ORONO — The University of Maine women’s basketball team got an early start to its season in August when it competed in a four-game exhibition tour in Canada.
Coach Cindy Blodgett’s Black Bears are hoping to capitalize on that experience when they begin full preseason team practices — earlier than usual.
Under new guidelines implemented this season for Division I women’s basketball, UMaine is able to start full-team, on-court workouts up to 10 days earlier than in the past.
“The players, from a psychological standpoint, are so excited,” said Blodgett, who explained the rigors of preseason workouts, which include track workouts, strength and conditioning, and pool sessions, will give way to basketball sooner.
“Preseason workouts are that necessary evil that, as an athlete, you have to do and you know the importance of it,” she said. “The basketball is going to be in the players’ hands (in a team practice setting) 10 days earlier.”
The new rule allows teams to begin team practices with coaches 40 days prior to their first scheduled regular-season contest. That means UMaine will be on the court Oct. 4.
Blodgett said rather than have to cram all its preparation into 30 days, UMaine will instead be able to space out its workouts and implement some concepts and workouts more gradually.
“It changes up our preseason. We’re going to do a few things differently,” Blodgett said.
UMaine is scheduled to open its regular season Nov. 13 at home against Harvard.
In the meantime, both UMaine basketball teams are in the thick of their preseason conditioning. Each player may work out eight hours per week, which may include on-court, basketball drills with coaches and up to four players at a time.
The players also play “pickup” games with no coaches present.
Among the list of prohibited preseason activities for coaches are: setting offensive or defensive alignments, “chalk” talks, discussions of game strategy and reviewing game film or videotape.
The Bears’ Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage is slated for Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. at Alfond Arena.
Coach Ted Woodward’s UMaine men, who also enjoyed success (5-0) during their exhibition tour of Canada in August, will have to wait longer for full-team practices. Their official on-court sessions begin Oct. 15.
Doran commits to UMaine baseball
Brian Doran, a lefthanded-hitting outfielder from Ayr, Ontario, has verbally committed to attend UMaine on a baseball scholarship beginning in September 2011.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder chose UMaine over Division I Oakland University in Michigan. He said the atmosphere in Orono and a substantial scholarship offer made UMaine the best choice.
“To be honest, I’m from a small town,” Doran said. “When I went there (Orono), it was a real, small-town feel and the coaching staff was awesome. The people are pretty tight-knit and the people in town love sports.”
Doran is expected to sign a National Letter of Intent in November. Black Bears coach Steve Trimper is prohibited by NCAA rules from discussing a recruit until he has signed an NLI.
Doran is a member of the Canadian Junior National Team that will compete Oct. 14-24 in Orlando, Fla., against major league fall instructional teams.
Doran described himself as someone who hits for average and hits the ball into the gaps.
“My arm’s probably my best asset,” he offered.
Doran has played for the Intercounty Terriers, but hopes to remain with the junior national team when it competes next year in qualifiers for the world junior championships.
During the winter, Doran also plays basketball for Southwood Secondary, where he was an all-county selection last season.
UMaine’s Barber out for season
Matt Barber will spend the remainder of his senior season at UMaine on the sideline after sustaining a season-ending injury.
The Black Bears’ 6-foot-6, 295-pound starting left guard suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus on the first play of Saturday night’s game against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.
“I just planted the leg and it popped,” Barber said of the noncontact injury. “I’m going to wait until the swelling goes down and get the surgery as soon as I can.”
Barber was a three-year starer for UMaine and is among 10 seniors on the squad. He is holding out hope that he might receive a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA and be able to return for a sixth season next fall.
“I’m going to try and go from there,” said Barber, who plans to stay involved with the team. “I’m going to try and help out as much as I can. We’ve already talked about a couple things I can do to help the guys.”