In his first season as a Wildcat, senior guard Sean Sutherlin wasted no time getting to work. He finished the season averaging 12.8 points per game, 9.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists. His 9.3 boards were good for second best in the conference, and 7.6 defensive rebounds per game got him as high as 14th best in the nation. 

Sutherlin was named as a co-MVP for the team along with junior forward Nick Guadarrama a season ago. He was also given the team’s rebounding award, as well as being named to the America East All-Conference Third Team with Guadarrama. 

After just one season of Division I basketball Sutherlin has found his name in the headlines once again. The Wildcat was named to the preseason America East All-Conference First Team and was polled as one of the conference’s top-five players ahead of the 2020-2021 season. 

What makes the story so unlikely for the 6-foot-5 guard is how he ended up here. The Minnesota native didn’t receive a single Division I or II scholarship coming out of high school and played his first two collegiate seasons at Sheridan College, a junior college in Wyoming. 

“Before my senior year of high school, I didn’t have any interest from any colleges at all,” explained Sutherlin. “When I started my senior year, I started to get a little bit of interest from Division III schools, and at the end of the year a couple junior colleges started contacting me.” 

He explained that he had three different offers from junior colleges, but that Sheridan was the only one to give him a full scholarship. After a visit to the school, Sean said how much he loved the campus and the culture, making his decision to land there easy. 

Matt Hammer, Sutherlin’s head coach at Sheridan, recalled how much he liked the guard’s physical capabilities coming out of high school, and his potential to get even bigger and stronger. 

“One of my former college teammates used to be a head coach at a high school around Minneapolis that coached against Sean, and as soon as I brought his name up he told me, ‘if you can get the kid, you have to get him’,” explained Hammer. “We recruited him hard, he was at the top of our list.” 

When Sutherlin first got to Sheridan minutes were hard to come by. The guard explained how there were two older and very talented players ahead of him on the depth chart. He came off the bench for much of his first season. 

Hammer spoke to the work ethic of his former player after watching him fight for minutes his first season and eventually starting every game the next year. 

“The thing that we loved about him was that he had the same demeanor day in and day out. It didn’t matter if it was game night or if it was a 6 a.m. practice, he brought it every day and that’s what we loved about him.” 

Sutherlin mentioned that he viewed the older teammates as motivation, noting that one former teammate had about 30 offers from Division I schools after their two seasons at junior college. Things didn’t come as easy for him, however. 

“There wasn’t much interest at all. I had a couple Division II offers after my sophomore year, and at the last-minute New Hampshire came in and offered me a scholarship,” explained Sutherlin. “Once they offered me a scholarship, I knew that I wanted to play at the highest level possible.” 

UNH head coach Bill Herrion recalled what went into the process of recruiting Sutherlin. 

“We wanted to try and get an older, more experienced and physically mature player,” noted Herrion after having such a young team the season before.  

Herrion explained that they don’t normally dip into the talent at junior college, but they felt that was the route they needed to go instead of relying on a first-year collegiate player. His son, Ryan Herrion who is on his staff, made a recruiting visit to Sheridan College and really liked what he saw from the point guard. 

The season before Sutherlin arrived at UNH the team had only won five games. In his first season they finished with a regular season record of 15-14, adding 10 wins to their previous total. Herrion said on multiple occasions a season ago that the difference was that his guys needed to learn how to have a winning mentality. 

In his final season at Sheridan his team featured a 31-4 record and made it all the way to the Junior College National Tournament. Herrion explained how Sean’s previous success and winning mentality helped the team a lot in his first season. 

“I think that when you get players that come from winning programs and are used to winning like Sean, they have a positive impact on your program,” said Herrion. “He’s not the most talkative kid, he’s quiet, but his game will speak for itself.” 

Hammer co-signed on fact that Sutherlin is a player who lets his game do the talking. 

“He wasn’t our most vocal leader,” said Hammer. “He was a guy that led by example every day. By the end of his sophomore year he did become more vocal, but he was a guy that when he did have something to say everybody listened.” 

Herrion further explained the impact and potential that Sutherlin will bring in his senior season after being in the program for a year and being more comfortable. 

“I think he’s going to explode this year. I think he has a chance to be the best player in the league.” 

From only a few Division III and Junior College offers out of high school, to only one Division I offer before his junior year, Sutherlin isn’t going to let the accolades get to his head. The point guard is simply trying to justify the attention that he is finally receiving. 

“It’s a blessing obviously, but I can’t let it get to my head. I just have to stay humble and prove that they did make the right decision,” said Sutherlin. 

This article was originally published in our print issue for September 17th, 2020. However, due to a transition in our web editor position, it was not posted online until recently. 

Photo courtesy of Cameron Beall/TNH Staff.