Tustin freshmen lead the Tillers

No where in Southern California is there a better quartet of freshman than at Tustin, where Dominic Coulter, Anthony Wilkerson, Tanner Leonhardt, and Ryan Ebel have been thrown into deep water and the result is a 14-5 record.

No where in Southern California is there a  better quartet of freshman than at Tustin, where Dominic Coulter, Anthony Wilkerson, Tanner Leonhardt, and Ryan Ebel have been thrown into deep water and the result is a 14-5 record.


The 14-year-old's have also contributed to the Tillers' surprising 3-0 start in the rugged Century League, where it went 1-9 (9-17 overall) last season.


"Yes, I had high expectations of the freshman, but they have surpassed what I expected," said Tustin coach Richard Bossenmeyer.


Bossenmeyer said his returning high-scoring senior's Jordan Dawson and Chris Curtis have taken the younger lads under their wings, with all parties becoming willing participants in the rare social experiment.


The method will get a big test when the Tillers next play consecutive games against Century League foes Villa Park, Anaheim Canyon, and Placentia El Dorado, who each hold top-25 SoCal rankings.


"We won't worry about who we're playing. Like they say, we'll take one at a time," said Bossenmeyer. "The Century League is very tough and we must bring our A-game every time."


Tustin actually had to throw its youngsters into early action out of necessity, due in part because four letterman were not invited back for their senior season. "The opportunity opened and the freshmen grabbed on," said Bossenmeyer.


"To have the skill to jump from middle school right into the varsity high school level is really saying something about their preparation," said Bossenmeyer. "It also says a lot about their mental skills. They have flourished with it."


Seemingly, the four ninth graders are peaking in unison. In the Century League opener, a 61-48 win against Brea Olinda, Coulter got 13 points and 11 rebounds. Wilkerson scored 11 points and Leonhardt nine points.


Coulter, Wilkerson, and Leonhardt appear on the cusp of scoring in double figures on a consistent basis, and at 6-5, Ebel is the tallest Tiller and is starting to hit the perimeter jump shot.


The veteran Curtis had a season high 22 points, with five 3-pointers in Tustin's 56-43 league win over El Modena. Curtis averages 14 points per game.


Dawson leads the Tillers with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists per game, with a season high 28 points last month against Rancho Alamitos.


Due to his team's lack of height, Bossenmeyer employs a motion offense with four guards. "Two freshmen start and two come off the bench, but they all play," said Bossenmeyer. "This is the youngest team that I've ever had."


Bossenmeyer is in his seventh season at Tustin after serving as the head coach at Orange High for six years. He was also an assistant at Cal State Fullerton and at Chapman College.


"Of course, we'd like to keep the four together at Tustin. Toward the end of summer, our frosh really started doing some special things," said Bossenmeyer. "We don't consider them freshman anymore."


According to Tustin alumnus Bud Sepulveda, who has witnessed Tiller basketball since the mid-sixties, the current group of freshmen are "performing at a phenominal level."


"Tustin had freshmen who've been great JV player's, but never freshmen who've been great varsity player's," added Sepulveda. "This group is hitting on all 8-cylinders. They have ability, command, and poise."


Tustin's rotation includes hard-working junior Tyler Sakimoto and six-foot-four swingman Ornett Small, who leads the team with six rebounds per game, and proved last season that he can score in bunches.

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