Austin Tilghman had no shortage of suitors in his recruiting process.
In the end, it was his first love that won out.
The Archbishop Carroll senior point guard committed last week to Monmouth University to play basketball after fielding a variety of offers for both basketball and football.
Monmouth won the race for Tilghman’s services ahead of offers from Manhattan, James Madison, Binghamton (which features 2013 Carroll All-Delco guard Yosef Yacob) and Wagner. He also had interest from several programs to play football.
What ultimately won Tilghman over, in addition to his fondness for the game of basketball, was the appeal of Monmouth’s coaching staff, led by King Rice.
“Their staff is great,” Tilghman said. “They’ve got a lot of young guys, and a couple of McDonalds All-American guards who I think can help me elevate my game. They’re a young team, so I think I can step in and play some, and their campus and facilities are beautiful.”
The staff Tilghman is referencing traces its roots to North Carolina’s Dean Smith era. Rice (who has a fascinating redemption story) helped lead the Tar Heels to four Sweet 16s from 1988-91, including the Final Four in 1991. Rice, a native of Binghamton, N.Y., was a McDonalds All-American out of high school, as were assistant coaches Brian Reese and Derrick Phelps, who graduated from UNC in 1994.
Phelps boasts a 12-year international playing career, while Reese spent over a decade coaching with Carolina Basketball Camps. Rice was an assistant at Oregon, Illinois State, Providence and Vanderbilt as well as the head coach of the Bahamian National Team before taking over the Hawks in 2011.
Tilghman, who transferred to Carroll after three season at St. Andrews in Delaware, averaged 10.3 points per game running the point for the Patriots this season, helping them to a 23-5 record and the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AAA Tournament. While he’s not the most prolific of jump shooters, his imposing build (he was listed at 6-2, 215 for football season, then shrunk and inch for basketball) makes him adept at getting to the rim. He’s also a great ballhandler and on-ball defender.
Tilghman also starred on the gridiron, racking up 1,109 rushing yards, good for fourth in the county in 2013. His 8.4 yards per carry average was second-best in Delco, while the 374 yards he collected against Bishop McDevitt was the second-best single-game rushing total in county history.
Monmouth went 11-21 this season, including 5-15 in their first season in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The last time they were over .500 was 2005-06 when they went 19-15 and won the Northeastern Conference tournament. They were bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Villanova in Philadelphia. Monmouth began playing Division I basketball in 1983-84.
Their 2013-14 roster features no seniors and eight freshmen, which could make for some odd scholarship machinations. Each of their top five scorers were guards. Among the local connections are Zac Tillman, a native of Yeadon and 2013 graduate of Shipley School, and Deon Jones, a transfer from Towson who lists his hometown as Wilmington, Del., and won two state championships with Sanford. His older brother is 2007 Daily Times Player of the Year Jeff Jones of Monsignor Bonner.