On the day Richard Barron was introduced as the head coach of the University of Maine women’s basketball team, he issued an open invitation to fans to come watch his team practice.
He wasn’t kidding.
Sunday marks the first official practice for the UMaine women’s basketball team, which hopes to celebrate the occasion by having some Black Bear fans there to watch.
Barron and the Black Bears have planned an informal gathering in conjunction with their initial full-squad team workout. UMaine has scheduled its practice session for approximately 1:30 p.m. in “The Pit.”
The event is part of a busy Sunday on campus as the UMaine women’s soccer team plays Boston University at noon and the men’s hockey team entertains the University of New Brunswick in a 4 p.m. exhibition game at refurbished Alfond Arena.
Those who attend the women’s basketball practice will have the opportunity beforehand to chat with Barron, his assistant coaches and UMaine players about the 2011-12 season.
“I think it’s a great way for people to get an appreciation for what we’re trying to do and that the best fans are educated fans,” Barron said. “I don’t mean our fans need to be educated on basketball, but it’s fun for them to know what’s going into our strategies and our game plans.”
Youngsters who wish to be considered for the chance to be the Black Bears’ “Ball Kid” at games this season may sign up at the event. Fans also can find out about the Friends of Maine Women’s Basketball booster group.
Those who wish to attend are asked to contact Tracy Guerrette, UMaine’s director of basketball operations, either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 207-581-1075. The fax number is 207-581-9206.
Barron said having other interested parties in the gym during practice tends to result in better intensity on the court.
Under an NCAA rule instituted last year, teams may start practicing 40 days prior to their season opener and may do so for 30 of those days. The Bears have an exhibition game Oct. 30 against the University of New Brunswick and open the regular season Nov. 11 at Central Connecticut.
Wheeler still on sidelines
UMaine is still without senior Samantha Wheeler, who was injured during practice last Nov. 29 season and has not returned to action. There is no definite date for her return.
Wheeler, who was the Bears’ leading scorer and rebounder during the 2009-10 season and earned All-America East second-team recognition, has been bothered by postconcussion symptoms.
“She’s not cleared (to practice) yet,” Barron said. “It would be great to have her but, as of right now, that doesn’t factor into our immediate plans.”
Barron said the 6-foot guard/forward will continue to contribute off the court until she is able to play again.
“She’s still a big part of our team and there’s a lot she can offer us as a senior and someone who’s invested a lot in the team,” Barron said. “We are making sure that she understands that she has an important role regardless of the (injury).”
SMCC hall to induct two
Southern Maine Community College of South Portland has announced its athletics hall of fame inductees for 2011.
Former baseball players Anthony D’Alfonso and the late Bob Doyle will be honored Oct. 15, at 5 p.m. during an awards banquet at 2 Fort Road on the South Portland campus. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by contacting SMCC Athletics at 207-741-5927 or mrichards@smccME.edu.
D’Alfonso (Class of 2007) is perhaps the best player to ever wear the SMCC baseball uniform. He is a two-time Yankee Small College Conference Player of the Year and 2007 United States Collegiate Athletic Association All-American.
He holds SMCC career records for hits, runs, home runs and RBIs. D’Alfonso went on to play two seasons at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham, where he was a two-time NCAA Division III All-American.
D’Alfonso has spent the last three years playing in the Frontier league, Golden Baseball League, and La Lega del Norte in Mexico.
Doyle (1971) will be inducted posthumously. Doyle was a standout pitcher during his two seasons. He was instrumental in leading the team to the State Technical College Series title in 1970 and 1971.
Doyle, who died in 2005, was a two-time State Technical College Conference All-Star and was a (NNESCC) Honor Squad recipient.