Tyler Bertram, sharpshooting Cooperstown basketball standout, has begun his first season with Binghamton University.
Bertram spent the previous two seasons with UNC Charlotte, one as a redshirt. He left the Charlotte program in March and announced Binghamton as his new home in the spring, citing proximity to home and a desire to have a larger role in the offense as reasons for selecting the Bearcats.
“I’m excited. It’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to play again,” Bertram told The Daily Star last week, before his first game as a bearcat.
In 12 games for the 49ers last season, Bertram averaged 9.3 minutes per game, going 2 for 22 from the field and 1 for 20 from deep. He struggled with a shoulder injury throughout the season and had surgery in the off-season to repair it.
Bertram said the transfer to Binghamton so far has been “awesome,” although COVID-19 has limited his opportunities to be social; instead, his life has been from his room to the gym and back, he said. Despite the strange circumstances for a transfer student, being close to home and hanging out with his teammates have helped Bertram make a smooth transition.
“I’m excited. I’m sure as you know, there’s a lot of fans back, a lot of the fans in our area are very supportive of everybody, so I think a lot of people will come out once we’re allowed to have fans,” he said.
Although fans are not allowed at games, the Bearcats have several games scheduled on ESPN+ and ESPN3, and Bertram said he hopes local fans will tune in and watch.
Despite team practices being sporadic, the most challenging obstacle Bertram has had to overcome on the court has been practicing with a mask, he said. The Bearcats feature an up-tempo offense that makes mask-wearing difficult.
The team was allowed to practice without masks for the first time this week.
“It’s been awesome. It was kind of weird at first not having it on. I felt like everybody was looking at me, it was weird,” Bertram said.
“We’ll have stretches where we’ll play for two weeks and then someone will test positive and then we’ll have to sit out for two weeks. I think we got paused three times, so its been weird. At the beginning of the season we only practiced as a team three times a week and then the other two days we would do individual workouts to get away from contact tracing,” he said.
Per NCAA guidelines, the Bearcats are tested for COVID-19 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The America East Conference’s schedule is also different this year. While the 18-game double round-robin format remains, teams will play weekend series of two games against one host team to reduce travel. By starting in early December, the AEC “allows” for maximum flexibility when scheduling make-up games.
“We are excited to return to competition with the start of the 2020-21 basketball season,” America East Commissioner Amy Huchthausen said in a media release. “We acknowledge this will be a unique season with many variables both within and outside of our control but believe this format along with our health and safety protocols will best position each institution and the conference for basketball competition. By prioritizing conference play, reducing travel and preserving flexibility, this schedule will give us the best opportunity to successfully navigate this season in the safest way possible.”
“It’s going to be different. It’s going to be almost like AAU,” Bertram said.
With games on back-to-back days, the Bearcats’ rotation is expected to vary. The coaching staff has already addressed fatigue with the players and said they are not expected to be able and play 35 minutes a game on back-to-back nights.
“I’m pretty hopeful that I’ll be starting, although I don’t want to say anything now and jinx myself for this weekend. But I’m pretty confident that I’ll have that starting spot and getting a lot of minutes,” Bertram said.
This off-season while rehabbing his shoulder, Bertram focused on honing the fundamentals of his game, he said, spending most of his summer at Badger Park in Cooperstown, or on his home court working on layups, foot-fakes, short jumpers and being as fit as possible.
“For the team, obviously you want to win the league and I think we have the talent to do that with all the new guys. I think we can win the league or finish top three,” Bertram said.
“Individually, I don’t know, just hoping to possibly make an all-conference team if I can,” he said of his expectations. “I think that’s everybody’s goal, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Max Lang, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7209