Schalmont senior Tyler Pepicelli’s high school sports resume previously included two sports — soccer and basketball.
For three years, his sports plan was simple: soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, then AAU basketball with the Schenectady Lightning in the spring and summer.
His senior year of high school sports was a bit different.
Pepicelli became a four-sport athlete.
With soccer in the Colonial Council shifted to the “Fall II” season in March and April that was created to house competitions for school sports teams unable to compete last fall because of concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Pepicelli’s fall was open . . . and, the year before, he’d started golfing in his spare time.
So he joined Schalmont’s golf team, which was allowed to compete last fall — and became one of the team’s top-six scorers.
“I don’t think I was nervous for it at all. Last summer, just because of the pandemic, golfing was one of the only things I could do with my friends,” Pepicelli said. “We’d go a couple of times a week during the summer and then fall came. I wanted to play golf.”
Pepicelli said he gained an appreciation for golfers competing each weekend on television on the PGA Tour.
“It’s really a hard game,” Pepicelli said. “One bad shot and it could cost you a round. They’re just so consistent with it; you have to have perfect swings.”
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After serving as a captain on the basketball team in the winter for Schalmont, the 6-foot-0 Pepicelli competed for the Sabres during the “Fall II” soccer season in March and April, then found himself with time on his hands — again.
“Mr. Dolan [the school’s tennis coach] was trying to get me to play for a couple of weeks,” Pepicelli said. “The week before tryouts, I said I’ll do it because I had nothing else to do.”
Pepicelli’s experience on the tennis court prior to his first practice was simply playing once or twice a year.
“At the start, I hit balls off the side of the racket and the ball would go 40 feet in the air,” Pepicelli said. “I just kind of relied on being able to run to every ball and being able to cover a lot of the court, which a lot of my opponents couldn’t do.”
His rookie singles record with the Sabres was a modest, but impressive given the circumstances, 5-4.
“By the end, I was pretty consistent,” Pepicelli said. “Every hit would go over [the net] and I’d just get a lot more power by my shots and able to control it more.”
The addition of tennis and golf his senior year led him to become a better basketball player — his passion.
“Golf teaches you a lot about patience, and, because it’s more of a mental game, tennis is, too,” Pepicelli said.
Without the help of teammates to score, pass the ball or create a turnover, Pepicelli learned that he had to rely on himself during his golf and tennis seasons.
“If you dwell on it for too long, your next shot is going to be bad too,” Pepicelli said. “You’ve just got to let it go, accept that it happened and keep pushing forward.”
With his basketball sneakers, soccer cleats, golf shoes and tennis racket hung up from the competitive ranks, Pepicelli will focus on his college plans. A high-honor roll student during his years at Schalmont who did volunteer work with the Ronald McDonald House and at youth basketball camps, Pepicelli plans to study sports communications at Clemson University.
There, his athletic focus will stay with one sport — for starters, at least.
“Right now,” Pepicelli said, “I’m supposed to be the men’s basketball manager.”