BANGOR — When Hillary Laferriere walked off the Bangor Auditorium hardwood in February 2008 after her John Bapst Crusaders lost to Mattanawcook Academy in the Eastern Maine Class B girls basketball semifinals, she figured that was the last time she’d ever set foot on that historic court.
But Laferriere will be spending a lot of time at the old arena on Dutton Street this winter, as she has returned to her alma mater as head coach Mike Webb’s assistant coach while also serving as head coach for John Bapst’s freshman team.
Laferriere played one season at the University of New England in Biddeford, but decided that school wasn’t the place for her and transferred to the University of Maine.
“I wasn’t really having fun on campus (so) I had to make the choice (of) coming home and seeing what I could get into up here,” said Laferriere, who is majoring in exercise science and minors in human nutrition and child psychology at Maine.
When Webb gave Laferriere an opportunity to have a whistle around her neck, she couldn’t resist.
“I’d love to give back everything that he’s taught me,” said Laferriere, a 6-footer who earned BDN All-Maine third-team recognition as a senior.
Laferriere has nine players on her freshman squad, with her father Mike serving as her assistant. She said practice and game times with her own club and the varsity team won’t confict too much.
“I do make it a point to go to at least half of varsity practice before my own to help coach Webb out,” she said. “My games are at 4:30 so even if there was a time when we play the same day, the varsity games aren’t until 7.”
The fact Laferriere is on the staff is a huge plus for 6-foot freshman center Abby Pyne.
“We don’t have a lot of height on this team, but when I’m playing against her, we can bump each other around in the post, and that helps me get used to the physical game,” Pyne said.
Laferriere sees a lot of potential in Pyne, who is wearing Laferriere’s old jersey number 44.
“As a freshman she’s already leading the team, directing traffic during the game,” Laferriere said. “She has that attitude that every coach is looking for.”
Laferriere has helped Pyne with quite a few facets of her game.
“I’ve learned a lot of new spin moves and how to take it to the basket strong, and not to shy away from fouls to draw the contact,” said Pyne.
With Laferriere only a couple years out of high school, she said it’ll be easy to build strong relationships with her players, both on and off the court.
“I know they could relate to me and come to me about different things,” she said. “They’re more relaxed (but) they also know that I am their coach and they do take me seriously, which is good.”
Pyne has received plenty of assistance with her defense as well, particularly with not picking up silly fouls.
“Sometimes I have trouble because I really want to block shots, she’s taught me how to keep my hands straight up and stay out of foul trouble,” Pyne said.
It’s easy to see that the game is still in Laferriere’s blood, as she was shooting 12-foot jumpers at the Auditorium before practice on Tuesday afternoon.
“She knows a lot about basketball in general and we can just talk like friends as well because she’s pretty close to (my) age,” Pyne said. “I really look up to her as a coach.”
Returning to the Auditorium court brought back some memorable experiences for Laferriere.
“The first varsity practice this year was the first time I set foot on the floor since we lost (in 2008), it was really emotional,” she said. “I look forward to going to practice even though I’m not playing.”
Laferriere, who hopes to work with obese children someday, also looks forward to passing down her basketball knowledge to both the varsity and freshman players.
“The fact that I’m able to take everything that I’ve learned since I’ve been playing and put it together and being able to help my girls, and give them everything I’ve learned, I like the fact that they’re wanting me to help them,” she said.
John Bapst will tip off its regular season Saturday with a game against Ellsworth at Husson University’s Newman Gym at 5:30 p.m.