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Journey to the Court: From Canada to Tilton

by sarah o’neill

“ THESE PROGRAMS AT TILTON HELP ME GET OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE. I FEEL LIKE I’VE GROWN SO MUCH.”

-ERIC BECKETT ’19

The country of Canada is known as the birthplace of ice hockey and is home to many talented athletes who dominate on the ice. It’s also the birthplace and home of Eric Beckett ’19, a three-year senior, promising athlete and student leader at Tilton School. A native of Ajax, Ontario, about 30 minutes east of Toronto, Beckett doesn’t score goals on the ice, but he does sink baskets on the court as a member of the Tilton School Boys’ Varsity Basketball team.

You may be wondering—why the strong hockey reference in a story about an international student basketball player? Besides the obvious Canadian connection, the sport of hockey has had quite the influence on Beckett’s journey to the court.

Beckett’s father, Reid, started out as a hockey player. After playing hockey for most of his adolescent life, his father transferred to a new middle school where he met Charmaine, Beckett’s mother, as well as his friend and Beckett’s future godfather. His best friend was really into basketball, so Reid ended up ditching the puck for an orange ball in order to spend more time with his new friend.

Reid Beckett went on to win multiple championships with an exceptional high school team, played at the Canadian university level and then with a professional basketball league in Iceland. Eric Beckett’s middle name, Brynjar, is named for an Icelandic friend of his parents.

The family history and respect for the sport is evident in the player, student and humble individual that is Eric Beckett. After finishing his sophomore year at a Canadian high school, Beckett wasn’t satisfied with how his season ended. One of his summer program coaches mentioned that schools in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) were high caliber, not only for education but for athletics.

“I had no idea what the prep school lifestyle would be like. I went on the tours openminded and willing to see what was going to happen. I toured Tilton in October 2016 and really liked this school the most. The campus, the teachers…all the teachers I met were talking to me like I was already one of their students.”

Beckett’s goal is to play at the Division 1 college level in the United States, so he knew relocating was in his future as more exposure to higher-level play is given in U.S. high schools. Although a necessary step toward achieving his dreams, it wasn’t an easy transition. When he arrived at Tilton, a new school in a new country, he was nervous and homesick. He felt a lack of confidence in this new world. As the season and school year started to progress, Beckett found his place on the court and began to feel more comfortable.

His junior year, the 2017-2018 basketball season, was one of the most exciting Tilton School has ever seen. After being crowned NEPSAC Class AA Champions, the Rams moved on to the National Prep School Championship where they advanced to the semi-finals. In addition to having 10 extra games overall in the season, the end presented a test of the team’s endurance and mental toughness. Immediately after the NEPSAC tournament, they traveled to New York to play five games in six days, taking on some of the nation’s best teams. Beckett credits the unbreakable bond as a team with tackling the mental and physical challenges.

“It was hard, but we all stuck together and persevered. We all knew we were hurting and tired but we wanted to win, so that’s what pushed us.”

At the conclusion of the season, Beckett was named a Class AA All-NEPSAC Honorable Mention. Three days after Nationals, he, along with eight members of the Tilton Varsity Boys’

Basketball team, traveled to Japan. Exhausted from nationals and jet-lagged, the team held basketball clinics and connected with Japanese students through a mutual love for the sport despite language barriers.

“Japan was one of the best experiences of my life. They love the sport. We were treated like superstars. Just being in Japan, on the other side of the planet…it was amazing.”

In addition to being an instrumental member of the Boys’ Varsity Basketball team, Beckett excels in both academics and leadership roles and this past spring was inducted into the National Honor Society. This year Beckett serves as an admissions ambassador, dorm proctor, teacher’s assistant and was nominated by his fellow students to be a peer counselor. Beckett credits his nomination as peer counselor as the spark that made him want to pursue more leadership roles.

“These programs at Tilton help me get out of my comfort zone. I feel like I’ve grown so much; I’m able to have conversations with people I’ve never met, which is something I didn’t do before.”

When it comes to basketball, Beckett’s hustle never takes a backseat. This past summer he traveled to Los Angeles and South Carolina to work with two different trainers. He attended college camps for extra exposure and played with a Canadian team over the month of July, traveling to Las Vegas and Milwaukee.

An athlete, a scholar and a role model to his peers, some may wonder how Beckett manages to keep it all together, and with such a humble head on his shoulders at that. His response when anyone asks how he does it? “I can handle it.” And handle it he does.

Editor’s note: At time of publication, Eric Beckett ’19 has committed to the University of Vermont