ORONO, Maine — It was all new at the old gym known as The Pit at the University of Maine Thursday afternoon.
New uniforms, new shoes, new schedule and new faces — both on the court and on the bench.
It was media day for the UMaine men’s basketball team and a good time to take stock of the changeover with three players (one starter) lost and five “rookies” trying on their jerseys for the first time.
Gone are guards Mark Socoby of Houlton and Doran Mitchell, who both decided to transfer, as well as senior guard Kaimondre Owes. Socoby was the team’s leading scorer and a 30-game starter, Mitchell saw limited time in 11 games, and Owes played 28 games, starting one and averaging 8.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. Combined, Socoby and Owes totaled 20.8 points. 6.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
The new guys are a mix of frontcourt and backcourt talent weighted more toward inside play with Canadian freshman forwards Mike Allison (6-foot-9) and Murphy Burnatowski (6-7) and 6-7 forward Travon Wilcher, a transfer from the University of Massachusetts. The other two are junior college guards Jerrell Boswell (6-0) and Terrance Mitchell (6-3).
Mitchell has already turned heads.
“Terrance Mitchell is a 3 guard who can probably play 2. He’s a great shooter who’s very tough and physical. He never gives up,” said sophomore guard Gerald McLemore, Maine’s second-leading scorer last season with 12.1 points a game.
“All our freshmen coming in look very good, but Terrance has worked his tail off and shown us he can play with us and the teams in our conference,” said junior forward Sean McNally of Gardiner. “He should be a big lift for us on the court.”
A couple of names either on the roster last year or expected to be added this season will not be. Forward-center Jordan Cook of Hampden is no longer on the team, but is taking a full academic course load at UMaine and working on earning his degree in business administration, according to his father, former UMaine player Paul Cook. He is no longer on an athletic scholarship.
“He’s still on campus, but he’s not on our roster,” said head coach Ted Woodward. “I really can’t comment on a guy who’s not with us.”
Another guy Woodward can’t comment on is Jacob McLemore, a highly-regarded guard from San Diego who was an early signee for the Black Bears, but changed his mind. Older brother Gerald McLemore could comment.
“It was a personal and family decision,” said McLemore. “He was offered an academic scholarship to the University of Arizona for business and he’s a business major, so that’s what he wanted to do.”
Even with the losses, there’s much for the Maine players to be excited about, such as junior forward Troy Barnies of Auburn coming in 10 pounds heavier than last year and looking like he’s added noticeable muscle.
“I ate a lot this year. I tried to eat at least six times a day and I was pretty consistent with it,” said Barnies, who’s also sporting a new haircut. “I can get up and down the court with great stamina and still use my quickness in the post.”
The 6-7 McNally (9.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is not only as big and athletic as he was last year, but appears much more confident as well.
“It’s all just going to come down to confidence,” McNally said. “Gerald’s confidence is sky-high and he’s looking forward to the challenge of taking over the scoring load and shooting that Mark gave us and Terrance Mitchell coming in who will be able to fill Mark’s shoes, as big as those shoes are.”
McNally said his biggest offseason improvement was mental.
“Now that me and Troy have gained respect and experience on this team, we’re going to step up and be vocal on the court and in the locker room because that’s what this team needs,” he explained.