CT’s Tyler Betsey a top 2024 UConn men’s basketball target

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

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

It’s why he’s in the New England Basketball Hall of Fame and has been nominated for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame several times. It’s why future NBA players like Andre Drummond, Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman have played at St. Thomas More.

And it’s why Tyler Betsey is there 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 be transferring to St. Thomas More. He had burst up from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-8 over the previous couple of years and was looking for better competition, more gym access and the Stewardship of Quinn, who is so familiar with navigating the recruiting process.

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

It was the right decision at the right time.

Quinn had heard Betsey was considered a low- to mid-major Division 1 talent. Then he had him work out for the staff shortly after he committed.

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

When Colleges were first allowed to contact Betsey in mid-June, they heard from schools like Illinois, Penn State, Iona, Rhode Island and, yes, UConn. Penn State and Brown offered right off the bat.

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

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

Indiana, Alabama, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Iowa and others came into the picture. UConn made him a Scholarship offer. Betsey is currently the No. 68 overall player in the Class of 2024, per 247Sports.com. He’s the No. 17 small forward in the Nation and the top-ranked player in his class in Connecticut.

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

“I could play good defense, because I’m tall and long,” he noted. “But sometimes I’d fall asleep on the backside, or let my defender go middle — little defensive lapses. But in July, we were locked in as a team, we wanted to win badly. And I wanted to play more. If you play defense, you’re gonna stay on the court.”

Sounds like music to Dan Hurley’s ears.

Betsey has made an Unofficial visit to UConn, gone to a football game.

“They’ve been very gracious in hosting us,” his mother, Georgina Rush, said. “It’s definitely in the running. That program is very comprehensive academically, and obviously their basketball has all of the elements that Tyler would be looking for in a program in furthering his career in basketball.”

But UConn doesn’t have any inherent advantages in his recruitment.

“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. “Right now, as far as my recruitment goes, every school is on the same ground. There’s no school that’s up here, down here. Everybody’s on the same ground. I’m hoping that new schools reach out, but there’s no school that’s really separating themselves right now.”

Is there a school he hasn’t heard from yet that he’d like to?

“Obviously, you want to hear from the blue bloods,” they said. “But it’s not like I’m stressing. It’s my junior year. I don’t really focus on schools all that much right now, I just focus on getting better at basketball.”

‘Wow, that’s what work does’

Betsey certainly stood out during a pick-up game inside St. Thomas More’s gym on a recent Friday afternoon. At one point, they caught the ball at the low post, Shook off a defender and hit a nice turnaround jumper. But that’s not a major part of his game.

“Catch-and-shoot is what I’m looking for first,” he said. “I build everything off my shot. If you close out too hard, I’ll go by you. Nothing too crazy. I do a little bit of everything: shooting the ball, catch-and-shoot, pull-ups … not flashy, but I’ll get it done.”

That was evident later in the game, when he knocked down a couple of 3-pointers with picture-perfect form and a butter-soft touch. Capping it all off was a Monster dunk in traffic that had one St. Thomas More Assistant jokingly bemoan, “Why can’t everybody do that?”

Betsey, who considers himself a small forward but would ultimately like to be a shooting guard at the next level, added: “I listen to my coach.”

“He’s a first-rate kid,” Quinn said in agreement.

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

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

Betsey started getting serious about hoops in the summer between eighth and ninth grade. They played in a high school fall league that year, playing well against high school seniors.

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

Betsey played two seasons under Windsor’s legendary Coach Ken Smith, leading the Warriors to both the CCC and Division 1 state tournament semifinals before deciding to take his talents 40 minutes up the road to the bucolic St. Thomas More campus.

Now, the barrage of DI offers has begun. Quinn advises Betsey to take his time, let the process play out.

“I think about it a little bit, I’m not gonna say I don’t think about it at all,” Betsey admitted. “But I’ve got some post-grad teammates, it’s time for them. I’m not on the clock like them. I think about it a little bit, but nothing crazy.”

Both Betsey and his mother are looking for similar things from a college program and coach.

“I just want a Coach that’s going to let me play through my mistakes,” Betsey said. “I want to be able to go in and play as a freshman. And I want someone that’s gonna help me get to the next level. If I have to stay one, two, three or four years … I just want to get to the next level.”

Echoed Rush: “At this point, we don’t have any specific program that we’d like Tyler to go to. For him, I think what he’s looking for is a school that will fit his particular style of play. He’s looking for a Coach who’ll 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 fit. I think all of the institutions will have the campus, the facilities and things of that nature. I think it will come down to the relationships with the coaching staff and the coach, in the end.”

There is one word Rush often uses to describe her son and his approach: Consistency. He has kept himself 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 switching schools.

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

[email protected] @DaveBorges

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