Judging from the weekend’s exhibition action, there are likely to be some new faces making significant contributions to the University of Maine men’s and women’s basketball teams this season.
Both of the Black Bears’ first-year players played often and played well for Ted Woodward’s squad, while Cindy Blodgett’s women incorporated two freshmen and a redshirt freshman into the mix.
The UMaine men have only two new team members this season, “Radio” Raheem Singleton and Alasdair Fraser.
Singleton is a transfer and an All-American from Monroe Community College in New York. The junior is expected to step right in and handle the point guard chores along with junior Andrew Rogers.
Singleton, a 6-footer from Boston, provided six points (two 3-pointers), four rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes in UMaine’s 72-57 victory over Cape Breton on Saturday.
Fraser, a rugged 6-7 forward from Falkirk, Scotland, will compete for time in a deep Bears frontcourt that includes veterans Sean McNally of Gardiner, Troy Barnies of Auburn, Murphy Burnatowski, Mike Allison, Svetoslav Chetinov and Travon Wilcher.
Fraser registered eight points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes Saturday.
Woodward liked what he saw from his frontcourt group.
“Our whole front line, we have some very capable rebounders up there,” he said. “We mixed and matched some different lineups. We wanted to see some good experimental things, across the board, different people playing together with different things.”
The Bears also are counting on their sophomores to demonstrate their improvement as they play more significant roles. Burnatowski and Allison both played in all 30 games last season.
Burnatowski moved from small forward to shooting guard during some of Saturday’s game to help fill in for ailing senior Terrance Mitchell, who suffered an undisclosed injury during Friday’s practice. He tallied 14 points and three rebounds in 27 minutes.
“I thought Murphy did a good job staying within himself, getting to the glass,” Woodward said. “I think he did a great job locking down on defense when we needed him to.”
There are more first-time players on the women’s team, including three redshirt freshmen.
Amber Smith headlines that group and turned in a well-rounded effort Sunday in UMaine’s 88-44 win over Husson University of Bangor.
The 5-11 guard contributed eight points, eight steals, six assists and four rebounds in 23 minutes. She was one of the defensive catalysts, getting a hand on several more balls than those on which she made steals.
Blodgett said Smith’s steals were, in part, the result of the team’s all-around defensive play.
“We had some good ball pressure, we had some nice traps and then you’ve got to have players who are anticipating the next pass,” Blodgett said. “That’s how it all works together.”
UMaine showed off good offensive balance against the Division III Eagles as six players reached double figures and two others scored eight points. Unselfishness will be a key element of the Bears’ quest to reassert themselves as an America East contender.
“We live in a world where players are almost trained to look at that stat sheet and look (to see), do I have mine?” Blodgett said, “when in reality, if we can continue to evolve as a team … and not fall into that sort of pro mentality of me, me, me, we have the potential to do some very good things.”
The Bears also have welcomed four freshmen and a junior transfer into the fold.
On Sunday, first-year guard Ashleigh Roberts and classmate Ali Nalivaika, a post player, earned most of the playing time. Freshman forward Greer Babbe also saw some action.
Blodgett is counting on Roberts to have an instant impact, sharing point guard responsibilities with sophomore Katelyn Vanderhoff and junior Brittany Williams. The 5-9 Roberts, who also will play some at shooting guard, demonstrated confidence against Husson while scoring 11 points and making two steals while playing 23 minutes.
The 6-3 Nalivaika, who is a formidable presence in the paint, posted 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots in 17 minutes.
Redshirt freshmen Shareka Maner and Rachele Burns of Gorham, along with junior transfer Sheay Longstaff, continue to work their way back from knee injuries and subsequent surgeries.
Burns has finally been cleared to begin practicing after undergoing her third right knee surgery last December. She has not played in a game since early in her junior season at Gorham.
Maner and Longstaff had less drastic surgery and are still at least a few weeks away from returning to action.
The UMaine men are gearing up for their Nov. 12 opener at Utah Valley State. They play a closed scrimmage Saturday at Dartmouth.
The women’s team has one more preseason tuneup with Saturday’s 7 p.m.exhibition game against the University of New Brunswick. The Bears open Nov. 13 at home against Harvard.