Big positive for UMaine men’s basketball team: Now has more of a Maine influence!

It’s time to see just how the Maine men’s basketball program stands even though I have only seen the new recruits on their highlight films and also, do not know how much the returning players have improved.

To me there has already been a very positive influence so far by bringing in such a BIG MAINE flavor and influence to the program. This has been done in the two most important areas.

First, by Maine hiring Richard Barron, the former successful Women’s coach at Maine as the head coach and him hiring 3 assistant coaches and a Director of Basketball Operations that have coached basketball here in Maine and second by recruiting 4 players that played basketball in Maine 2 at Lee Academy Prep, 1 from Gould Academy Prep and 1 from Portland High School to go along with 4 returning players one from a Maine H.S., from Lee Academy Prep.1 from Bridgton Academy and 1 returning Maine player.

That means that 10 of the 16 players have played at least one season of basketball here in Maine and all 5 coaching staff members have coached in Maine.

Now that is a real Maine flavor to add to the Men’s program and don’t forget that the man responsible for all these Maine connections Coach Barron has coached 5 years here in Maine also.

Maine has not had such a Maine connection since 2008-09 with 4 Maine high school players starting and with 3 Mainers starting the next year in 2009-10 when Maine men had their last winning season in 2009-10 of 19-10.

Prior to the late 1980’s the UMaine men’s basketball program was usually made up primarily of former Maine High school players.

Because I am a true Mainer basketball wise having been born, raised, and lived here all my life and have followed the Maine men’s basketball program since the 50’s I really like the fact that 6 of the 8 new recruits are international players. Also like that 4 of them have JUCO experience, 1 prep school and 1 college and 2 directly from high school and 4 are legitimate freshmen.

This gives Maine 6 of 8 are more experienced players to join the returning veteran scholarship players. Also, most international players from overseas do not play high school basketball as there is none there. They play in one year age club groups which allows them to play up until they are 20 and they play at the higher levels if their talent warrants it.

They usually are more experienced and fundamentally skilled with higher basketball IQ’s then American born players as the game is coached and played differently overseas. They also usually are not as athletic as the US players. Because they are less athletic they have a tendency to play the game more from the shoulders up then from the shoulders down. They read, think and react instead like many US players who have a tendency to just react first with little reading or thinking as they usually just use their athleticism.

Recruiting international players with JUCO experience is a real smart move. It gives you fundamentally sound, coachable and experienced players.

International players are more basketball players playing basketball compared to their athletic American basketball teammates which means that they usually have higher basketball IQ’s because of the way they were taught the game overseas so that they make better basketball decisions which leads to more team play, have better shot selection, commit fewer player control and defensive fouls and make fewer turnovers. They have a tendency to let the game come them instead of taking them themselves to the game. They read, think and react to what is ahead of them on the court and do not react, read and then think.

They seem to play the 6 inch game more. Which is 6 inches from their adam’s apples up to their brains and 6 inches down from their adam’s apples to their hearts and anything below their hearts their core, legs and feet is more athleticism.

Also, because these type of players….basketball players playing basketball and not athletes playing basketball they may and should be more coachable.

Look how many international players now make up the 450 players (15 man rosters for 30 teams) in the NBA. This year there is 108 international players from 42 countries or territories which is just under 25% of the NBA rosters. This is the 5th year in a row that there have been over 100 international players on NBA rosters.

In fact, one of the best all around draft players in many of the ranking for this year’s June NBA draft maybe a 6’9″ point guard international player.

So with the Maine men’s roster containing 10 international players of the 16 (13 scholarship players and 3 walk on players) means that this team may be more fundamentally sound and be easier to coach and adding 5 coaches with experience coaching in Maine that is 15 of the 21 with a Maine basketball experience either playing or coaching.

This should make it easier for UMaine fans to identify with the team with all of that Maine experience and contact. Many may consider these team members as adopted Maine basketball players and coaches to go along with the actual Mainers.

Now if Coach Barron can do as good a job as he has in his hiring of his staff and they have done recruiting international players with Maine basketball backgrounds then maybe, just maybe they will be able to turn the men’s program around faster then Coach Barron did the women’s program.

After 4 and 6 win seasons his first two seasons with the women’s team Barron turned it around to go to 17-15 by the end of the third year and then having two 20 plus win seasons years 4 and 5.

Maine also is unique as they are now the only D-1 men’s college team in the country of the 353 schools that have a former women’s head coach as the head coach of their men’s team and the only one to have a former assistant women’s coach. This is just 1 team or .003 of the 353 D-1 teams.

So many eyes throughout the nation maybe watching to see how this unique coaching staff and international roster with such a state of Maine influence does during next season.

So far a job well done. If I was rating Coach Barron’s staff effort so far in regards to hiring on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest I would give him a 9 as all are great individual people with excellent coaching experience especially here in Maine, a minus 1 point because none of the assistant coaches have any D-1 experience coaching men’s D-1 basketball.

For the recruiting rating would give the staff a 9. Really like what they have done on both fronts of hiring a staff and recruiting the 8 new players.

The only reason I wouldn’t give Maine a combined perfect 10 for recruiting is because they did not recruit a BIG at 6’10” 245lbs or better so it is questionable about them having a decent inside game to have an effective inside-outside game to force double downs to double team the block player to get open catch and shoot 3 pointers. Also, do not a true big basket defender either.

Also, their 3 point shooting ability for next year is questionable as only Isaiah White on 35-98 for 35.7%, Ilija S. at 13-35 for 37.1% and Dennis Ashley was 20-64 for 31.3% are the only returning players that shot over 30% from beyond their ARC-tic line as they only shot 30.2% as a team for the season. The next highest were in the teens. 4 of the 5 transfer scholarship players all shot over 30% for 3’s.

The new 8 recruits have only one player that demonstrated in their highlight videos that could consistently shoot the open catch and shoot 3 consistently and that was 6’4 point guard Sergio El Darwich who maybe the best recruit. Although Terion Moss showed he could shoot the 3 in high school, and that three point line is a foot shorter.

The lack of a BIG and a questionable 3 point game cost them a half point each of the 10 perfect rating of a 9. So the pair of nines make it 18 out of 20 possible rating points. A job well done so far.

This article backs new men’s basketball Coach Richard Barron’s thoughts about the game becoming more of a position less game as described in my recent BLOG about “Basketball is becoming more and more of a position less game” posted on my BLOG.

It seems this was a big consideration in the way that he and his staff recruited the new 8 recruits this past spring as they all seemed to show in their highlight films that they could play any position so long as they were facing the basket.

It will remain to be seen if any can be effective back-to-the basket players to become truly all round position less players.

Maine has been picked to finish tied for 7th place with New Hampshire in this years America East Conference pre-season’s coaches poll. This is the highest they have been picked in this poll since 2012-13. Maybe the other 8 AE coaches like the Maine influence and international players as much as I do?

Maine as also been ranked 327th of 353 D-1 men’s teams in the Ken Pomeroy Pre-Season basketball standings. 319 of 353 in the T-Ranking Collegiate Projections and 319 of 353 in the realtimerpi.com team power pre-season rankings.

This is probably due to a complete new coaching staff and 8 new recruits and the players lost to transfers the past few seasons.

However, most state of Maine influence since the 2009-10 season and that to me is a VERY BIG POSITIVE.

Maine opens up on this coming Thursday, November 1st with a home exhibition game at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor against the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Time to get out and see how this Maine influence influences this years team.

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