BEALS, Maine — Ever since he first picked up a basketball in the shadow of the legendary Jonesport-Beals dynasty of the early 1970s, Garet Beal has aspired to do something few from his part of Down East Maine had done before — play at the Division I college level.
The 6-foot-5 guard-forward, now a high school senior who led the Royals to a state championship last winter, is about to make that dream come true after verbally committing this week to accept an athletic scholarship to play basketball and study at the University of Maine beginning in the fall of 2013.
“Just about all the time I’ve played basketball, it’s been my dream to play in college,” said Beal.
Beal also was recruited by a number of other mid-major Division I programs, including the University of New Hampshire, Ohio University and Lafayette.
But he visited the University of Maine campus with his mother, Pam, and high school coach Gordon Faulkingham in August, and that served to enhance his interest in playing for his state university.
“I’ve had it in my mind that I liked Maine, but I wanted to sit on it for a while and make sure I was making the right decision,” said the 18-year-old Beal.
“Last weekend, I went to a showcase in New Hampshire, and I really did a lot of thinking about it. I talked with [Maine Athletic Club AAU] coach [Carl] Parker about it, and I just decided that this was the best decision for me.”
Family reasons also played a key role in Beal’s decision to accept Maine’s scholarship offer after his father, Lindell Beal, died July 16 of natural causes.
“It kind of helped me make my decision,” said Beal. “Going to Maine lets me be close to home and be around my family.”
Beal said he told his mother of his decision Sunday night, then informed University of Maine head coach Ted Woodward.
It’s believed Beal would be the first schoolboy player from Jonesport-Beals to play Division I basketball, and he would join former schoolgirl stars Sandi Carver (Maine) and Jan Beal (New Hampshire) as the most recent Jonesport-Beals alumni to play basketball on scholarship at the Division I level.
Beal is about to begin the final year of a stellar high school basketball career at Jonesport-Beals.
A starter for the Royals since his freshman year, he was named the 2012 Maine Gatorade player of the year, a first-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine selection and the Eastern Maine Class D tournament most valuable player last winter after averaging 22.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.8 steals, 3.6 assists and 1.6 blocks per game while leading Jonesport-Beals to its first Class D state championship since 1993.
Beal’s versatility last winter also was evident in his shooting percentages — 61.5 percent from the field, 46.7 percent from 3-point range and 81.2 percent from the free-throw line.
It is that combination of skills that likely will result in Beal playing on the wing in college either as a guard or small forward.
“I want to get better at every aspect of the game,” said Beal, who was a third-team BDN All-Maine choice as a sophomore. “I really want to focus on my ballhandling, my shot and my quickness.”
An honor roll student at Jonesport-Beals, Beal said he’s likely to study kinesiology at the University of Maine.
Beal is expected to formalize his decision to accept an athletic scholarship from the university during the National Letter of Intent early signing period for basketball that runs from Nov. 14 through Nov. 21.