Taratuta Tops Hillman's Leaderboard, Striving to Take Tigers on Title Pursuit

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

January 5, 2024

A lot of has been written about Hillman senior point guard Trenton Taratuta.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAnd Taratuta has re-written pretty much every basketball record in the Hillman history book as well.

He would trade everything, though, for a shot at the Breslin Center and playing in the Division 4 Boys Basketball Final.

Taratuta entered this season with 1,612 career points, leaving him only 68 away from the school scoring record.

“First things first, I am just a competitor – I want to win,” Taratuta said of his Breslin goal. “The personal accolades come along with it, but winning is everything.”

Eric Muszynski, the Tigers’ boys basketball coach for the past 19 years, guarantees his four-year starter and most decorated player in Hillman history would give up every one of his records for the chance to win at Breslin.

“The beauty of Trenton is I know he would sacrifice these individual accolades to get down to the Breslin Center,” Muszynski said. “It’s a real treat to coach him.

“You tell kids, ‘If you put the time in and hard work in, results happen,’” Muszynski continued. “It has been awesome to be able to use him as an example to a lot of our youth basketball players and some of our current players that have seen the work he’s put in and the results he is getting.”

Taratuta is the only starter returning from last year’s team that lost a 59-57 heart-breaker to Frankfort in the Quarterfinals. He did become the highest scorer in Hillman’s history during a 57-56 overtime win over Oscoda on Dec. 7. He set the mark within his team’s first bucket of the game and then won it with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that allowed him to again tie the school record for the most points in a single game with 41. 

The 6-foot-4 guard, who has scored 41 three times during his career, wants to ride the community support the entire 200-plus miles in March to Breslin. Last year’s run remains bigger to Taratuta than all his current individual records.

“My favorite memory so far is our postseason run last year,” he said. “The support we got from our community was overwhelming. 

“It was fun to see everyone come support us and the crowds we got,” he continued. “It was a great atmosphere for all the playoff games.”

Hillman is off to a 6-2 start after winning its North Star League Little Dipper opener Thursday night over Posen, 72-51, as Taratuta led with 30 points. The Tigers’ only losses this winter have been to Division 2 schools, Gaylord and Ogemaw Heights.

Taratuta considers his next move during a game against Mio.Taratuta now has 1,858 points for his career and set his sights on reaching 2,000. His coach thinks it is highly likely he’ll be able to do that and then climb toward the total accrued by the leading scorer in Michigan high school history, Jay Smith, from 1975-76 through 1978-79.  

That said, Taratuta, who is averaging more than 30 points per game this season, is unlikely to challenge Smith’s 2,841 career points – but both Taratuta and his coach also look to the record with pride as Mio is less than 40 miles down the road from Hillman.

Only 45 others in MHSAA boys hoops history have reached 2,000 career points.

“The 2,000-point mark would be pretty special,” Taratuta acknowledged. “It would be pretty cool.”

Hillman, which will host the District tournament this year, expects to ride Taratuta’s success a long way this postseason. Atlanta, Fairview, Hale, Mio and Posen are the Tigers’ potential District opponents.

“There is a lot of season left and a lot of work to be done,” Taratuta said. “I am looking forward to the rest of the season.

“I’m focused on the team’s overall success, not thinking about the points,” he continued. “Coming into this year, there were a lot of doubters and the guys have stepped up well.”

Senior center Blake Kennard is averaging 11.1 points per game and chipping in more than seven rebounds and almost three blocks. Junior 3-point specialist Brenden Rouleau is also averaging double-digit scoring.

Taratuta – who is from a family of high-scoring Hillman graduates – had his sights set on the career points record for quite a while. He was at the game in 2015 when Mason VanPamel broke Paul Bennett’s longstanding scoring record set in 1986.

“He comes from a pretty good pedigree of athletes,” Muszynski said. “His uncles Greg, Jeff and Tim Jones are all thousand-point scorers in our school, and they’re in our Hall of Fame.

Taratuta also just may be a one-of-a-kind, talented, hard-working team player, his veteran coach noted.

“Not only can he score it, he is top-five in our school’s history in every major statistical category going into his senior year,” Muszynski continued. “He is one of those guys where you’re not sure if you’re going to see somebody of that caliber again in your career.

“I was pretty fortunate to have a couple of other guys that were pretty solid, and it’s built the tradition of our basketball program to where Trenton is at.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Hillman’s Trenton Taratuta (22) gets to the basket as the crowd anticipates two points. (Middle) Taratuta considers his next move during a game against Mio. (Photos courtesy of Jonny Zawacki.)