When Ted Woodward was recruiting the players in this year’s senior class, he was looking for more than just players. He wanted winners.
The University of Maine men’s basketball coach found what he was looking for and subsequently added a fourth member to that group. The seniors have helped turn the Black Bears into an America East title contender.
Troy Barnies of Auburn, Sean McNally of Gardiner, Malachi Peay and Terrance Mitchell likely will take the court at Alfond Arena for the final time Sunday afternoon when UMaine entertains the University at Albany in their mutual regular-season finale.
The players will be recognized prior to tipoff of the 2 p.m. contest in Orono.
“None of them are really highly recruited guys. They’re all guys that work hard and wanted a chance,” Woodward said.
He is especially pleased about the seniors’ character, their considerable basketball talents notwithstanding.
“All of them are really good people,” Woodward said. “It’s something that we want to continue to have in our program. I feel like they’ve set the standard for leadership.”
Barnies, a 6-foot-7 forward, has developed into one of the top players in America East this season. In league play, he ranks fourth in scoring with 16.5 points per game and is fifth in rebounding (8.3).
Barnies’ .560 field-goal percentage is third best in the conference, while his 35.3 minutes per contest ranks fourth and his .773 free-throw percentage 10th.
“He came in and has really done a great job improving his game during his time here,” Woodward said. “His personality is something that I think our guys feed off as far as his competitiveness.”
McNally, a 6-7 post player, has battled through an ankle injury to provide a stabilizing inside presence for the Black Bears. He is averaging 4.0 points and 3.5 rebounds.
“He’s a guy that has a ton of rebounds in his career and has been a third-team, all-conference performer,” Woodward said.
McNally also possesses some important intangibles.
“He’s been a guy that has been able to show leadership, really stay with things and go through some tough times when he was a very young player on a young team,” Woodward said. “I’m very proud of everything he’s done.”
Peay, a 6-6 guard/forward, has been more of a role player at UMaine. This winter, he is averaging 3.7 points and 2.0 rebounds coming off the bench.
“He’s just a wonderful young man, a guy that is really the guy on the team that everybody loves and can relate to,” Woodward said. “He’s a team chemistry guy. He’s unselfish.”
“He’s a guy that has given us a lot of great moments and has been huge for us in some key wins, like at UMass,” he added.
Mitchell transferred to UMaine prior to last season from Faulkner State Community College. He provided an instant boost with his play.
“We needed an infusion of talent on the perimeter,” Woodward said. “We’ve been able to feed off of his energy and he’s been a huge factor in us being one of the top three teams in the league each of the last couple of years.”
Woodward pointed to Mitchell’s ability to transition to the Division I game successfully amidst a significant geographic move.
“Having him come up here to Maine (from Florida) and make the transition that he’s made, not only on our basketball team but throughout the campus community, has been tremendous,” Woodward said.
The seniors’ hard work and resilience have been keys in the Bears’ success the last two seasons.
“They’ve set the standard, they’ve never wavered,” Woodward said.
“It’s really a testament to their character to be able to work through and stay together with a lot of different things and have the success they’ve been able to have.”