Troy Barnies knows the clock is ticking on his collegiate basketball career.
That has been a key source of motivation for the University of Maine senior, who has been performing at a high level recently.
The 6-foot-7 forward from Auburn has been a force in the frontcourt for coach Ted Woodward this season and will lead the Black Bears (7-6) into Wednesday’s 7 p.m. America East game against Hartford (3-10) at Alfond Arena in Orono.
Barnies is averaging 11.6 points and a team-best 7.1 rebounds along with 1.5 assists and a team-leading 1.2 steals.
“He’s acting like a senior,” Woodward said of the reining America East Player of the Week.
“He made the investment, time. He’s always been a hard worker,” Woodward added. “He’s learned the game. You always hope you have a guy step up as a senior and make that extra step.”
Barnies has been a major force in each of the Bears’ last two contests.
In UMaine’s 74-71 loss to Columbia on Dec. 30, Barnies scored nine points during a 17-4 scoring run that got the Bears back in the game after they had trailed by 17 points.
He wound up scoring a career-high 25 points (with 11 rebounds) and tallied 18 of those in the last 7 minutes, 49 seconds.
“He’s done it without taking a ton of extra shots. He’s done it by a little extra effort and a little more confidence,” Woodward said.
Barnies said the increased level of confidence he has discovered of late has been perhaps the most important factor in his performance.
“I feel like that took a little too long for me (to develop) during my career, but I’m glad it’s happening now because I’ve only got one year left,” said the former Edward Little High School star.
“I just feel like my confidence is a lot higher.”
In Sunday’s 65-52 over Boston University, Barnies scored 12 of his 14 points — including 10 straight UMaine points — over the final 8:39 to help the Bears build a comfortable lead.
“I’m very pleased with how he responded,” Woodward said.
“That’s always good to have a guy who can make shots in critical situations and he’s certainly confident in that role right now.”
Woodward also praised Barnies’ leadership, along with that of fellow co-captain Sean McNally of Gardiner. They have set the proper tone for their teammates.
“The biggest part of our team is that we play together and no one’s being selfish,” Barnies said. “That’s huge for us and doing that, we should be able to win every single game.”
Hyland leaves Gonzaga
Former South Portland High standout Keegan Hyland has left Gonzaga University and is reportedly seeking someplace closer to home to attend school and play basketball.
According to the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., the 6-4 shooting guard was granted a release from his National Letter of Intent by Gonzaga. That would enable him to seek a spot on another Division I team, presumably in the Northeast.
Hyland did not play in a game for Gonzaga, which means he will have four years of eligibility remaining. Unless he receives a waiver from the NCAA, he likely would not be eligible to compete at another Division I school until January 2012.
While Hyland originally committed to Vermont — before opting to attend prep school and then instead signing with Gonzaga last spring — he appears still to have interest from New England programs. However, coaches are prohibited by NCAA from discussing potential recruits or transfers.
Hyland, who missed most of his senior season at South Portland last winter with a hip injury, has been plagued by injuries during his time with the Zags. He was limited for the first three months of workouts by a knee problem and subsequently suffered a concussion.
The former Bangor Daily News All-Maine selection (first team, 2009; second team, 2008) was a Mr. Maine Basketball finalist in 2010.