Most Division I coaches who evaluated Kelsey Mattice got stuck on the fact she stands only 5-foot-5.
University of Maine women's basketball coach Cindy Blodgett looked past the point guard's stature and instead saw her considerable skills.
Mattice plans to prove the doubters wrong at the Division I level next year as she has verbally committed to attend UMaine on a basketball scholarship.
"That's been my dream forever. I've always wanted to play Division I," said the standout at Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) High School, where she is a teammate of 6-3 post player Breanna Stewart, one of the nation's most highly-regarded recruits.
Mattice, who also received a scholarship offer from Division II Bentley University in Massachusetts, plans to prove the naysayers wrong.
"I just kind of ignore people that tell me (I'm too short) and continue to work my hardest and try to get the best outcome out of it," said Mattice, who felt comfortable on her unofficial visit to UMaine.
Blodgett is prohibited by NCAA rules from commenting on recruits until they have signed a National Letter of Intent.
Mattice helped lead the Northstars to a 21-3 record and a spot in the Class AA (large-school) state quarterfinals last season. She averaged approximately 10 points and six assists per game.
Cicero-North Syracuse coach Eric Smith praised Mattice for "her competitiveness, her grittiness, her ability to lead the team."
He said she has developed into an good leader who knows how to direct the offense and dictate the tempo of a game.
"She's a scorer's point guard," Smith said. "She likes to attack the basket and is not afraid to knock down the open shots on the perimeter if she's open."
Smith explained Mattice, a first-team, all-league selection and third-team All-Central New York pick last season, has been successful playing AAU ball for the Unity Wildcats despite giving up four or more inches to opponents.
"She's 5-5 but she plays bigger than that. She can get off the floor," he said.
Mattice also received a mention last summer from Mark Lewis in his HoopGurlz blog on ESPN.com. He saw her play in the 10th USA Invitational in July at Penn State University.
The event included 320 teams from 11 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, Ireland and Spain. Mattice caught Lewis' eye.
"While there may not be a lot of size with this 5-5 point guard, there absolutely are a lot of skills," Lewis wrote.
"Her ballhandling and ball distribution show her court intelligence and allow her to control the floor from the point. She can penetrate and create both shots and passes. The form on her shot is textbook and she has the range to connect from 3-point distance."
Bears hit the hardwood
The UMaine women's basketball team has begun preseason practices for the 2010-11 season.
The Bears held their first full-team, on-court session Monday and had a one-hour session Wednesday. Under new NCAA rules, teams may practice 30 times during the span of 40 days prior to their first game.
Blodgett said she is trying to balance practice with continued preseason training as the Bears attempt to get healthy in preparation for the regular season.
"We're trying to keep them engaged and also do some teaching, but we have to continue conditioning as well. We have to have a solid base," Blodgett said.
UMaine has been dealing with a handful of injuries and players going through rehabilitation. Among those working their way back from health issues are lone senior Tanna Ross of Newburgh (knee), juniors Brittany Williams (shoulder) and Sheay Longstaff (knee), redshirt freshmen Shareka Maner (shoulder) and Rachele Burns of Gorham (knee), and freshmen Jaymie Druding (knee).
"People are getting healthy," Blodgett said, literally knocking on wood for luck.
"Sherrie Weeks is doing a fabulous job of bringing them back," she said of the Bears' athletic trainer. "I'm very optimistic."
UM baseball slates Elite camp
Baseball players who are considered serious college or professional prospects are invited to attend UMaine's Elite Camp, scheduled Oct. 11 at Mahaney Diamond in Orono.
The 9 a.m. clinic, for players ages 15-18, consists of a morning player evaluation, lunch, a professional-style workout and games. The Black Bears' coaching staff will run the camp, which will be attended by college and pro scouts.
Players may work out at their position of choice and should bring a glove, bat, spikes and baseball pants. Catchers must bring their own gear.
The $100 fee includes the evaluation, a T-shirt and lunch. For more information, contact UMaine assistant coach Jason Spaulding at 581-1098 or Jason.Spaulding@umit.maine.edu. Registration forms can be downloaded at GoBlackBears.com.