Endicott College guard Keith Brown, of Pelham, is one of five New Hampshire players on this season’s Gulls.

It isn’t surprising that there are 11 Granite State natives playing for the Plymouth State men’s basketball team. Nor is it surprising that Colby-Sawyer’s roster features five players from New Hampshire.

However the fact that Endicott College, a small school along the Atlantic Ocean in Beverly, Mass., has five New Hampshire natives raises an eyebrow. It’s this Granite State connection that has helped continue Endicott’s rise toward the top of Division III basketball in New England.

“From my experience in recruiting (in New Hampshire) we’ve had a real high success rate,” Endicott coach Kevin Bettencourt said. “At the start of my tenure we had Kamahl Walker from Portsmouth, he’s our all-time leading scorer. If you look at the top-10 leading scorers at Endicott we’ve got a lot of New Hampshire guys represented.”

The Gulls are led by one of the best players to come out of the NHIAA this past decade: Keith Brown. The senior from Pelham was a two-time state champ for the Pythons and finished as the program’s all-time leading scorer.

In college he’s continued as a top scorer. On Thursday against archrival Gordon College, Brown went for 31 points in an 88-86 overtime win. He sits at 1,760 points, just 134 points behind Walker’s program record.

Brown is now playing a leadership role and guiding the younger players, especially the Granite Staters. Brown’s one of two seniors on the squad from New Hampshire with the other being Brendan Johnson (Weare/The Holderness School). Johnson was a two-sport star at Bishop Brady before transferring to Holderness.

“There’s players all over the world that are good,” Brown said. “New Hampshire’s been slept on for a while now, and we hear it throughout the locker room how New Hampshire’s this, New Hampshire’s that, but we’ve got some good competition. It’s been a great ride for the four years, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the New Hampshire guys do next year.”

Brown’s younger brother, Drew, currently a senior at Pelham High, will join the Endicott basketball team next year.

Salem native Griffin Curtis has been a consistent role player in his time with the Gulls. The former Division I all-state selection shined at Salem High and has been a contributor on the team since stepping on campus in 2017.

Curtis, Brown and Johnson play the role of mentor to freshmen Ty Vitko (Dover) and Cam Homsey (Windham/Central Catholic).

Vitko was a two-sport star at Dover High. Twice an all-state selection in both football and basketball, Vitko was a 1,000-point scorer and was a key piece in Dover’s magical run to the state title game two years ago.

“Having Griffin and Keith, who have been older role models for me has given us an extra connection,” Vitko said. “They’ve always been there for me since I came onto campus. It’s been good having guys from where I’m from able to help me on the court.”

Success breeds success and Vitko said he knows what it’ll take to be the next great Granite Stater at Endicott College and that it’s just a matter of putting in the work.

“I’m learning every day,” Vitko said. “It’s a big jump from high school to college. It’s just working hard. I’m in the gym with the managers, and Keith has laid out a path. He’s shown what you have to do to be a good player at this level.”

As for why does the talent level keeps rising in New Hampshire, Bettencourt said it comes down to one thing: support.

“I do think people in New Hampshire really support high school athletics, and that’s a part of it,” Bettencourt said. “When I was going up to games watching these guys the gyms were packed. It seemed like the communities really rallied around the basketball up there. Who wouldn’t want to play in those types of settings?”