The Maine Maritime Academy men’s basketball team has been revitalized this season by the addition of eight new players.
Coach Chris Murphy’s Mariners, who are off to a 3-5 start, should have a much deeper lineup with 15 active players on the squad.
It was 16 before freshman forward Jordan Taylor of Norridgewock who has been lost for the season with a knee injury.
“We’re young. We have no seniors on the team this year,” said Murphy, who won’t have to rely so heavily on a small group of players as was the case last season, when the Mariners from Castine went 6-19 (4-12 NAC) and missed the league playoffs.
“The kids who were sophomores last year got extensive playing time, much more than I would have expected them to play, but it’s starting to pay some dividends this year,” he said of a veteran group led by juniors Paul Campbell of Camden, Shawn Dostie of Bowdoinham, Tyler Pineo of Corinth, Sam Bell of Calais and Ben Russell of Farmington.
That experience means a more mature nucleus as MMA works on establishing consistency and better depth in its four-guard alignment.
More players also means the ability to practice harder and more effectively.
“This year we’ve got kids who are able to get the reps 5-on-5 or set up anything we want in practice,” said Murphy, who is in his 19th season.
MMA will again compete in the tough NAC with a squad whose tallest players are 6-foot-4.
Campbell, a 6-foot-1 guard, has set the offensive tone early, averaging 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
“He’s our best offensive weapon at this point,” Murphy said. “He can create for himself and he can create for other guys and he has a repertoire of shots.”
The 6-4 Dostie (11.1 points, 7.4 rebounds) is providing the inside presence, where he is spelled by freshman Dylan Meklin of Rockland.
“He’s starting to really come into his own as a post player,” Murphy said of Dostie.
Guards Pineo (7.8 ppg) and Bell (5.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg) also are being counted upon heavily after learning to contend with the physical and mental rigors of the college game last season. The versatile Russell (7.6 ppg), a 3-point threat, is a key off the bench.
Murphy called Russell a coach’s dream.
“He’s a talented individual, has an extremely high basketball IQ and a very good work ethic,” he said.
Freshman Dom Drake of Brewer has had an immediate impact as MMA’s point guard. He is averaging 7.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.3 steals.
“He has the best pure point-guard talent of any player I’ve had in my 19 years here,” Murphy said. “He’s already shown that he can handle a lot of situations very well.”
Sophomore forward Andy Ball of Hermon (4.0 ppg) and freshman Meklin also are expected to make contributions.
Sophomores Scott Alexander of Bridgton and Scot Bariboeau of North Haven, along with freshmen Ryan Backus of Wilton, Keenan Eaton of Mapleton, Brett Baker of Millinocket, Zach Babin of Unity and Jude Burke of Canaan will be trying to earn playing time.
The deeper squad should help MMA win more ballgames this season.
“We feel pretty comfortable with the people we have that we’re going to be able to compete with pretty much everybody on our schedule,” Murphy said.