Top basketball recruits won’t always pick UMaine

Posted Aug. 13, 2010, at 10:19 p.m.

   The recent news of York High School’s Nicole Taylor committing to play Division I basketball at the University of Vermont has brought with it some questions as to why the player some regard as the state’s best will not be attending UMaine in 2011.

Taylor has explained that she felt Vermont was the right fit and was swayed to attend by new coach Lori Gear McBride, who had been coaching at Colby College in Waterville.

It didn’t take much of a leap for critics of UMaine women’s basketball coach Cindy Blodgett to question her recruiting talents in not landing Taylor. However, recent history shows the reasons the state’s best girls basketball players are not picking UMaine appear to be due to the schools they are attending rather than the recruiting skills of UMaine women’s basketball coaches.

Whether that player is from an Eastern or Western Maine school has also played a role.

If Taylor continues on her present track, then she will be the likely recipient of the Miss Maine Basketball award, given to the state’s best player. In the past 10 years, four of those recipients attended a Division I college and only one continued her basketball career at UMaine, Bracey Barker of Mount Desert Island, in 2003.

Two of the other three — Ashley Cimino of McAuley in Portland (2006) and Katie Rollins of Cony in Augusta (’05) — chose Stanford and Harvard, respectively. Now, UMaine is a fine school and I am an alum and take pride in that fact, but Stanford and Harvard are an obvious step above.

The other recent Miss Maine Basketball winner, Christy Manning of Scarborough (2010), will be attending Division I Holy Cross this fall where she has accepted a full scholarship — for its track program. She may also play basketball.

The other six Miss Maine Basketball winners in the past 10 years continued their basketball careers at Division II or III schools: Waterville’s Morgan Frame (’09), Saint Anselm; Sanford’s Kayla Parker (’06), Assumption; Mount Ararat of Topsham’s Erika Stupinski (’04), Stonehill; Calais’ Lanna Martin (’02), Saint Anselm and Greely of Cumberland Center’s Morgan DiPietro (’01), Bentley.

This list also shows some of the difficulty a UMaine coach has in recruiting recent instate talent as much of that talent is typically more of the Division II or III level than Division I.

A further look back at the Miss Maine Basketball winners to the last 20 years also reveals that UMaine has a better shot at landing those award recipients when the player has attended an Eastern Maine school. This was the case in the first 10 years as Manning and Cimino attended a Western Maine school and Barker an EM school. From 1991 to 2000, seven Miss Maine winners attended a Division I school. Six of them were from EM schools and all chose UMaine while Western Maine’s Allison Booth of Kennebunk (’95) picked Boston College.

Those six players who attended UMaine were Mt. Blue of Farmington’s Heather Ernest (2000), Old Town’s Andrea Pardilla (’98), Cony’s Amy Vachon (’96), Lawrence of Fairfield’s Blodgett (’94), Stearns of Millinocket’s Trisha Ripton (’93) and Bangor’s Rita Sullivan (’91).

It appears that the EM players have increased exposure to the state’s Division I university through more media coverage and because of the players’ geographical location and thus are more inclined to attend UMaine while players from Western Maine schools give other colleges a stronger look.

These factors, along with when schools like Stanford and Harvard come calling, are ones that a Maine coach like Blodgett has little control over.

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