By Bob York
Brian Pickup ’12 has proven to be a man for all seasons – but it wasn’t always that way.
Up until just three years ago, Pickup’s game plan would be to sit out the spring season to concentrate on the sport he felt would give him the best opportunity to earn a berth on a collegiate roster: Basketball.
“I’d spend the spring and summer working out and playing AAU basketball,” said Pickup, who earned All League and All Sectional honors in basketball as well as All-State laurels in football at Rye (NY) High School.
Despite the success he had met with on the court, where the 6-2, 220 pounder played both center and power forward and on the gridiron, lining up as a tight end and defensive end, Pickup calculated that two out of three ain’t bad, but three out of three would be better.
“My friends had been bugging me about playing lacrosse,” said Pickup. “They got on me both my freshman and sophomore years, but I just told them to scram … that I wanted to concentrate on basketball.”
As the halfway mark of his high school career began and more and more thoughts of college kept creeping into his head, Pickup decided to expand his athletic resume. He finally followed the advice of his friends and signed up for lacrosse.
Fast forward three years and you will find Pickup readily admitting “it was the best decision I ever made … that and selecting Deerfield as the school to spend my postgraduate year at.”
As you may have already guessed, Pickup made the same kind of impact on this sport as he had his others: huge. Once he got a long stick in his hands he turned into a force on defense, where he earned back-to-back All-League honors. And that’s just the beginning of this fairytale.
“Following his senior season at Rye, he attended a lacrosse showcase camp at Avon Old Farms,” said Chip Davis, who had the pleasure of tutoring Pickup this past spring as he polished up what was already a gleaming career. “The Princeton coaches liked what they saw and recruited him right then and there.
“Just think about it,” added Davis. “Here’s a kid, who, in a span of two years, went from never having played the sport to being recruited by one of the top Division I collegiate lacrosse programs in the country. That’s pretty impressive.”
And Chip Davis isn’t the kind of guy that’s easily impressed. His Big Green squads have finished atop the Western New England Division I standings during nine of the past 11 seasons, as Deerfield’s record of 14-2 this spring has earned it at least a share of this year’s crown.
“I wanted to get a good education and play on a high-caliber lacrosse program,” said the Ivy League bound Pickup, “and that’s exactly what I got. I wouldn’t swap the experience I’ve gotten here for anything in the world.”
And neither would his three coaches.
“I’d say it’s a safe bet to say Brian will earn All-League honors this year,” said Davis of a selections meeting that has yet to meet. “He was my number-one cover guy … I’d always stick him on the opponent’s top scorer and game in and game out, he’d shut them down.”
And the statistics back up what the Big Green mentor says. This spring, the Big Green defense limited opponents – who make up one of the most highly-respected high school-age lacrosse leagues in the entire country – to 96 goals through 16 games for a stingy 6.00 average per game.
“Brian has a real physical presence about him,” said Davis, who also serves as defensive coordinator for Deerfield’s football team, and saw, firsthand, what he can accomplish on the gridiron. Offensively, Pickup, who received the team’s prestigious Thomas Ashley Award, caught 14 passes on the season from his tight end position, “and being one of our bigger guys in the line, he did an outstanding job of blocking for our running game, too,” said Davis.
When the opponents had the ball, there was no rest for the weary. Pickup would simply turn in the opposite direction and take his spot at defensive end, “where he proved to be one of the team’s leading tacklers this season,” said Davis.
“Brian’s one of those impact players you get every once in awhile,” said Mike Silipo, the Big Green’s head football coach, “and I’m sure glad we had him for at least a year. He has a great attitude … he’s a great competitor … he’s a winner.“
And if you thought Silipo was going to stop there, you’d be wrong.
“He’s just an outstanding athlete with outstanding skills. He’s been playing three sports for the past three years at a very high level … when he get’s to concentrate on just one, the sky’s the limit for this kid.”
And that brings us to the game of basketball. The game Pickup once claimed was his No.1 sport. And just think about it, Conrad Pitcher, the Big Green basketball coach, almost didn’t get the chance to describe Pickup as “one of the biggest impact players I’ve ever coached.”
And Pitcher didn’t say that because of Pickup’s size, he said it because of the way he played the game. “He was our heart and soul,” said Pitcher. He was our third leading scorer and our leading rebounder, but it was more about the way he played the game. His natural position was power forward, but because of his athletic ability, we had him playing center most of the time and that meant he was constantly going up against guys much bigger than he was but more often than not, he’d be the one coming down with the ball.”
But, as we said, this part of Pickup’s repertoire nearly eluded the ranks of New England prep school basketball. Pickup had other ideas for this past winter – getting ready for lacrosse.
“My roommates … Sam Wilson and Mark Glicini talked me into playing, though,” explained Pickup, “and looking back, I’m glad they did.”
And so is Conrad Pitcher.