Tyler Thayer figured to be part of one of the more experienced backcourts in the Big East Conference this winter.
But the transfer of two veteran guards, Jacob Rioux to Van Buren and Eric Hoogterp to Old Town, left the 5-foot-9 senior as one of just two seniors on Hermon High School’s 15-player roster.
And while opposing teams have geared their defenses toward stopping the high-scoring Thayer, few have been successful. He’s averaging a conference-best 21.6 points per game while leading the Hawks to an 8-4 record that has put them solidly within the Eastern Maine Class B playoff pack.
“Tyler has done a good job of leading our team,” said Hermon coach Mark Reed, whose club continues a stretch of five games in eight nights Thursday when it hosts Class C contender Penquis Valley of Milo.
Thayer came into the season as the Big East’s leading returning scorer after averaging nearly 19 points per game during the 2012-13 campaign.
He’s built upon that average this winter while also ranking among the conference leaders in assists (2.3 per game), steals (2.2 per game) and free-throw percentage (75.9).
Perhaps Thayer’s biggest game to date came last Saturday at Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor, when he erupted for 38 points as Hermon scored a pointworthy 54-49 road victory.
The two-time Big East Conference player of the week scored 17 of his team’s 20 first-half points, and for the game he made 15 of 19 free-throw attempts while requiring just three 3-pointers to reach his prolific point total.
“Tyler’s got some very good skills,” said Reed. “One thing that separates him is his ability to score off the dribble. He also does a lot with his midrange game, and that’s lacking in a lot of players.”
The point guard is leading his team both statistically and in getting his younger teammates increasingly more comfortable at the varsity level in the face of a myriad of defensive fronts.
“Teams game plan him a bit,” said Reed. “We’ve seen the junk defenses and zones that try to limit his opportunities, but Tyler does a good job of making adjustments. When teams take something away, he finds something else to do to make the team better.”
Hermon enters Thursday’s game with five wins in its last six contests — the only defeat a 56-49 loss at Penquis Valley on Monday before the Hawks rebounded a night later with a 51-31 win over Central of Corinth.
“The kids I have this year have a really great attitude,” said Reed. “They’re young but they’re working very hard, and the chemistry is getting better every day. There’s no selfishness, and they enjoy being around each other.”