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Pickett scores 1000 in his Junior Year

Posted on Friday, March 8, 2024 at 1:00 am

SHANE SHOEMAKER

Writer

Just before the Warriors basketball season ended, shooting guard Tilton Pickett did what few have done in Marion County basketball history by scoring 1,000 career points. And he did it all by his junior season.

But those 1,000 points came as a result of well over 1,000 hours between him and his father and Warriors basketball head coach, Nick Pickett.

From the age of four, Tilton, who is also the starting quarterback for the Warriors football team, has created a special bond with his father that came through athletics, where Sundays specifically have always been a day of emphasis.

Every Sunday evening, for as long as Nick can remember, he’s taken his son out, just the two of them, depending on the season, to the ballfields or the gym, so they can practice his game.

“We’ve been doing this since he could walk,” Nick said. “We started Sunday nights when he was around four years old, on the diamond, in the gym, or on the football field. I’d hit him ground balls, throw to him, then we would talk about Pre-K, kindergarten.”

Nick best describes their Sunday evenings as the equivalent of a good old-fashioned father and son fishing trip, where any number of topics could be discussed, but that most importantly, if for nothing else, it’s valuable time with his son.

“We discuss God, family, grades, his future, and what all is going on in his life,” Nick said. “Sundays give us a chance to define what success and failure are in our lives. We bond through sports and the thrill of victories and the agony of defeats. After each test, we go back to work to correct mistakes and reinforce strengths.”

The night before the game against Howard on Feb. 12, Tilton was in a bit of a shooting slump and Nick was left with a test of his own. He was fighting the battle between being a father and a head coach, knowing how he wanted to always keep it about the team, not just one player, even if that one player was his own son.

He eventually decided that night to go into Tilton’s room and tell him he was just 20 points shy of doing something that only about a dozen or more players, between boys and girls, have been able to accomplish for Marion Co. basketball.

“I thought, with him struggling shooting, it may give him a little more motivation and encouragement,” Nick said.

Tilton didn’t need a reminder, though. Averaging nearly 20 points per game for the season, he already knew he was getting close. By earning valuable starting time since he was a freshman, he entered the 2023-2024 season with 605 points and was sitting at 980 at game time.

To reach a goal he made before the season started, it didn’t come from a three-pointer, not even a long jumper or a dunk. Tilton simply waited patiently for the play to open up as his Warriors teammates moved the ball around the court until he ran into the paint and banked the ball in for two points. Nick called a timeout immediately so the team could celebrate but maybe even more so because the proud coach quickly became the proud father.

“In that moment, I found myself being more of a dad than a coach,” Nick said. “I say that because when he scored and I called that timeout, it put us down 10 with four minutes to go in the game.”

A timeout that late in the game depleted the Warriors of one that could have been necessary later, and Tilton knew it. He adamantly told his father that he shouldn’t have taken the timeout. Ironically, Nick’s lessons about sportsmanship and leadership were showing its fruition in his son, and it wasn’t because of his 1,000 points. It’s because he was being the ultimate teammate, putting the team’s needs first over his celebration.

“I was looking at my assistants, saying, ‘He’s right, that was a stupid timeout,’” Nick said.

Needing just 20, Tilton surpassed that number, scoring 28 points, his second-highest total of the season, and finished with 1,028 for the season. The Warriors, however, lost to Howard 80-70. But on that night, Tilton stamped his name in Marion Co. basketball history, with players that include the school’s all-time leading scorer in Lady Warrior Keta Robinette, and the boys’ leader Zephan Guyear. But he also joins his first cousin Preston Pickett, as well, who also accomplished the 1,000-point mark.

“It all came together that night,” Nick said. “He doesn’t realize it now, but that’s a lot of sweat and hard work that had gone in since he was four years old.”

Nick knows that what Tilton has accomplished to this point is just one part of the lesson, and that Sundays – or any of those days in between – are more than just about 1,000 points. That’s just a byproduct of the real work he is trying to do in Tilton’s life. Nick knows that “one day he will hang up his jerseys, and Lord willing, he takes our Sunday conversations and applies them to his life and can pass them on to his children.”

Photos courtesy of MCHS yearbook staff, Gene Fuller, Jannell Campbell

The Marion Tribune – March 7, 2024