Ray Bessette was one of the guys last winter, a junior on a senior-laden Brewer High School boys basketball team that produced one of its best seasons in more than two decades — earning the No. 1 seed in Eastern Maine Class A and a trip to the regional championship game.
Actually he was more than one of the guys, teaming with Dom Drake to form one of the state’s best backcourt combinations. Bessette was a first-team All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North honoree after averaging 5.3 assists and fewer than two turnovers per game. He went on to be named to the Eastern Maine Class A All-Tournament Team, and ultimately to the Bangor Daily News All-Maine third team.
So when the likes of Drake, Nate Carson, and older brother Tyler Bessette all graduated last June, Ray Bessette figured to be “the guy” this winter.
Surely that’s been the case for coach Ben Goodwin’s club, but Bessette has proven to be so in an all-inclusive way.
Now Brewer’s elder statesman, Bessette has made a point of bringing his less experienced teammates along, and the results have been fairly impressive.
The Witches are 6-4 and riding a four-game winning streak, leaving them in sixth place in Eastern A and solidly positioned for a return to postseason play.
“We’re just about where I thought we’d be,” said the 6-foot guard. “I probably hoped for even better, but we’ve really come along, especially the last two games.”
Bessette ranks as the team’s leading scorer, but he’s also one of the state’s top assist makers — with double figures in that category in Brewer’s most recent victories over Lawrence of Fairfield and Messalonskee of Oakland.
That’s helped the Witches develop a more balanced offense not solely reliant on Bessette’s scoring output, with four scorers in double figures against Messalonskee and three against Lawrence.
“My role last year was to work the ball around, more of a distributor type of point guard,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s that different this year. I still have to get my teammates involved. For them it was just a matter of confidence.”
Some of Bessette’s passing prowess is born of necessity, given his skill at creating his own offense. Opposing teams are quite aware of Bessette’s scoring ability and are doing whatever they can to get the ball out of his hands.
“I’ve been face-guarded in most games, and if I penetrate a lot of guys double down,” he said.
But that’s OK by him, because in those cases Bessette typically drives to the basket, draws a teammate’s defender toward him and then makes a decision that often involves feeding the suddenly-open teammate for a high-percentage shot.
“It’s not so much about the points for me,” said Bessette. “I’d much rather pass the ball than shoot, and what I’ve had to do this year has really improved my game a lot.”
That improvement, and his general style of play, likely will be keys to his basketball future — both while leading Brewer during the second half of this season and in his long-term goal of playing collegiately.
Currently Bessette is pondering a year at prep school in hopes of landing a scholarship offer, but no matter where he ends up, and whether he’s one of the guys at the scholarship level or “the guy” at a Division III college, the program that ultimately lands him should feel comfortable knowing it’s getting an unselfish guy.
Just ask his teammates.