Talk about a coincidence. Freshman guard Tanner Brill graduated from Mark Morris High School, the same school that Linfield assistant coach Mickey Polis matriculated from years earlier.
Polis knew who Brill was before accepting the Linfield job, because his father, Mike, coached Brill in middle school a couple of years for tournament basketball. Polis watched Brill play when he was younger and observed him at times when the Linfield freshman was in high school.
“Tanner was a three-year type of varsity guy, played big minutes, and was a really great player for Mark Morris,” says Polis. Even before Polis signed on to assist first-year Wildcats coach Shanan Rosenberg, Brill had already committed to Linfield.
Coming out of high school, students such as Brill can be unsure of what they want to study in college. He is taking Linfield's required classes in hopes of discovering an area of interest. “Right now I'm undecided so I've just been trying to get some of the (prerequisites) out of the way. But I am taking some classes for an exercise science major,” he says.
Desiring to play college basketball was something Brill yearned for. When he toured Linfield on a basketball recruiting visit, he came away impressed.
“I liked the size and campus once I got here. The main reason (for attending Linfield) was basketball, but I also knew I wanted to get a good education at a smaller school,” he says.
Brill believes in Linfield's catch phrase “The Power of a Small College,” saying “Smaller classes definitely make it easier to interact and get to know the teachers. You get better feed back and more attention from the professors as well, since there are fewer students.”
As for managing his schoolwork, Brill knows how to stay on task. Practicing every day for a couple of hours with games on the weekends can be tough for a freshman adjusting to new college surroundings.
“I actually find it easier to get schoolwork done during basketball season because I know I don't have all the time in the world. It kind of forces me to get things done as soon as I can.”
So far this season Brill has been in the starting lineup for a handful of games, or is averaging big minutes off the bench. He has been playing basketball as long as he can remember and notes the biggest difference between high school and college basketball is the pace and physicality. “Everyone on the floor can play, so you can't be pacing yourself like you could in high school.”
On the court, Brill possess a range of basketball skills and qualities. Polis understands the kind of player he is. Brill's teammates also recognize the strengths of his game.
“Tanner is a very smart, focused kid and understands the game well,” says Polis. “It's not like he does one or two things well. He does a lot of things with quality. He's one of the main ball handlers on our team, one of our better shooters, and he's probably one of our better defenders, rebounders, and passers. He kind of has the whole package, which is nice.”
Likewise, guard Kevin Hurley has nothing but good words to say about his backcourt mate.
“Tanner brings a lot of heart and leadership which is why he has the respect of all his teammates, including myself,” says Hurley. “Off the court he displays incredible character and makes good decisions that benefit his friends and teammates.”
Brill is grateful his teammates and coaches push him to be his best every day.
“The coaches are always willing to take time out of practice to help. Whether it's game film or working with us in the gym they're eager to help however they can,” he says. His teammates like to put in extra work on their own time, always welcoming the freshman point guard to join them.
Outside of basketball and school, Brill is a lot like most any other college freshman who just wants to make friends and fit in. “I usually just like to hang out with friends and find things to do with them. Maybe get in some Xbox or Nintendo 64,” he says.
Hurley adds, “We play pool, basketball, both like to sing, and really just hang out.”
Being a crucial part of the Wildcat rotation is a plus for Brill. Off to a great start to his college basketball career, he is expected to be a key building block to Linfield's long-term success in the coming seasons.
-- Rhys Lendio '17