Ben Teer first learned to dribble a basketball in one of the sport’s hotbeds, his native Kentucky.
But he developed his skills only after moving to Down East Maine, where he starred at Washington Academy of East Machias and led the Raiders to their first state championship in 2010.
Now after a year of further refining his game with the postgraduate program at Lee Academy, the 5-foot-8-inch point guard is bound for another distinct basketball locale — the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
Teer signed a National Letter of Intent accepting a full athletic scholarship from the NCAA Division II program Wednesday, the first day of the spring signing period for the sport.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” said Teer. “I get to take my game further than I thought I was going to be able to, and I can’t wait.”
Alaska-Fairbanks, known as the Nanooks — which is Inuit for polar bear — is a university of more than 10,000 students that competes in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, a 10-school league for men’s basketball that also includes Alaska-Anchorage, Central Washington, Montana State-Billings, Northwest Nazarene (Wash.), Saint Martin’s (Wash.), Seattle Pacific, Simon Fraser (British Columbia), Western Oregon and Western Washington.
Coached by Clemon Johnson, Alaska-Fairbanks finished 8-17 overall this season, including 5-13 in conference play.
“I went out there two weeks ago,” said Teer. “The coaches were great to me, and it just felt right. I had talked with a lot of people before I started getting into this and they told me that when you step on the campus you’ll know if it’s right for you, and they were right.”
Teer also considered Division II Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii, before opting for Alaska-Fairbanks, a decision that had less to do with weather than for scholarship considerations — he would have been a recruited walk-on at Chaminade after that school recently got a commitment from a junior college point guard — and the potential for more immediate playing time.
“I didn’t think I would get the playing time at Chaminade, and with getting a free education at Alaska it was an easy decision,” said Teer whose team, ironically, is scheduled to play at Chaminade next winter.
“It was funny though, when I went to Alaska and sat down with them, they said, ‘Here’s your jersey, here’s your shorts, and here’s your team winter jacket.’ But I’m used to the weather.”
Alaska-Fairbanks was led this season by senior Parrish West, the leading scorer in NCAA Division II at 27.2 points per game. West also was the team’s leading assist-maker, and his graduation leaves an opening for a guard who can penetrate defenses and either distribute the ball to teammates or create his own shots, as Teer did during both his high school days and the postgraduate year at Lee.
“The coaches there told me that I could come in, show what I could do and have a chance to play, though there were no guarantees,” Teer said.
Teer was a four-year starter and 1,000-point career scorer at Washington Academy, where during his senior year he led coach Steve Pineo’s Raiders to the Class C state championship. He was named the 2010 Eastern Maine Class C tournament most valuable player, and went on to be selected to the Bangor Daily News All-Maine team.
“I started out as a Jonesboro Jet when I first moved to Maine in the fifth grade, and Steve Pineo was my coach then,” said Teer, a resident of Northfield. “Every championship I won (two pee-wee titles, three in middle school and one at WA), was with him coaching me.”
Teer drew minimal attention from college coaches as his high school career ended, with Husson University showing the most interest. Instead, he opted to spend a year at Lee, where he played under coach Andrew Papaefthemiou.
“I had the mindset that I wanted to prove some people wrong,” said Teer. “I didn’t have any particular scholarship goals, I just wanted to go there, try my best and respect the game. I think because I respected the game it gave a lot back to me, and being on my own this year also made me mature a lot on and off the court.”
Teer is one of two Lee postgraduates who were slated to sign NLIs on Wednesday, according to Papaefthemiou. The other is 6-8 center Chen Cai, who will play at Division I Loyola of Maryland. Two other postgraduates are set to join the junior college ranks, with 6-9 forward Keith Coleman from Philadelphia, Pa., to attend Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College while 7-0 center Thanos Thados of Attica, Greece, will play at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif.
In addition, Darius Sealy, a 5-9 guard from Cambridge, Mass., will attend Division II Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., as a recruited walk-on.