HAMPDEN, Maine — It’s on to prep school this fall for Zach Gilpin.
But the recently graduated Hampden Academy basketball star knows his college destination beginning in the fall of 2015 after making a verbal commitment to accept a full athletic scholarship from Bentley University, an NCAA Division II school in Waltham, Massachusetts.
The 6-foot-5-inch forward had considered several college options last spring before opting to attend Bridgton Academy for the coming school year.
But a trip to Bentley last week was decisive in firming up his longer-range academic and athletic plans.
“My mom and I went down and visited the campus and visited with coach [Jay] Lawson, and he seemed like a great guy,” said Gilpin. “And Bentley is known around New England as being a high academic school, so that really excited me. When I got to meet with some of the guys on the team, and it was awesome, and the facilities are top-notch, so really once I went down and visited, it was a pretty easy choice after that.
“On the way home from Bentley I almost called coach Lawson to tell him I was going to go there right then, but I wanted to sleep on it for a couple of nights, and I wound up calling him a couple of days later,” he said.
Gilpin, named the state’s 2013-14 Gatorade Player of the Year after leading Hampden Academy to its third consecutive Eastern Maine Class A championship last winter, was a Bangor Daily News All-Maine first-team selection each of the last two seasons, including 2013 when he propelled the Broncos to the Class A state championship as a junior.
Gilpin averaged 23 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game during the 2013-14 season in leading the Broncos to a 21-1 record. He was a finalist for the state’s Mr. Basketball award.
Gilpin was a two-time Eastern Maine Class A tournament most valuable player and two-time Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A player of the year.
“I’m very proud of Zach, he’s earned everything that has come his way,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett. “He let me know of his decision the other night after he got done lifting, which kind of sums up his work ethic.
“I feel like his work ethic and attention to detail will afford him opportunities to impact the Bentley basketball team after he arrives on campus,” he added.
Gilpin is one of at least four Maine high school players from the Class of 2014 who will continue their basketball careers at schools that compete in the Northeast 10 Conference.
His teammate at Hampden Academy last winter, Isaiah Bess, will play at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, while Dustin Cole of Bonny Eagle in Standish and Michael McDevitt of Greely in Cumberland Center are set to join the roster at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire.
Gilpin will join a Bentley basketball program with a rich history of recruiting Maine high school basketball players.
Just last winter, four of the top five scorers on Bentley’s 18-11 team were from the Pine Tree State, led by Tyler McFarland of Rockport and Camden Hills Regional High School, who earned All-Northeast 10 second-team honors after averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds per game while shooting 49.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
McFarland will be back on the 2014-15 Bentley roster, as will fellow Mainers Keegan Hyland of South Portland, Alex Furness of Wells and Andrew Shaw of Saco.
“I definitely knew about it going in,” said Gilpin of Bentley’s Maine connection. “Tyler, Keegan and Alex will all be seniors when I’m a freshman. I’m looking forward to that, and I think they’ll help me in the transition process that much more. I’m excited to be able to learn from them.”
Gilpin soon will leave for his prep year at Bridgton Academy, which in basketball competes in the highest of six classes of competition offered by the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council, Class AAA.
“I’m just excited to get down there and really be able to focus on playing basketball and preparing for Bentley,” said Gilpin.