Whenever the schedule allowed it during his sophomore year, Rob McWilliams joined his family at Tappan Zee for his older brother’s basketball games. The Dutchmen reached the County Center and Ryan McWilliams emerged as a star, playing an integral part in delighting the school’s passionate fans.
Ryan was a senior, but Rob would often join him and his teammates when they went to eat afterward and that camaraderie always struck a chord with the younger McWilliams. He really liked Bergen Catholic, but Tappan Zee was home.
“It just felt different to me. The team felt like it was closer together,” McWilliams said. “I wanted to be a part of that.”
McWilliams transferred home to Tappan Zee as a junior and spent the next two seasons thanking every day he did. He not only ended his basketball career with the Dutchmen having experienced everything he thought he would and more, McWilliams is the latest Rockland County player of the year.
The 6-foot-1 swingman first helped lead the team to the final four as a junior and then to the No. 1 seed and a runner-up finish as a senior. He became just the second player under coach George Gaine to earn first-team honors from the Lower Hudson Basketball Coaches Association, joining 2015 grad Luke McLaughlin.
“Watching TZ my whole life growing up as a little kid, it was like going to an NBA game. The excitement was crazy,” McWilliams said. “The day I told my friends I was coming back to school, they were really happy. They told me everything that was going to happen and how much support we would get from the school. It gave me chills and I was just sitting at home getting excited about the next year. It turned out to be everything they were talking about. It was great.”
After earning all-section and all-county second-team honors as a junior, McWilliams easily evolved, seamlessly becoming the team’s leading man. He topped the Dutchmen in scoring at 18.0 points per game and expanded his all-around game, averaging 6.0 rebounds per contest as well.
McWilliams seemed to lead the section in another very subjective category: Shotmaking. His confidence and range made McWilliams one of the area’s most exciting performers. His most memorable clutch shots came either during Tappan Zee’s quarterfinal comeback against Harrison or on a crucial 3-pointer late in a semifinal victory over rival Nanuet at the County Center.
The Dutchmen fell a point short against Byram Hills in the Class A final, but they still finished 21-3. McWilliams said he hoped he satisfied the preseason pledge he made to teammates.
“We went around the room and we said we’re going to promise one thing to each other,” he said. “I said I would try to be the best leader I could be to these guys. I hope I fulfilled that.”
He and the program were certainly rewarded for McWilliams returning home. He initially left to play those two seasons at Bergen Catholic for coach Billy Armstrong, who had coached McWilliams’ AAU team, Hoop Dreamz. McWilliams said the two have maintained their relationship, but he doesn’t regret his departure.
Of course, McWilliams didn’t have long to experience regret. He famously debuted last season by scoring 34 points in a win over Clarkstown South, which ultimately played in the Class AA final. The points, the wins and the good times only continued to flow from there.
“I remember knocking down my first shot and the crowd going nuts,” he said. “It was crazy. It was the best feeling — and that continued for two years straight.”
Coach of the year: Dave Masterson, Nanuet — The Golden Knights reached the County Center for the first time in six years on the strength of an 11-game winning streak. They peaked late and finished 17-6, including a win over Class A finalist Tappan Zee during the regular season and another over fifth-seeded Rye in the sectional quarterfinals. Masterson’s senior-laden team flourished as he worked a series of strong role players around all-county guards Kevin Mackin and Terence Rogers.
The rest of The Journal News’ first-team all-county:
Michael Arias, Sr., North Rockland: While running the point for the Red Raiders, Arias averaged 13.9 points on 52.5 percent shooting and chipped in with 4.2 rebounds and a team-best 5.4 assists per game. The all-section guard also hit 37 3-pointers and earned MVP honors at Albertus Magnus’ Terrence Wright Memorial Tournament for the second straight year.
Marc Dorsainvil, Sr., Spring Valley: The 6-foot-1 Dorsainvil transitioned from role player to leading man for the Tigers. He averaged 20.4 ppg, good for second most in the county, and led Spring Valley to key victories over Class AA contenders Mount Vernon and Saunders. The all-section guard committed to St. Thomas Aquinas on Apr. 8.
Kevin Jefferson, Sr., Suffern: The 5-foot-10 Jefferson finished his career with 1,103 points to break Howard Levy’s school scoring record and join Levy as the only Suffern players ever to surpass the 1,000-point mark. The Union-bound Jefferson averaged 18.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists and hit 65 3-pointers. He earned all-section honors.
Kevin Mackin, Sr., Nanuet: The 6-foot-1 Mackin earned an all-section nod after leading the Golden Knights in scoring at 20.0 ppg. He was a relentless worker away from the ball, fighting through double teams and junk defenses to get open. Mackin, who finished with 978 career points, also led Nanuet at the line, shooting 80 percent.
Second team all-county:
Victor Clervil, Sr., Tappan Zee
Divine Cesar, Sr., Ramapo
Justin Bullock, Jr., Albertus Magnus
Terence Rogers, Sr., Nanuet
Oliver Levy Jr., Sr., Clarkstown North
Honorable mention: Lucas Ancin, Sr., North Rockland; Jy’Quan Boykin, Sr., Spring Valley; Andrew Bunyan, Sr., Clarkstown South; Nick D’Allara, Sr., Nanuet; Jesse DeGraft, Sr., North Rockland; David Garcia, Sr., Albertus Magnus; Ed Hall, Sr., Albertus Magnus; Thomas Keys, Sr., Nyack; Jordan Landsman, Sr., Nanuet; Kevin Lynch, Jr., Tappan Zee; Vince Maraia, Sr., Clarkstown South; Jack McKeever, Sr., Pearl River; Zac Novick, Sr., Nyack; Eric O’Neal, Sr., Suffern; Brendan Slaybaugh, Jr., Nanuet; Mavenson Therneus, So., Spring Valley.