ORONO, Maine —The University of Maine men’s basketball team had some holes to fill coming into the 2012-13 season.
Coach Ted Woodward brought in one player who not only possesses talent, but already had some college basketball experience.
Jon Mesghna has thus far proven a nice fit to the puzzle for the Black Bears. The junior-college transfer from Germany has provided UMaine with a 3-point presence, considerable poise and steady play after joining a ballclub that already had some high-profile players.
“He’s the only guy that is new that’s a starter and is just finding out how he fits in with Ali [Fraser] and Mike [Allison], Justin [Edwards] and X[avier Pollard],” Woodward said. “It’s always a challenge when you’re a junior-college kid coming in, and it took a few games for him to feel comfortable in his role, but I think he feels very comfortable right now.”
The 6-foot-6 Mesghna has been exactly what UMaine needed. He has started all 15 games this season and is averaging 8.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists.
Mesghna, who plays on the wing, has been the Bears’ most dependable long-distance shooter. He is connecting on 44 percent of his 3-pointers (28-for-63) and ranks fifth in America East.
“He works hard on his game,” Woodward said. “He’s come out here an hour and a half before the game like he’s on an NBA roster. He’s taking shots from every spot. He takes pride in it.”
Mesghna’s presence beyond the arc has been especially important, since UMaine is shooting only 28 percent from 3-point range as a team thus far.
The 23-year-old Mesghna has demonstrated patience as he makes passes from the perimeter and sets screens while waiting for scoring opportunities. Woodward described him as careful in his play, which helps explain why he has committed only 20 turnovers.
Mesghna provided a significant spark during Saturday’s 81-66 America East victory over Maryland Baltimore County. He connected for 12 points to spearhead a key first-half run that kept the Black Bears on top on the way to their fourth straight win.
“Jon Mesghna, [in the] first half, in some critical situations, rained big threes for us,” Woodward said.
UMaine is Mesghna’s third college stop after coming to the United States. He arrived in Orono after spending last season at the North Dakota State College of Science. While there, he averaged 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds and shot 48 percent from the 3-point line.
North Dakota State College of Science, a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association, won its conference and region championships last winter.
During 2010-11, Mesghna played at Central Wyoming College, where he averaged 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds.
Woodward said players moving between junior colleges is common. He explained the coach who recruited Mesghna to CWC left after a year to take another job, so Mesghna moved on to NDSCS.
Mesghna likes the way he has transitioned to UMaine and is confident in the direction the team is taking.
“We know we’re still peaking,” he said. “We’re still hungry and we know that we’re not done yet.”
Bears building depth
Mesghna isn’t the only newcomer who is making valuable contributions for the Black Bears.
UMaine also has received increased production from two of its freshmen. Till Gloger and Shaun Lawton both have been trying to define and expand their roles.
Gloger, a 6-8 power forward, has appeared in 14 of 15 games, including one start. He has been called upon to spell senior Mike Allison and junior Ali Fraser.
Gloger has been solid in all aspects, averaging 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in 14.1 minutes per contest.
“Till Gloger’s become another go-to guy for us in the paint, [scoring with his] right hand, left hand,” Woodward said Saturday. “He’s very comfortable throwing the basketball in [the basket] and I thought defensively he did a good job.”
Gloger, who isn’t being counted on for much scoring, is nonetheless shooting 54 percent from the field.
“He’s doing a nice job and we want to continue to get him involved a little bit more,” added Woodward, who referred to Gloger as crafty.
Lawton’s minutes have increased after he overcame an early injury. The 6-5 combination guard has appeared in 10 games, putting up 3.2 points and 2.8 assists in 15.3 minutes per game.
Lawton likes to initiate the offense in the open court and also causes problems for opponents with his ability to come up with steals and deflections.
“I thought Shaun Lawton gave us a nice boost off the bench,” Woodward said after the UMBC win.
Woodward hopes Lawton and Gloger will be joined by other teammates in the effort to build a well-rounded squad.
“We just have to continue to develop our team,” Woodward said. “We’ve got to make sure we get a little bit deeper.”
UMaine travels to Hartford for a noon game on Wednesday.