High School Sports

Meade's Tristan Easton has shown that he's a natural leader

A 3-pointer early in the second quarter against Broadneck on Jan. 12 broke Meade's all-time scoring mark.

Meade's All-Metro senior guard Tristan Easton has a different view when he sits out an entire fourth quarter, which has become the norm as the Mustangs have been winning comfortably so often this season.

Make no mistake, he loves to play basketball.

But while many players may fret about not getting to rack up more points, Easton is content on the bench. The No. 7 Mustangs, the defending Class 4A state champions, go into the East region playoffs with a 19-3 mark as Anne Arundel County champions.

There's never a question who leads the way: Easton, the team captain, who becomes loudest on the bench in the fourth quarter of big wins.

"I take it as a good thing, that I did my job," he said. "It means we're up 30, we're winning, everybody gets in the game and everybody is happy because everybody wants the work. I just want the team to bond and everybody to feel the love."

Meade coach Pete Corriero first saw this maturity and team-first approach from Easton in his freshman year. The Mustangs were down three starters for a game early in the season and Easton got an emergency call-up to varsity. He quickly showed he belonged and ended as the team's second-leading scorer. More impressively, he became a team leader.

"We never officially appointed him a captain that season, but he walked onto the court and it was evident early that he demanded everyone's respect," Corriero said. "So it became, 'Tristan, stretch them out,' and 'Tristan, make sure they're working.' It was just natural leadership and the guys followed that."

Easton, a sturdy 6-foot-3 with do-everything skills, has been captain and much more for the program ever since.

Last season, he led the Mustangs to their first state crown. This season, he surpassed 1989 graduate Corey Wallace to become the program's all-time leading scorer. Averaging 18.2 points this season, Easton has 1,520 in his four years.

A 3-pointer early in the second quarter against Broadneck broke the mark on Jan. 12 — Wallace scored 1,331 points — and Corriero stopped the game to present Easton with a ball to celebrate the accomplishment. Easton, barely smiling during the two-minute ceremony, had something else on his mind.

"That was a big accomplishment and Coach said I really didn't show it, but I was just worried about getting the win," he said. "I don't really worry about the personal accolades and all that. I just want the team to focus on winning, so I'd rather stay low-key and keep rolling."

A senior-laden team with championship game experience, the Mustangs are indeed on a roll. They've won 10 in a row and have a first-round playoff bye. They'll open their postseason on Monday.

In addition to leading the team in scoring this season, Easton averages four rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

"He doesn't have to score to make a difference, and that's saying something for a 17-year-old kid," Corriero said. "Most people think your leader should be your leading scorer and take all the shots, but there's times when Tristan doesn't score a bunch. But he makes the right basketball play almost all the time."

One of Easton's biggest attributes is his relentless pursuit of winning. He brings with it a calm demeanor. He said that when he was growing up, a coach always told him to think about winning first and the personal gains will take care of themselves.

His father was instrumental in helping him develop the poise he shows on the court. During Easton's freshman year, he scored 29 points in his first playoff game and made all 12 free throws.

"My dad always told me, 'Don't be nervous, you're going to be fine.' That stays in my head: If you put in the work and do everything you're supposed to do, there's no reason to worry about it, no reason to hesitate — you should just be able to do it," Easton said.

So when the time comes, Easton is always eager to take control of a game. In December against county rival Glen Burnie, the Mustangs had a once-comfortable lead cut to four with five minutes to play.

Easton looked over to Corriero to see what play he wanted to run. A what-do-you-think look followed and Easton gave a reassuring smile in return. The result didn't make Glen Burnie coach Mike Rudd happy.

"He was clutch and broke the game open," Rudd said. "They went down, ran a set and he got the ball in the corner and hit a 3. We came down and missed and then he hit another 3 from the other corner. All of a sudden, all that work we put in to get back in the game … now there's three minutes left and we're down 10. He's a special player."

That's not news to senior Josh Qualls, who has been Easton's teammate for the past four years.

"There's really no pressure for him," Qualls said. "He's always relaxed, keeps calm and not really worried about anything. He makes me work harder and that makes me go harder in games."

Here's an easy question for Easton: What was the best day of your life?

"That state title game — best day ever," he replied. "It's something I'll always remember. I spent a lot of time with my [teammates] and family. Very special."

Easton, who is still weighing college options, with Bowie State in strong contention, gives an even assessment of this year's team and the possibility of a successful defense to its state title. He sees the obvious potential, with seven seniors on the roster who have played together for some time. But he's well aware there's still a lot of work to do.

"We go in spurts and we may get a run and then let them get a run," he said. "We need to push the whole game, keep the same tempo and send edge from opening tip to buzzer."

Calmly and matter-of-factly, he added: "That's pretty much it."

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