CT’s Tyler Betsey is one of the top targets for 2024 UConn men’s basketball

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MONTVILLE — A quick look around the walls of Jere Quinn’s office reveals the tremendous success he and his St. Thomas More boys’ basketball program have had over the years.

On nearly every square inch of wall space are photos, plaques, and clippings that celebrate more than 1,000 victories, dozens of Division 1 and NBA alumni, and multiple championships over the 43 Quinn’s years in school.

This is why he is a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame and has been nominated for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame multiple times. That’s why future NBA players like Andre Drummond, Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman played at St. Thomas More.

And that’s why Tyler Betsey is here now.

Betsey grew up in Windsor and played the past two seasons at Windsor High, averaging 23 points and six rebounds per game as a sophomore and earning GameTimeCT All-State honors.

But Betsey announced in May that he would transfer to St. Thomas More. He had grown from 6ft 2in to 6ft 8in in the previous two years and was looking for better competition, more access to the gym and the stewardship of Quinn, who is so familiar with navigating the recruiting process. .

“I came to his office, I see all the players on the wall, he’s been doing it for a long time,” Betsey noted. “Pictures don’t lie. I know he can do it for me, that’s why I decided to come here.

It was the right decision at the right time.

Quinn had heard that Betsey was considered a major Division 1 low-to-mid talent. Then he got her working for the staff shortly after she was hired.

“It took me two minutes to recognize that the kid has an extremely high ceiling if he wants to work and still make good decisions,” Quinn said.

When colleges were first allowed to contact Betsey in mid-June, he heard about schools like Illinois, Penn State, Iona, Rhode Island and, yes, UConn. Penn State and Brown offered right away.

Then, a month later, came the prestigious Nike EYBL Peach Jam.

“That’s where I really exploded,” Betsey recalled.

Indiana, Alabama, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Iowa and others entered the scene. UConn made him a scholarship offer. Betsey is currently the No. 68 player overall for the Class of 2024, according to 247Sports.com. He is the 17th ranked small forward in the nation and the highest ranked player in his class in Connecticut.

Playing for the New York Rens at Peach Jam, Betsey believes he caught the attention of more programs with improved defensive intensity.

“I could play good defense, because I’m tall and long,” he noted. “But sometimes I would fall asleep on my back or let my defender go in the middle – small defensive lapses. But in July, we were locked up as a team, we really wanted to win. And I wanted to play more. If you play defense, you will stay on the field.

Sounds like music to Dan Hurley’s ears.

Betsey made an unofficial visit to UConn, went to a football game.

“They were very kind in welcoming us,” said his mother, Georgina Rush. “It’s definitely in the running. This program is very academically comprehensive, and obviously their basketball has all the elements that Tyler would look for in a program to further his basketball career.

But UConn has no inherent recruiting advantage.

“I didn’t grow up playing basketball, I’m not one of those kids who grew up with the ball in my hands, so I don’t really have a dream school,” he said. . “At the moment, in terms of my recruitment, all the schools are on the same ground. There’s no school down here. Everyone is on the same ground. I hope new schools will open, but there is no school that is really breaking up right now.

Is there a school he hasn’t heard of yet that he would like to know about?

“Obviously you want to hear from the blue bloods,” he said. “But it’s not like I was stressing out. It’s my first year. I’m not really focusing on schools right now, just focusing on improving basketball.

‘Wow, that’s what the job does’

Betsey certainly stood out during a pickup game inside the St. Thomas More gymnasium on a recent Friday afternoon. At one point he caught the ball at the low post, shook off a defender and hit a nice overturn jumper. But that’s not an important part of his game.

“Catch-and-shoot is what I look for first,” he said. “I build everything on my shooting. If you close too hard, I’ll go through you. Nothing too crazy. I do a bit of everything: throwing the ball, catching and shooting, pull-ups… not flashy, but I’ll do it.

This was evident later in the game, when he knocked down a few 3-pointers with perfect form and a buttery smooth touch. To top it off, a freak dunk in traffic had a St. Thomas More assistant jokingly lamenting, “Why can’t everyone do this?”

Betsey, who sees herself as a small forward but would ultimately like to be a top-level shooting guard, added: “I listen to my coach.”

“He’s a top-notch kid,” Quinn said in agreement.

When he was in fifth and sixth grades, Betsey was more focused on football, a talented receiver, and the safety that helped lead the Hartford Hurricanes to the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

“Football was easier for him, he was really good,” his mother noted. “But he didn’t want to pursue football. Basketball was a lot more work for him, but he loved it.

Betsey began to take a serious interest in hoops during the summer between eighth and ninth grade. He played in a high school fall league that year, playing well against high schoolers.

“Once I saw that I was getting better, it made me work harder,” he recalls. “Once you see yourself doing things that you couldn’t do before, it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s what work does.’ It makes you want to keep training in the gym.

Betsey played two seasons under legendary Windsor coach Ken Smith, leading the Warriors to the CCC and Division 1 State Tournament semi-finals before deciding to take his talents 40 minutes down the road to the bucolic campus of St. Thomas More.

Now the barrage of DI offers has begun. Quinn advises Betsey to take her time, to let the process unfold.

“I think about it a bit, I’m not going to say I don’t think about it at all,” admitted Betsey. “But I have post-graduate teammates, it’s time for them. I’m not timed like them. I think about it a bit, but nothing crazy.

Betsey and her mother are looking for similar things in a college program and a coach.

“I just want a coach who’s going to let me play through my mistakes,” Betsey said. “I want to be able to come in and play as a freshman. And I want someone who will help me take it to the next level. If I have to stay for one, two, three or four years… I just want to take it to the next level.

Echoing Rush: “At this point, we don’t have any specific programs we would like Tyler to attend. For him, I think what he’s looking for is a school that will suit his particular style of play. He’s looking for a coach who will have confidence in him being a young player, a freshman, allowing him to play through some of his mistakes. He’s coachable and he’s always been a great team player. I think he’s just looking for the right person. I think all the institutions will have the campus and facilities and things of that nature. I think it will depend on the relationship with the coaching staff and the coach, ultimately.

There’s a word Rush often uses to describe his son and his approach: Consistency. He’s stayed on a familiar path, kept the same personal trainer (Brian Heron out of Waterbury) since he started playing basketball, and kept the same attitude and values ​​even after changing schools. .

“As a parent, I gave him wings,” Rush said. “He has his wings and he can fly as far as he needs to get what he needs.”

[email protected] @DaveBorges

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