University of Maine’s Derek Buttles gets a shot at the NFL; Weckstrom, Lawton to play basketball for Black Bears

Posted April 30, 2012, at 12:58 p.m.
Last modified April 30, 2012, at 10:06 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — It has been a busy few days for those following developments involving University of Maine student-athletes.

Derek Buttles on Monday became the latest Black Bear football player to earn a shot at playing in the National Football League, while the UMaine women’s and men’s basketball teams each received a commitment from a recruit.

Buttles, a tight end who missed most of his senior season with a knee injury, has earned a free-agent tryout with the Buffalo Bills.

He joins three UMaine classmates pursuing their NFL dreams. Safety Jerron McMillian on Saturday became the highest draft pick in program history when he was selected in the fourth round, 133rd overall, by the Green Bay Packers.

Later in the day, Bears safety Trevor Coston agreed to a free-agent contract with the Chicago Bears and running back Pushaun Brown was offered a free-agent tryout by the New York Jets.

The deals involving four UMaine players matches the previous high achieved in 2006, when there was one draft pick (Kevin McMahan) and three free-agent signees.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Buttles appeared to be headed for his best season with UMaine last fall when he suffered a season-ending left knee injury Sept. 17 at Albany. He had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and underwent rehabilitation.

Buttles, from Pike, N.Y., worked his way back in time to participate in UMaine’s Pro Day in March.

Last fall, he caught 10 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown and finished his career with 62 receptions for 796 yards and four TDs in 37 contests. He was an All-Colonial Athletic Association second-team choice in 2010.

Weckstrom signs with Bears

Coach Richard Barron’s recent recruiting trip to Europe continue to produce results.

The UMaine women’s basketball head coach on Monday announced the signing of Sophie Weckstrom to a National Letter of Intent.

The 5-8 point guard from Espoo, Finland, is the third overseas player to commit to UMaine recently. Weckstrom played in the Finnish Women’s National League, where she averaged 7.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 25 games.

“I’m impressed with how, in different circumstances, she can do whatever is needed to be done and be effective,” Barron said. “She’s a good defender, a smart player and has a very unselfish personality on and off the court and is easy to get along with.”

Weckstrom previously competed for Finland’s Under-18, U16 and U15 national squads. She was a member of two U18 teams that captured Finnish National League titles.

“She’s quick, fast, a good athlete and a good 3-point shooter,” Barron said. “She kind of has everything in her offensive repertoire.”

Weckstrom joins 5-6 point guard Michal Assaf of Ganey Tikva, Israel, and 6-2 forward Mikaela Gustafsson of Sodertalje, Sweden, both of whom signed NLIs during the first week of the signing period in April.

Six players have signed to attend UMaine starting in September. Guards Lauren Bodine (Louisville, Ky./duPont Manual High School) and Brittany Wells (Indianapolis, Ind./Heritage Christian High School) and guard/forward Elizabeth Wood (Catlee, Va./Liberty High School) committed to UMaine back in November.

Barron expects to announce at least one and possibly two more signees in the near future.

“It’s a big class, but we need a big class,” Barron said.

The Bears have only four healthy players returning next season. Senior Corinne Wellington, junior Ashleigh Roberts and sophomores Courtney Anderson of Greene and Danielle Walczak are back along with junior Ali Nalivaika, who is rehabbing after a second surgery on her right knee.

Barron said Anderson, a walk-on out of Leavitt High in Turner Center, has been awarded a scholarship for next season.

He said that junior Rachele Burns of Gorham and senior Amber Smith have been awarded “medical hardship” status and will not play. They will retain their scholarships but will not count against the NCAA women’s basketball limit of 15.

Both will contribute in other roles, as will fifth-year senior Samantha Wheeler, whose career was shortened by concussions.

“I would have preferred them to be healthy and good players and out there, but it just wasn’t in the cards,” Barron said.

Lawton to join UMaine men

Coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bear men’s basketball team has picked up another recruit in Shaun Lawton.

The 6-4 combination guard from New York City (Harlem) was a standout at Long Island Lutheran High School and is doing a postgraduate year at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut.

Lawton, who is known for his tenacious defense, averaged almost 16 points per game and led PSA in steals while ranking second in assists last season. Coach Tom Espinosa told the New York Post that Lawton was his “toughest player.”

“Shaun gives us another guy that has some versatility, a guy that can play the point guard at 6-4, 6-5,” Woodward said. “That’s exciting. It can give you another dimension.”

Lawton said he chose UMaine because of the relationship he developed with the coaching staff, his comfort level with the school and the potential of being able to contribute right away.

“It was a great connection. Coaches were great, they were straight forward,” Lawton told the Post.

He also is friends with New York City native Xavier Pollard, who was a freshman on the UMaine squad last season.

“He’s a tremendous ballhandler,” Woodward said. “I really like Shaun’s personality, along with the other players we’ve brought in. He’s a wonderful kid and has been a winner.”

Lawton is part of a recruiting class that includes 6-4 guard Dimitry Akanda-Coronel of Boston, who signed in November, along with 6-5 forward Jonathan Mesghna of Frankfurt, Germany, and 6-8 forward Till Gloger of Bochum, Germany, both of whom committed in April.

Woodward said UMaine has one scholarship available if the right player is available.

The participation of student-athletes is contingent upon their acceptance by the university and compliance with NCAA initial-eligibility guidelines.

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