By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
Erik Timko steps onto the basketball court with purpose.
Every repetition matters to the Jefferson University junior.
They mattered to Timko when he was an undersized point guard on the Methacton High School freshman team. They mattered when he was a sophomore on the JV team.
They mattered a summer later when he put himself through drills off to the side while working a summer camp at Competitive Edge for now Jefferson associate head coach Ryan McGee.
“He was laser focused even back then,” McGee said.
Timko’s attention to detail and work ethic have facilitated a rapid growth from year-to-year that has him among the top players in Division II basketball and trending toward one of the top players in program history heading into his junior campaign with the Rams.
Timko averaged a team-high and conference-leading 22.5 ppg last season. He was named the 2022-23 CACC Player of the Year. He was the fourth player in program history to win the award and first since 2019-20.
“I try not to pay too much attention to stuff like that but obviously I’m grateful for all that,” Timko said.
Jefferson junior Erik Timko was the CACC Player of the Year last season. (Photo: Courtesy Jefferson Athletics)
“I still have that goal of playing professionally in mind, so I’m still striving for that and trying to develop more but looking back to where I’m at now it’s definitely cool to see where I’ve come.”
Timko finished 11th in Division II in scoring last season and boasted the ninth-best 3-point percentage in the country, finishing the season with splits of .526/..452/.891 to just miss joining the 50-40-90 club.
He was the CACC Rookie of the Year in 2021-22 and has two first team All-CACC honors and a pair of D2CCA Men's Basketball All-East Region honors, one first and one second team.
The 6-foot-5 guard enters his junior campaign with 1,164 points in two seasons, which ranks 43rd in program history. His 676 points last season were the third most by a player in program history. He will jump into the Top 10 if he can keep pace with the scoring of his first two years.
Two games in he has, scoring 22 points on 8-for-17 shooting (6-for-12 3-point range) in the opener against American International and following with 33 points on 13-for-17 shooting (7-for-10 3-points range).
“He’s special because any time you walk past this gym, he’s here,” Jefferson second-year coach Jimmy Reilly said. “If he’s not in there, he’s in (the weight room). If he’s not in there, he’s watching film. If he’s not doing that, he has a 3.9 GPA. He wants to be great at this. That’s why he’s so special. He’s talented, don’t get me wrong, but he works at it.”
Reilly noticed Timko as a junior at Methacton as the Warriors started to rise the ranks in the area. Every time a Jefferson coach went to watch him play, he was the best player on the court.
Timko had a breakout summer with East Coast Power the spring and summer before his senior season, when he gave up baseball. There were a lot of D-III and some D-II programs interested.
A few more scholarship-level programs joined the mix after Timko set a program record with 600 points during his senior season at Methacton when he averaged 20 points ppg, while shooting 56.7 percent from the field, and 45.6 percent from 3-point range and 91.4 percent from the free throw line. He finished his high school career with 1,092 points in two seasons,
Timko saw an opportunity to play at Jefferson, which had five seniors graduating when he committed. He also embraced the opportunity to get closer to the city while staying close to home.
“To be honest I was surprised there weren’t that many people recruiting them,” Reilly remembers. “I really was. I remember seeing Erik as a (junior) and he caught our eye right away and every time I came to see him, he just kept getting better and better.”
Timko’s senior season at Methacton was interrupted in the state playoffs by the COVID-19 pandemic. When he arrived at Jefferson, he learned quickly his college debut would have to wait. The Rams had their 2020-21 season canceled.
Practicing against and playing with his teammates during that time, gave Timko confidence. That’s also when his laser focus transferred to the weight room.
Timko took the court for his freshman season physically and mentally ready. He’s grown two inches and added about 20 pounds in his three years on campus. He’s tapped into more vertical athleticism, added quickness and agility. Reilly said he tries to dunk everything now — a distinctive difference from the lanky, fundamental athlete he was in high school.
“I always say it was kind of like a blessing in disguise,” Timko said of the canceled season. “Obviously going from high school to college is a big transition, and I think just taking that year to mature on and off the court, learning time management stuff and school work in that aspect but then also being able to really work on my game even more and get stronger in the weight room, helped a ton. That year, plus summer really benefitted me to be more prepared.”
He scored 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting in his first college game — a 69-61 Jefferson win over American International on Nov. 13, 2021.
Since then, Timko has continued to add onto his game. He became more comfortable on the ball last season and led Jefferson with 82 assists (2.7 apg), chipping in 4.3 rpg as well.
Part of his focus this offseason was his footwork, drawing inspiration from Reggie Miller in his transition from shooter to scorer. He will have to keep developing ways to score and get his shot off as defenses hone in.
Reilly noted Timko was one of the team’s best rebounders during the preseason and his work ethic is rubbing off on the rest of the team.
“Obviously he was a good shooter coming but then he’s gotten better at putting the ball on the floor,” Reilly said. “Then it was he’s getting better now at reading the defense of when he should cut, how he should come off screens. He just continues to improve, and that’s why he should have a very good year again this year. He doesn’t say, ‘OK I had a good year, now I’m gonna stop moving.’ He just keeps improving on everything that he does.”
Others with Timko’s resume and multiple years of eligibility have been tempted by the allure of playing Division I basketball. Reilly said in the current climate of college basketball there’s always a little worry about any player leaving, but he can’t focus on that.
Timko hasn’t been tempted to test the waters of the transfer portal.
The CACC Men’s Scholar Athlete of the Year will complete his business degree this school year and have a chance to pursue an MBA during his final year of eligibility. He lives off campus with teammates Troy McGregor, Bismark Nsiah and Ahmed Barba-Bey, who were part of the big freshman class he came in with during the canceled season.
The group has yet to achieve its goals of winning a CACC championship and playing in the NCAA Tournament, falling one win short last season as they lost to Caldwell in the title game.
“A big thing is I want to win a championship and experience that,” Timko said. “And obviously I want to win one with the teammates I’ve been playing with these past few years. There’s a big family atmosphere here, everyone loves one another. We all support each other. I just want to win here and achieve our goals, which we fell short of last year.”