By CHAD G. WELCH • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
When Cooperstown Central School’s all-time leading scorer in basketball, Tyler Bertram, decided to transfer from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, he said he was looking for a better fit, a bigger role and an opportunity to play closer to home.
He found all three with Binghamton University men’s basketball team during the 2020-2021 season.
After finishing his high school career at Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, Vermont, Bertram spent two years in Charlotte; the first a redshirt season during which he said he added 20 pounds to bulk up his slender 6-foot 3-inch frame. In the second, as a redshirt freshman, he appeared in 12 games for the 49ers averaging 9.3 minutes per game.
“Coming back close to home was important, but finding the right fit was very important,” Bertram said. “The previous situation just didn’t really feel like it was the right spot and then knowing that Binghamton played really fast and like to shoot a lot of threes, I knew that I could kind of be myself here.”
“I made the mistake of not fully understanding what kind of style it was going to be (in Charlotte),” Bertram said. “I thought the change went really well. It was a fun year. The team was great. I just had a lot of fun playing fast and playing with some confidence again.”
Bertram said that even though fans weren’t allowed to attend games this season because of the coronavirus pandemic, he still felt the hometown support and looks forward to seeing some familiar faces in the stands next season.
“It stinks that fans couldn’t come out, but with social media being so crazy right now, you can hear from a lot of people like on Twitter after games commenting ‘nice job’ and that type of stuff,” he said. “It’s nice to have that and feel their support and I’m just excited for when we can have fans back so we can try to get some of those fans to come to the games.”
The NCAA Division I Bearcats finished ninth in the 10 team America East Conference, with a 4-14 record, including 4-10 in conference.
Binghamton announced March 1, that it would not renew head coach Tommy Dempsey’s contract after nine seasons and a 71-194 record.
Assistant coach Levell Sanders was named interim coach for next season. Sanders was a former star player at Seton Hall who joined the program in 2019.
Bertram said although this season’s results were disappointing and Dempsey won’t be returning, he has many reasons to be excited for the years to come.
“Obviously losing isn’t fun, but we lost a lot of really close games,” he said. “We were really young, a bunch of freshman and sophomores. I think there was a stat that like 90 percent of our scoring came from sophomores. So I think that’s a really good thing for us coming into next year. Even though our record was bad, we lost a lot of close games and a lot of our good players are young guys.
“It’s sad to see a coach like that go. He recruited me out of high school, too. So we had a good connection, but I’m also looking forward to this next step because our assistant coach, I worked out with him every single day this year outside of practice. So we have a really good connection. So I’m excited to move forward with him as well.”
Bertram said that he learned a lot during his two years in Charlotte, particularly last year watching how senior point guard John Davis ran the offense and carried himself as a leader on the floor and in the huddle. Bertram said he grew a lot this season, also, and he played his way into more minutes after a slow start.
“I think I grew a lot. At the beginning of the season, like the first four games, I was really struggling. I wasn’t shooting well, I wasn’t getting the minutes I really wanted,” he said. “Then I kind of took a step back and talked to Dad when I came home over Christmas.
“I just really focused. I was getting in the gym a lot, even before or after a two hour practice, getting in with coach (Sanders) and working out,” he continued. “I think I grew a lot in that aspect, like breaking through adversity and really turning a page. I thought personally I had a really good season after that.”
Bertram played in all 18 games, making 13 starts, for an average of 28 minutes per game. In conference play during the regular season, Bertram led the American East with 33 made three-point field goals and was second with 2.4 made three-pointers made per game. He was fifth with a .379 three-point field goal percentage, ninth with 35 assists and 14t in scoring with 166 points, according to team and conference statistics.
“I think I was tied for first in threes over the season, so that was a big, big accomplishment,” he said.
Overall, Bertram made 40 three-point field goals and shot .348 from behind the arc. He was second on the Bearcats with 194 total points and 10.8 points per game to sophomore Brenton Mills, who scored 222 total points and averaged 13.9 points per game.
Bertram was also second with 37 assists and 2.1 assists per game to sophomore George Tinsley, who had 41 and 2.3, respectively.
Bertram tied sophomore Dan Petash for the team lead with 15 steals and was third in free throw percentage at 88% behind senior guard Hunter Crist and junior center Yarden Willis, who were both perfect from the line this season.
Bertram was team high scorer in four games, including a career-high 20 points in a loss to UMass Lowell on January 16th, and he led the team in assists in four games as well with six assists in three of those occasions.
Bertram said the team started practicing again on April 5, and there will be two four week long summer sessions planned before the season begins in mid-November. He said he’ll be working hard on other aspects of his game and he has high hopes for himself and the team next year.
“I am kind of known for my three-point thing, so I want to work on my mid-range game and getting to the basket more and all that type of stuff,” he said.“This offseason I will really be putting a lot of work towards ball handling and just trying to make my game more complete.
“Of course, every coach’s goal coming into the season is to win the conference,” he said. “I honestly, I know we didn’t do well this year, but I really think we have a chance just because of how close we played every team and how young we were.
“As a team, we want to win a lot of games especially with a first year coach and help him out,” he said.
“My personal goal for next year is to get player of the year. I need everyone to know what I’m coming for next year,” Bertram said.
Bertram is majoring in human development and he said he hopes to play basketball professionally, in the United States or overseas and that eventually he would also like to get into college coaching.
In three years playing varsity basketball at Cooperstown, Bertram set the Cooperstown varsity boys basketball record for most points in a career (1,897), a season (783 in 2015-2016) and a game (55 against Moravia in the 2016 state playoff quarterfinals). He also holds CCS records for career three-pointers (264), assists (417) and steals (181). He helped lead Cooperstown to back-to-back Section III Class C titles.
In 2017, he was also the state Class C co-player of the year.
In addition to his basketball success at CCS, Bertram won four section titles in doubles tennis with partner Pierce Snyder and shared four Section III Class C-2 team titles in tennis. He and Snyder made it to the state tournament in 2016, tying the best finish in the sport in school history.