Sterling Taplin put up a ton of impressive numbers during his lengthy career at Williamsville North, but here’s one you might not have known: He played 99 games in his five varsity seasons – and never missed a start.
And if you saw one of those 99 games, there’s a very good chance you saw something special.
Taplin, an elite all-around talent who concludes his career as a three-time first-team All-Western New York selection and No. 23 on Western New York’s all-time scoring list, is this season’s Allen Wilson Player of the Year.
Taplin scored a school-record 1,877 points in his career, many from three-point range, many in transition – with the finishes getting flashier as his career went on – but perhaps more impressive was his ability to set up teammates. The 6-foot-1 senior also set a school record for assists with 371, and on those plays is where you would often see something that you rarely would encounter in a high school gym: An extreme court sense and vision that led to plays that hardly any fan could see developing.
“It’s just how the game flows,” Taplin said. “I let it come to me. If I have the little bit of opportunity to take the shot, I’ll take the shot; if I have to pass, I’ll take the pass. I have so much trust in my teammates, it’s crazy.”
The elevation that fans wanted to see on fast-breaks on the offensive end was also evident at the opposite basket as Taplin erased many others’ transition attempts.
“He just sees the game so much faster than anybody else … things that he just does instinctually, it’s stuff that most of us just can’t understand how he knew to do,” said Will North coach Chuck Swierski. “It happens every day – not just in games, but I’ve seen him in practice for five years. He just does things, and you just say, ‘How did he do that? What made him think to do that?’ Special is the word.”
Taplin’s selection as a three-time first-teamer puts him on a very short list in Western New York history. He is just the fifth player to earn first-team honors for three straight years, joining Lackawanna’s Tony Kelly (1980, 1981, 1982), LaSalle’s Tim Winn and Traditional’s Jason Rowe (both first-teamers in 1994, 1995 and 1996) and Nichols’ Will Regan (2008, 2009, 2010).
His 245 steals at Will North is also a school record. He also set the school single-game scoring mark with 45 against Frontier in a game in which he played 27 minutes.
This year, he averaged 22.6 points, 4.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 steals for a Spartans team that resided in The News large school poll all season.
Taplin was just percentage points under 50 percent from the field (155 for 311), which included hitting 36 of 102 three-pointers (35 percent).
Taplin was recently selected for the Jordan Brand Classic regional game, an all-star game consisting of mostly New York City metropolitan area standouts set for April 19 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Colleges have been interested throughout Taplin’s career. He has an offer from Siena while he said this week that he is giving more consideration to attending prep school.