By Tom Robinson
Tommy Dempsey was highly impressed with what he saw the first time he watched George Tinsley play basketball as a freshman in high school.
That opinion has not changed now that the JB Hoops alum is a freshman on Dempsey’s Binghamton University men’s basketball team.
Dempsey said this week that Tinsley will be the starting lineup Tuesday when Binghamton opens its season at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Tinsley led Abington Heights to a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state title in Class 5A as a junior. The 6-foot-6 forward committed to a scholarship offer from Binghamton prior to the start of his senior year.
The roots in that decision trace back to Tinsley and Tommy Dempsey Jr., now a preferred walk-on freshman basketball player at Providence College, playing together at JB Hoops. Dempsey, a Dunmore graduate, brought his son down from Binghamton, where he played at Seton Catholic High School, to be part of the AAU program.
“I was fortunate that my son played for JB Hoops, going back a few years,” coach Dempsey said in an interview for the JB Hoops Blog during the 2018-19 season. “I remember the first time we went for the tryouts when the kids were in ninth grade.
“I told John (Bucci), ‘I want that guy’.”
He meant it.
“From the first time I saw him, I wanted him to play for me when he got to college,” Dempsey said. “I had a chance to get to know him and his family.
“He just brings so many winning qualities to a basketball team. I can’t wait to get him here with us.”
Tinsley is there now and has continued to impress with his performance in preseason practice.
According to a team preview on the school’s website, Tinsley is seen as “high-motor,” “versatile” and an “up-and-down the floor contributor.”
Tinsley showed he could remain a consistent force while mixing it up with Division I-level talent during a successful run in which he and Lafayette College freshman Leo O’Boyle led JB Hoops Callahan to the championship game of the 2018 Hoop Group Showcase League of top AAU teams.
During the interview last season, Dempsey projected Tinsley would get even better in college, pointing out that Tinsley was also a standout quarterback in football season in high school.
“He just keeps getting better and he hasn’t focused on just basketball yet either,” Demspey said in last season’s interview. “I think that’s something that when he gets to the next level and his sole focus is just on basketball, his game will really take off when he’s full-time basketball and spending the time in the weightroom.”
Tinsley is part of an overhauled roster from a team that went 5-11 in the America East Conference and 10-23 overall last season. The Bearcats also opened with Cornell last season and lost, 86-75.
Binghamton has just four returnees with a total of just five years of combined Division I experience on its roster of 13 players.
“You can just tell everyone here is excited,” Tinsley said when he was one of three players to participate in Binghamton’s Media Day press conference Wednesday.
Tinsley, the NEPABasketball.com District 2 Player of the Year and a first-team Class 5A all-state choice each of the last two years, said there has been progress during the team’s scrimmages.
“We’re all working together and starting to click,” said Tinsley, who scored 1,563 career points while leading Abington Heights to 104 wins and three state semifinal appearances in his four-year career.
Tinsley’s role in the team’s potential improvement is something Dempsey anticipated during the last few years.
Dempsey noted that Tinsley made improvements to his own game, such as becoming a better shooter each year since the coach first saw him play. And, he said, Tinsley brings more than just basketball skills.
“He’s a tough player,” Dempsey said. “He’s got great toughness and intangibles.”
Binghamton’s early schedule will again include high-profile Big Ten opposition.
The Bearcats play their second game Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at Michigan State in a game that will be televised by the Big Ten Network. The Spartans are the preseason No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history.