Much of what Tyler McFarland is doing on the basketball court this winter is similar to how he helped the 2009 Camden Hills of Rockport boys basketball team win the Class B state championship.
The 6-foot-6 center helped the Windjammers control the inside play last season, regularly producing double figures in points and rebounds and also emerging as a premier shot blocker as coach Jeff Hart’s club went undefeated and McFarland earned second-team All-Maine status from the Bangor Daily News.
His junior year with the Windjammers has produced more of the same, with McFarland averaging 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds while leading Camden Hills to another Eastern Maine Class B title and being named Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B player of the year and regional tournament MVP.
But there also has been growth within McFarland’s game.
While he was able to play somewhat in the shadows of the likes of first-team BDN All-Mainer Gordon Fischer a year ago, Fischer was among the 2009 graduates who left McFarland as the lone returning starter on this year’s team.
With that reality came increased leadership responsibilities for McFarland.
“Last year we had a team with a lot more experienced players who really had already been in a leadership role,” said McFarland, one of four team captains who will lead the Windjammers into Friday night’s Class B state final against Falmouth at the Bangor Auditorium.
“This year was a lot different, and as a captain I had to step up and take on more of a leadership role. It was kind of natural for me, though, it’s in my personality.”
McFarland also has broadened his game. Much like the 6-6 Fischer was able to play more on the perimeter last winter in preparation for the next level — he’s now a first-year forward at Colby College — thanks to the low-post presence of McFarland, McFarland now strays out on the perimeter on occasion thanks in part to the presence of 6-6 teammates Keegan Pieri and Casey Scott.
“Tyler knows that we need him to be the five-man for us to win, that we need to be able to take advantage of what he gives us near the basket,” said Hart. “But at the college level he hopes to play at, most schools are not going to need a 6-6 center. He’s going to need to be able to shoot the ball and handle it, and he continues to get better at that.”
McFarland, whose father and grandfather are among family members who played for the former Camden-Rockport High School that preceded Camden Hills, routinely participates in guard-oriented drills during practices in an effort to improve his perimeter play with an eye toward being a scholarship player at the collegiate level.
And during Camden Hills’ 82-49 victory over Ellsworth in last Saturday’s Eastern Maine final, McFarland occasionally brought the ball up the court against defensive pressure early in the game, and he also took to the perimeter to guard Ellsworth standout Ryan Petros.
“I definitely have spent more time away from the basket this year,” said McFarland, “but obviously I’m looking to do what the team needs me to do for us to be successful. Successful is an understatement for Camden Hills’ status since McFarland joined the varsity as a freshman.
The Windjammers are 61-4 over the last three years and within one victory of a second straight state title after reaching the Eastern Maine final during McFarland’s freshman season.
“Every year we try to get back to this game and get another gold ball, that’s our goal,” he said. “We always try to take it game by game, but in our back of our minds our focus is on getting to where we want to be.
“This is going to be our biggest challenge yet.”