despite playing at the varsity level for just two years. Wilkinson, who led the team in scoring the last two years, finished just seven points shy of 500 for the year (23.9 per game) after making one of every two shots he took.

Wilkinson, who hit 26 percent of his three-point shots and was also a 70-percent shooter from the foul line, scored a career high 36 points against Starpoint on Feb. 13, and also tied the single-quarter scoring record Dec. 8 with 19 points against Alden in the Chiefs’ own annual Greg Martin Tip-Off Tournament.

But Wilkinson, a 6-foot-2 guard, is by no means a one-dimensional player. On top of his scoring prowess, Wilkinson also had 70 assists (3.5 per game), 51 steals (2.6) and 42 rebounds (2.1) this winter — which helped him earn First Team All-ECIC, Section VI Class A-2 Player of the Year, and Scholar Athlete status. His play has led to some offers from Division III schools, but he has yet to decide where he will attend, or whether he’ll play basketball or football in college.

“Nate was driven to become one of the best players around, and so he put in just a ton of time in the offseason working on his game,” Iroquois coach Sean Lauber said. “His love of the game pushed him to be that good, and it paid off. On many nights, it was fun just to sit back and watch him do what he did. He made some amazing shots, played phenomenal defense… he was just the entire package. It was just an amazing opportunity for me, as his coach, to watch him develop from where he was in modified to where he is now.”

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