Cayson Tilford’s name hasn’t shown up much in print, this season.
But, McCracken County boys basketball coach Burlin Brower has big plans for the sophomore, who is right now a role player – one of the first off the bench for the Mustangs (21-5), who saw their 14-game winning streak snapped, 63-59, Saturday against Collins.
“He’s the point guard of the future,” Brower said.
And, while the idea of following in the footsteps of players like Cam Cartwright (Kentucky Wesleyan), Trevor Winsett and now Noah Dumas, might be a tough spot for a youngster, Tilford, confidence evident, seems to be taking it in stride.
“I have big shoes to fill,” Tilford said. “I had to come in behind Noah and Trevor, so my job was to get guys like Jack (Jackson Sivills) open, find the open man and make the right pass. I score when I have the open shot, but I make the pass (first).”
So, sure, there might be growing pains for a player whose minutes have increased throughout the season. But, Tilford has risen to the occasion. Tuesday night, his key 3-pointers in the second half helped to cement the lead for the Mustangs in a 58-40 win over Massac County.
Friday, his free-throws in the fourth quarter helped to stave off a late Cairo rally in a 58-48 win over the Pilots.
While Tilford’s efforts show up on the stat sheet only as an average of about two points per game, the contributions go well beyond that.
“He’s a very unselfish player,” Brower said. “He’s a kid, when you look at him, he’s not that big or strong, but he goes out there and does his job. That’s what makes good basketball teams. Kids that go do their job. Cayson’s not a big-time, 6-foot-5 athlete, but he goes out there and makes people around him better. That’s how you make good basketball teams. Not by (having) good individuals, but by (having) players who play their role and make people around them better.
“He’s always done that. I’ve watched the kid play since he was in first grade or kindergarten. He was just that type of kid. He’s our next great point guard coming through.”
And off the court?
“Everybody likes Cayson,” Brower said. “You never hear a bad word about him. He’s always early to practice. I’ve known him forever. He’s a great kid, and I know he’s got some great days ahead of him at McCracken.”
Tilford has also earned the notice of his teammates.
“He’s a great guy all around,” Sivills said. “It translates to the basketball court, too. He shares the ball, he does his job and he helps us win games. That’s the most important thing.”
But, what if it wasn’t basketball?
Tilford dabbled in another sport while growing up with Brower’s son, Brant Brower – also a sophomore.
Make no mistake, though, basketball is Tilford’s first love.
“I played soccer in middle school, so that’d definitely be something to fall back on, but basketball took over my life,” he said.