Zach Gilpin, who helped lead Hampden Academy to three straight Eastern Maine Class A titles and a state crown, decided to go the prep school route this past season at Bridgton Academy under veteran coach Whit Lesure.
Gilpin is a two-time first-team member of the Bangor Daily News All-Maine team, a 2014 Mr. Basketball finalist and Maine’s 2013-14 Gatorade Player of the Year.
He decided to go to prep school to decide what type of education he wanted to pursue and to access his next step in college basketball.
Many basketball experts in Maine thought he was a Division I prospect right out of high school and definitely do after his year at Bridgton.
“Of course he’s a DI player, Bentley doesn’t recruit too many that aren’t,” Lesure said.
Gilpin will join four other Division I caliber Mainers at Division II Bentley: incoming freshman Kyle Bouchard of Houlton and seniors Alex Furness of Wells, Keegan Hyland of South Portland and Tyler McFarland of Camden Hills.
Gilpin was a starter and co-captain at Bridgton. In his first game of the season, he scored 30 points and was playing very well until illness took him out of the lineup in January for a month.
It took a while for him to recover, and he ended up averaging 12 points, five rebounds and three assists per game from his wing position.
Bridgton plays in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council’s AAA division, which is perhaps the most competitive sub-college basketball in the country. While the historic days of old powerhouse Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield are no longer part of the landscape, many familiar names remain such as perennial contender Brewster Academy as well as New Hampton and St. Thomas More, which are still churning out the kind of basketball talent that fuels March Madness this time of the year.
Gilpin proved he belonged.
“We were fortunate to have Zach and all of the intangible qualities that he possesses, in addition to his significant talent, both on and off the court,” Lesure said.
Lesure, who has coached Bridgton Academy to multiple league titles, considers this year’s team one of the finest he has coached in his tenure at Bridgton and Gilpin as one of his best.
Gilpin was an “excellent leader, a very hard worker, and great role model,” according to his former Hampden Academy coach, Russ Bartlett.
“Winning was the most important thing for the team, and he was at his best in the big pressure games,” Bartlett said. “He was the complete player. He could handle the ball, post up, shoot the [3-pointer], drive to the hoop, an excellent defender, creator, rebounder and made his teammates better.”
At 6-foot-5 and a solid 210 pounds, Gilpin will be a well-rounded and complete player at Bentley.
Answer to last week’s trivia question: Yes, there was one high school player who scored the first two points of each quarterfinal, semifinal and final of an Eastern Maine Tournament. I was the player to do that unusual trifecta — and it was cited in the Bangor Patriot, an afternoon daily paper, on March 7, 1955 — in Bangor High’s games against Fort Fairfield, Ellsworth and Old Town.
Congratulations to former Bangor City Councilor Hal Wheeler, a classmate of mine, who was the only person to answer the question correctly. He remembered because he kept the scorebook for WLBZ Bangor radio play-by-play announcers John McKernan and Eddie Owen. Those 1955 Class L (now Class A) tourney games were played at the “Pit” Memorial Gym at the University of Maine.