MACHIAS, Maine — Ben Teer has lived out a basketball odyssey that has run the gamut of emotions — from celebration to heartbreak, from pleasure to pain.
It’s a journey that now has led the 2010 Bangor Daily News All-Maine guard from Northfield back to where he has put up untold thousands of practice shots in search of the best the sport could offer him — the Reynolds Athletic Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Machias.
“Wow, I couldn’t guess how many shots I’ve taken, but I’ve practiced there the last seven years for four to eight hours a day and for six out of the seven days each week,” said Teer, who is transferring to UMM this fall to continue his studies and join the Clippers’ basketball program under first-year head coach Brendan Owens.
Teer admittedly has taken a circuitous route to his new destination, but the decision by the former Washington Academy of East Machias star to come back home actually had little to do with his passion for basketball.
“It’s more of a personal reason, I just got married a month ago,” said the 21-year-old Teer, whose wife, Megan, is from Machias. “I still love basketball and playing it has given me the journey of my life, but as a man and a husband I have to put my wife first, which is why I picked UMM. It’s the right thing to do.
“When I was by myself my aspirations were different, but now my priorities are different.”
Teer was a four-year starter at WA who averaged 18.9 points, 7.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game as a senior to become the first player in school history to surpass 1,000 career points while leading the Raiders to the 2010 Class C state championship.
He then spent a postgraduate year at Lee Academy before earning a basketball scholarship to the NCAA Division II University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
Teer played in 24 games at Alaska-Fairbanks during the 2011-12 season, averaging 3.2 points and 1.8 assists per game. He earned four starts, including back-to-back road games midway through the season when he had a career-high 14 points against Saint Martin’s at Lacey, Wash., and two points, seven assists and five rebounds against Southern Oregon at Monmouth, Ore.
But Teer and several teammates became collateral damage of sorts in a coaching change.
The head coach who recruited him to UAF, former NBA player Clemon Johnson, left to take the same job at his alma mater, Florida A&M, barely a month after Teer signed his National Letter of Intent accepting his scholarship offer.
Johnson’s replacement, Mick Durham, soon determined he wanted to bring in his own recruits — particularly after the team he inherited from Johnson finished with a 5-23 record.
Durham told Teer his scholarship would not be renewed, so Teer emailed every Division I and Division II head coach in the country and eventually landed an opportunity to earn his way onto the roster at Iona College, a Division I program in New Rochelle, N.Y.
Teer was set to sit out a redshirt season last winter but still practice with the Gaels, only to have that plan quickly sidelined by injury.
“It was about two weeks into practices and we were scrimmaging and I was trying to chase down one of their point guards,” Teer said. “My front foot hit his back foot, and I went down.”
That contact produced a twisting movement so violent that the heel of Teer’s basketball shoe broke off, with Teer eventually requiring surgery to repair the three ligaments in his right ankle that also were torn.
And with that injury went his chance to earn a scholarship at Iona.
“A while after the injury I met with [Iona] coach [Tim] Cluess,” said Teer. “He was happy with how I had played, but with the injury he told me he didn’t know how I’d be able to catch up with things.”
The two worked together to find Teer yet another place to continue his basketball career, with Teer ultimately spending last semester at Ohio Dominican, a Division II program in Columbus, Ohio.
“That was tough, because I was in rehab more than I was able to practice,” Teer said.
Now love and basketball have brought Teer back home.
“A lot of people said Ben should have come to UMM to begin with, but I disagree with that,” said Owens, a former assistant coach at Thomas College who spent last winter working with the Springfield Armor of the NBA Development League. “He had a dream, he had the opportunity to live it out and he did get that athletic scholarship.
“It didn’t work out the way he wanted it to, but now he’s here and we’re happy to have him.”
Teer, who retains three years of college basketball eligibility, says he’s at about 90 percent physically as he continues his summer workouts at UMM, hampered less by his ankle injury than a slight meniscus tear he later suffered in his left knee.
“Ben is the type of kid who’s always in the gym, the type of kid who has the propensity to get better,” said Owens. “That’s the type of player you’d like to build around.
“I haven’t seen him play a lot of five on five yet, but he’s extremely talented, he’s very quick with the ball and he’s a pass-first point guard.”
But perhaps more important to Teer is the chance for some stability that comes with familiar surroundings.
“It’s been an amazing journey for me, I’ve been everywhere,” he said. “But now I’m back home with my wife, who’s been with me every step of the way. Priorities change, and I’m where I want to be.”