The second semester can’t arrive fast enough for the Husson University basketball teams.
Coach Kissy Walker’s women are anxious to resume playing after a promising 3-4 start that included three North Atlantic Conference wins.
The men, coached by Warren Caruso, expect to welcome back three contributors who were unavailable during a difficult 1-6 stretch.
Both Husson teams hope to be in the hunt to defend their respective NAC titles.
The Husson women lost three starters off a 16-12 team that won its second straight NAC title last season. Gone are league player of the year Bethany Sevey, Noelle Lincoln and Caitlyn Butterfield, who averaged 32.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 4.8 steals per game.
The Eagles have been led thus far by sophomore forward Stephanie Comstock of Bangor (13.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, .562 field-goal percentage) and junior swing player Kelli Murray of Shawmut (11.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.1 assists, 1.9 steals, .500 3-pt. FG pct.).
“Steph is explosive and she’s finally getting the moves down that she’s been taught,” Walker said of Comstock, who is recovering after suffering a concussion.
The Eagles boast returning senior starters in forward Bree Hanscom of Mattawamkeag (10.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.1 spg) and point guard Amanda Gifford of Lee (8.7 ppg, 3.1 apg, 2.1 spg). They are joined by fellow tri-captain Marissa Albert of Fort Kent (9.9 ppg, .452 3-pt. FG pct.), a senior shooting guard.
“They’re great players and leaders and role models, good students, the whole package,” Walker said.
Also in the mix are sophomore guard Vanessa Sanderson of Houlton (5.9 ppg, .452 3-pt. FG pct.), who missed last season after knee surgery, sophomore forward Haley McGee of Fairfield (3.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg) and sophomore guards Gab Duke of Rockport (2.0 ppg) and Sara Carroll of Southwest Harbor (3.4 ppg).
Sophomore Lacy Massengale of Warren and freshman Jade Keezer of Orono provide depth.
“It’s a matter of putting the right people in the right spots,” Walker said.
Husson could receive a boost after Christmas as Butterfield, from Gorham, is contemplating a return after a demanding fall academic semester.
One surprise has been the Eagles’ long-range shooting. They made 15 3-pointers in Saturday’s win at Green Mountain as Albert, Murray, Sanderson and Gifford have helped Husson shoot 43 percent.
“We’ve showed that we do have the outside shooting,” Walker said. “I didn’t think we’d have that.”
Husson hopes to give opponents problems with aggressive player-to-player defense by causing some turnovers and scoring in transition. However, the Eagles need to rein in their own turnovers and rebound more consistently.
“Those are two areas that we definitely need to improve on and continue to work on,” Walker said.
The women next play Dec. 31 in a nonleague game at Brandeis.
The Husson men, who went 21-7 and won the NAC last winter, have yet to have a full complement of players.
Senior guard Brad Libby of Brewer, a key man off the bench last season, has been doing a physical therapy practicum in Boston. Junior forward Eric Modica of Kittery (7.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg as a starter last season) and sophomore guard Luis Medina (5.9 ppg, 4.4 apg) have been inactive for undisclosed reasons, but probably will rejoin the squad in the near future.
“We’re dealing with things where people are learning about life and what’s expected from them and they’re making corrections for those and taking responsibility,” said Caruso, who would not elaborate.
Their return will add experience and depth to a team that has only one returning player, junior guard Daeshawn McMorrin (8.4 ppg, 3.6 apg), who averaged 20-plus minutes a year ago.
One veteran who has elevated his game is 6-foot-10 junior center Marc Zaharchuk of Richmond (18.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, .530 FG pct.), who is a force in the middle.
“Marc has matured in so many areas that he’s really well prepared this year to be our guy,” Caruso said.
Others who have played key roles thus far include sophomore guard Phil Leighton (12.1 ppg, 1.3 spg), who did not attend Husson a year ago but transferred back, along with junior forward Brooks Spaulding of Fairfield (9.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and junior forward Wes Murphy (7.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.7 spg).
The Eagles’ overall inexperience has led to some early struggles.
“We’ve been on a steep learning curve over the beginning of the year,” Caruso said.
“The guys have made great progress and are maturing as an inexperienced team,” he added. “To their credit, they’ve battled and learned how to play 40 minutes.”
Husson has been bolstered by the recent addition of junior transfer guard Mike Gonzales (15.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.0 apg).
Others who have made contributions are senior guard C.J. Hodges (3.0 ppg), junior forward Jon Klages of Freeport (2.3 ppg), freshman guard Aaron Willis (3.0 ppg), sophomore center Dan Fleming of Fairfield (1.0) and sophomore guard Jordan Leeman of Calais.
Other team members are freshman center Jason Burgo (3.0 ppg), freshman guards Adonis Fleming and Matt Dube of Kennebunk, sophomore forward Larry Foster of Winthrop, freshman forward Eze VanBuckley and senior forward Wes Sexton of Fairfield.
Caruso said Husson will work the unavailable players into the rotation upon their return, which should mean added productivity and depth.
“We’ve prepared to play every night with the players we have in uniform,” he said. “As we get people back, we’ll make adjustments accordingly. We’re excited to hit the second semester and to compete at a higher level than we did in the first semester.”