HAMPSHIRE – Although Hampshire tied Crystal Lake Central for the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division title and posted one of the most successful win totals in school history, Tyler Crater is not all that impressed.
Not yet, anyway.
“The success we’re having is really cool, but we haven’t done anything yet,” Crater said. “We need to keep going and make a run this postseason. This time of year, people really don’t know too much about you until you do something in the postseason.”
That is spoken like a true leader, a role the Whip-Purs’ 6-foot-3 forward has embraced this year. Top-seeded Hampshire (23-5) meets No. 2 Sycamore (18-10) at 7:30 p.m. today in the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional championship.
Hampshire coach Bob Barnett has had several teams with or near 20 wins, but none has captured a regional plaque since the 2005 Whips. Crater and three other senior starters – Shane Hernandez, Brendan Waterworth and Mike Dumoulin – have been instrumental in trying to end that drought
“I can’t say enough about them,” Barnett said. “They’ve been playing together for a while. Tyler’s the leader of the team, not only on the court, but off the court. This year, right at the beginning of the year, you could tell he was more outgoing. He was laughing and joking with everyone. I told him the second week of school, ‘I’m impressed. You’re a different person, this is great.’ Not at what he’s accomplished, I’m proud of that too, but of the young man he’s become.”
Crater leads the area in scoring at 18 points a game, is third in 3-pointers with 55, he scored 30 on his ACT and owns a 4.0 GPA. He will finish his high school career with nine varsity letters (four in baseball, three in basketball and two in football) and is looking at NCAA Division III or NAIA schools where he might play both basketball and baseball.
Crater joined former Whips David Ross (2004) and Tyler Watzlawick (2012) with 1,000 career points in Wednesday’s 49-31 victory over Burlington.
“That’s good company,” Crater said. “I’m just relieved to get it out of the way. I wish I could have done it in the regular season. This time of year, we need to be focused on winning basketball games. I kind of felt like last night we just needed to get it out of the way and move forward and play basketball.”
The seniors have played together since the fifth grade and are ready to leave a mark in Hampshire basketball history. Center Shane Hernandez knows they look first to Crater, but also understand their best player is very unselfish.
“We all trust each other and know what we’re going to do,” Hernandez said. “It gives us a sense of confidence. With him, we knew if he’s off, he’s going to pass the ball. We just give him any leeway he wants.”
Crater, who weighs 185 pounds, expanded his game from his sophomore and junior years, when he mostly spotted up for 3-pointers.
“I remember back to practices last year and I would try to shoot a pull-up jumpshot and I couldn’t do it,” Crater said. “For some reason in the offseason in open gyms, it started coming to me, like it was an easier shot. That’s been a big part of my game, because when you’re able to get past that first level of the defense and you have the option to take it all the way or to pull up, that really keeps them off-balance. They can’t defend that as easily.”
Barnett sees Crater not only as a more dangerous player, but a smarter one.
“It’s that one year. It’s amazing the maturity between a sophomore and a junior, then between a junior and a senior,” Barnett said. “His name was kind of hidden for a while [on college recruiting], he’s getting a lot of looks now. They’re coming out of the woodwork now.”