It isn’t often a struggling basketball team finds its way into the spotlight.
Karin Bird has helped Thomas College of Waterville do just that.
The senior from Lee has shone brightly during a tough season for the Terriers women’s basketball team.
Bird entered the week as the top scorer in all of Division III. The 5-foot-7 guard is averaging 25.0 points per game this season for coach Ted Rioux’s ballclub.
“She requires so much defensive attention, but even when she gets triple-teamed, she finds a way to get to the basket and score,” said Rioux, who is in his first season.
Bird, who has amassed 1,435 career points, has been the catalyst for the Terriers. They own a 3-15 record, including a 3-9 league mark that has them in eighth place in the North Atlantic Conference.
The former Lee Academy three-sport standout is coming off a 35-point performance Saturday in Thomas’ 91-70 victory at Green Mountain College. That isn’t even her best effort of the season, as she tossed in 36 points Dec. 10 in a road loss to New England College.
In her 15 games this season, Bird has scored fewer than 20 points only three times, including a season low of 16. However, she has poured in 25 or more points nine times and boasts three outings with 30-plus.
Bird graduated from Lee Academy in 2008 and went to Emmanuel College in Boston, where she played one season. She then transferred to Thomas, where she is studying forensic psychology.
“She’s a great kid, she’s a great athlete, she’s extremely smart and she’s going to be very successful in her career,” Rioux said.
Bird has established a reputation as a relentless offensive player. She combines perimeter scoring prowess with the ability to drive to the basket.
Bird has a knack for getting to the foul line, where she is shooting 75 percent (133-for-177), averaging nearly nine made free throws per contest.
“We set a lot of high pick-and-rolls for her, kind of the way they do in the pros, to let her create,” Rioux said.
Rioux said Bird would be best utilized as a shooting guard. However, the Terriers’ young roster and lack of experience at point guard have meant she is directing the offense.
“She’s our playmaker, so we have to put the ball in her hands,” said Rioux, who said Thomas is lost without their star.
In the three games she has missed because of injuries, the Terriers have averaged only 33.7 points and have been outscored by an average of 46 points.
Bird was an All-NAC first-team choice each of the last two seasons, during which she also led the league in scoring.
However, she is not only a scorer. She is averaging 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals for the Terriers.
Rioux said Bird is underrated as a passer. That dynamic has evolved as the team has learned to run a new offense this season.
“If you’re open, you’ll get the ball, too,” Rioux said.
Bird has demonstrated grit and determination. She is averaging 36 minutes per game, which ranks second in the NAC, despite foot injuries.
Bird has lost the nails on both of her big toes, resulting in considerable pain and discomfort.
“She’s a tough kid. She’s battled through injuries all year long,” Rioux said.
At Lee Academy, Bird played multiple sports beside Amanda Gifford of Husson and Aarika Ritchie of Colby. They helped lead the Pandas to seven state championships and 12 regional titles in basketball, soccer, softball and cross country.
Thomas returns to action at 5:30 p.m. Friday with a NAC home game against New England College.