BENNINGTON, Vt. – Despite being separated by 400 miles, the connection between Wheaton High School and Southern Vermont College has payed large dividends for Mountaineer Athletics over recent years while providing a great opportunity for a few former Knights.
The public senior high school, which services students grades 9-12 in Montgomery Country, Maryland and located just 10 miles north of Washington, D.C., has seen four of its graduates come to SVC and play a big role across three of College’s varsity squads. Included in those is a pair who have helped Southern Vermont win two New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) men’s basketball championships.
The first former Knight to make his way to Bennington was Rayshawn Taylor ‘17 (Silver Spring, Md.) who enrolled at SVC for Fall 2013 and joined the Mountaineers’ men’s basketball program.
“Coming from the city of Wheaton to the mountains of Southern Vermont was a crazy culture change for me that I had to adapt to,” Taylor said. “One opportunity that SVC gave me was to step out of the city lifestyle and see more of a rural lifestyle in Vermont. Another was the chance to do activities I never had done before—or even thought I would like doing—such as mud sliding, skiing, hunting, and snow mobiling.”
Taylor made an instant impact on Southern Vermont’s men’s basketball team as he helped the Mountaineers go 16-10 and earn a spot in the NECC playoffs just one year after they were 1-24. He would later make two trips to the league’s championship game with SVC—aiding the team in winning the Conference’s 2016 title and earning its second-ever trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Taylor would end up scoring 1,083 points (14.1/game) in his three seasons before being honored on the 2017 All-NECC First Team; he then graduated the same year with his Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice.
The next Wheaton grad to become a Mountaineer was now-Southern Vermont Director of Athletics Sharief Hashim, a 1993 graduate of the High School. He was hired in April 2014 as the head coach for SVC’s junior varsity men’s squad and a counselor for the Admissions Department. Hashim was previously the Wheaton boys’ varsity basketball coach for five years and also worked as a recreation specialist for the Montgomery County Recreation Department in Maryland before moving to Vermont.
"Recruiting is about relationships,” Hashim said. “Our coaches have done a great job recruiting potential student-athletes in Maryland—and around the country. SVC is an affordable private college with small class sizes and 12 DIII teams. I think we're a great fit for many young people. It's important for young people to get out of their comfort zones; leaving home for college develops resiliency and builds character. As a Wheaton HS alumnus, I take great pride that a few students have believed in our coaches and faculty and chose SVC to pursue their education."
Yonas Million (Rockville, Md.), who transferred to SVC as a junior from Montgomery College for Fall 2016, was the third former Knight to head to Bennington. He participated on the men’s basketball team before joining and helping the men’s volleyball squad make it back to the NECC playoffs in 2017. He was fourth on the volleyball team in kills per set that year while sitting at second in both service aces and digs per set. He is set to graduate with his Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree this May.
The next year, in Fall 2017, another pair of former Knights donned the Southern Vermont uniform with junior Aaron Murrary (Camden, N.J.) and freshman Nick Langat (Silver Spring, Md.) enrolling at the College. Murray also transferred to play hoops for head coach Dan Engelstad—coming to SVC after spending time at Chesapeake College and then Lamar Community College.
That fall, Langat scored the second-most goals on a men’s soccer team that made the NECC postseason for the first time since 2012; he was honored as the league’s Rookie of the Week during the ‘17 campaign.
In Murray’s first year on the court for SVC, he was a consistent role player off the Southern Vermont bench with 5.1 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per game; he aided the team in winning the 2018 NECC Championship and making its second trip in three years to the NCAA DIII playoff.
“I chose to go to Southern Vermont because of the beautiful views and a great student/staff environment,” Taylor added. “The decision changed my life by showing me a rural part of the country and its culture. It was totally different from the city; I thought there was nothing to do in those kinds of areas. But then, going there made me realize there was much more, and it’s a lot more fun.”
– #LetsGoSVC –
Pictured from left to right: Aaron Murray, Sharief Hashim, & Rayshawn Taylor '17 posing with the NECC men's basketball championship trophy