Nick Fiorillo graduated from Scarborough High in 2019 as the school’s all-time leading scorer in boys’ basketball. This season he has helped the University of Vermont earn a berth in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. University of Vermont photo

Nick Fiorillo, the all-time leading boys’ basketball scorer at Scarborough High, has helped the University of Vermont earn a berth in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. What he’s experiencing right now was a key reason why he went to Vermont.

A recruited walk-on overlooked by most Division I programs, Fiorillo is part of March Madness.

Nick Fiorillo

“One of the biggest draws here was the winning culture,” said the 6-foot-8 redshirt sophomore. “They win every year. They’re contenders to get in the NCAA tournament every year. And to win a championship means the world to me.”

Fiorillo is a top reserve on a senior-laden team that went 28-5, dominated the America East Conference from start to finish, and is 22-1 since a Dec. 7 loss at Big East champion Providence College. His numbers may not pop out – Fiorillo is averaging 13.2 minutes, 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds, with 24 3-pointers – but his impact has, according to Vermont Coach John Becker.

“He’s a big part of the future at Vermont. He’s going to be a scholarship kid. His growth and development is a big reason why we’re 28-5,” Becker said.

Vermont is the 13th seed in the West Regional and will face Arkansas (25-8) of the Southeast Conference at 9:20 p.m. Thursday at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.


Fiorillo said his family always looks forward to March Madness.

“Watching games, filling out the brackets with family and friends, so obviously it’s a dream come true,” he said. “It’s something you’ve watched since you’re a little kid. It still hasn’t hit me completely but once we start traveling, it is a business trip and hopefully we’ll do our best to bust some brackets.”

Fiorillo graduated from Scarborough in 2019, a year after leading the Red Storm to the Class AA South championship as a junior. He finished his high school career with 1,217 points. After redshirting as a freshman, Fiorillo played in 11 of 15 games for Vermont during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season.

Nick Fiorillo is averaging 13.2 minutes, 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds for 28-5 Vermont. Ed Wolfstein photo/Courtesy of University of Vermont

This year his playing time has increased dramatically. He’s appeared in every game and is now the first big man off the bench, backing up two-time America East Player of the Year Ryan Davis. He had an 18-point, seven-rebound game at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in January and finished the regular season with 12 points and seven rebounds in a 75-56 win over the University of Maine in Bangor.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen a kid improve more in a season than Nick has this year,” Becker said.

In the America East tourney, Fiorillo scored 12 points in the quarterfinal rout of NJIT, had seven points and four boards against Binghamton in the semifinal and in Saturday’s conference final, he scored two points with six rebounds and was on the court for over 10 consecutive minutes in the first half with Davis in foul trouble. In front of a packed house of 3,266 fans at venerable Patrick Gym, Vermont rolled over University of Maryland-Baltimore County 82-43, the largest margin in a Division I conference final since 1989.


“Ryan Davis picked up his second foul six minutes into the game and here we are in a championship game without the player of the year in the conference and Nick’s playing 10 minutes in the first half and our lead increased,” Becker said.

This is Vermont’s eighth NCAA appearance since 2003, its fourth under Becker, the six-time America East coach of the year. The Catamounts’ northern New England rivals Maine and the University of New Hampshire have never appeared in the NCAA men’s tournament. Vermont’s only NCAA win came in 2005 when it upset Syracuse.

“Arkansas, obviously is a great team, from the SEC, but we think we match up pretty well offensively and defensively,” Fiorillo said.

Vermont has the look of a dangerous mid-major team that is peaking at the right time. The Catamounts rank sixth in the nation in turnover ratio, fifth in field-goal percentage, 22nd in rebounding margin and in the top 50 of several other categories. If advanced metrics are your thing, Vermont is seventh in offensive efficiency and 19th in defensive efficiency.

In the America East tournament, Vermont won each game by more than 30 points. Fiorillo and the rest of the bench is a key part of the success. As a group, the reserves have taken on the moniker the Green Goblins.

“I’ve grown into that backup role and with our special unit we’ve emerged as a force,” Fiorillo said. “We (come) off the bench and really blow open leads.”


In high school, Fiorillo was a slender, offense-first player who often sported a head band. In college, he’s packed on 20 to 25 pounds of muscle, committed to defense and rebounding. Instead of a headband, Fiorillo had a blackened left eye during the America East tournament, courtesy of a wayward elbow in the quarterfinal game.

“Coming out of high school I wasn’t a great defensive player and Coach Becker really emphasizes defense,” Fiorillo said. “I was able to gain his trust on the defensive end and that’s allowed me to play more extended minutes.”

Former coaches have noticed Fiorillo’s improvement.

“He’s made huge progress each and every year,” said Scarborough Coach Phil Conley, noting how well Fiorillo rebounded and played post defense in the America East final.

“It’s great to see him having the success he’s having right now and it’s been that way since the first day I met him,” Conley added. “He’s a great, high-character young man. By watching him play four years, I knew he could do it at that level. He has the size and knows the game inside and out and he’s a great teammate. He’s the total package.”

Despite Conley’s confidence, Fiorillo was “under-recruited” according to Becker. His club coach Rick Simonds, director of the Maine Renegades said Fiorillo was not recruited by UMaine.


Simonds said he still can’t understand why a straight-A student who wanted to stay home wasn’t recruited. But the former St. Joseph’s College coach acknowledged Fiorillo’s defensive ability was a question mark.

“I felt that was the biggest flaw in his game but, boy, has he improved,” Simonds said. “He really has become an outstanding defender which is something a few years ago, I’m not sure I would ever have thought I’d say.”

Fiorillo still has three more years of eligibility and is the least-experienced player in Vermont’s nine-man rotation, which includes six seniors and graduate student Ben Shungu, the team’s standout guard. With a 3.76 GPA majoring in finance (and a sports management minor), Fiorillo said he envisions using all of his college eligibility and obtaining a master’s degree.

Right now however, Fiorillo and his teammates are focused on this season.

“I think this is kind of a chance to get that win in the tournament that during Coach Becker’s time here has eluded the program,” Fiorillo said. “We think with our team, our system, this could be a year to make a splash in the tournament to get (Becker) that postseason win we really want for him and for ourselves.”

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