ORONO — With a handful of veterans, including starters Sean McNally and Troy Barnies, already in the fold coming into the season, there didn’t appear to be much room for a newcomer.
That dynamic hasn’t prevented freshman Alasdair Fraser from quickly developing into a key member of the University of Maine frontcourt.
Fraser will bring his solid, physical inside play Thursday night when coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bears (6-5) take on Columbia (6-4) in a 7 p.m. nonleague contest at Alfond Arena.
UMaine hopes to build on the momentum it generated with four straight victories to end the first semester.
“It was good to kind of rest our minds, more than anything,” junior Gerald McLemore said of the holiday break. “Being able to mentally recharge is always good.”
Fraser was able to celebrate the holidays with his parents, who made the trip to the U.S. after a brief, weather-related delay trying to get out of Europe. They’ll get the chance to see him play Thursday night.
With only a semester and 11 games under his belt, the 6-foot-7 post player appears to have made a smooth transition to the Division I college game.
“I think it’s going pretty well,” said the soft-spoken Scotsman, who admitted he is enjoying the semester break.
“It’s good to have (the first semester) over and done with,” he explained. “It wasn’t too difficult. I got decent grades, so I’m happy.”
Fraser has made an instant impact underneath for UMaine. He is averaging 6.9 points and 3.6 rebounds while playing 20 minutes per contest.
Fraser has impressed with his ability to make a high percentage of his shots from close range. He is shooting 65 percent from the field (31-for-48).
“We needed a guy that could finish inside and that’s really his job,” Woodward said. “That’s what he did in the European Championships and throughout his time in Scotland.
“He’s got great hands, good size,” he continued. “I think he’s continuing to progress and I think the guys are comfortable with him.”
Fraser’s contributions have been even more important as he has been spelling McNally. The 6-7 senior from Gardiner has been hobbled by a bad ankle, which has reduced his minutes and his production.
“He’s playing great basketball this year. To come in as a freshman and do the things he’s doing is phenomenal,” McNally offered.
“There’s not really too much of a weakness in his game on the offensive end,” he added. “He finishes at a high rate and on defense he’s a big body, he doesn’t really get pushed around. He takes up a lot of space in the paint.”
Nobody is happier about Fraser’s play than McNally, who has been able to manage the sore ankle by limiting his minutes.
“If he’s going to keep playing like that, I’ll play 14 minutes a game if we’re going to keep winning,” McNally said.
Fraser said the biggest challenge of making the switch to college ball has been taking on opponents with similar size.
“It’s definitely an adjustment, because I’m used to playing against guys that are much smaller than me,” Fraser said. “Playing against guys that are the same weight, the same height, is an adjustment, but I think it’s going all right. I’m getting used to it.”