ORONO, Maine — Kilian Cato has spent several months contemplating his future as a student-athlete.
Toward that end, he is back at the University of Maine and on the court for the men’s basketball team. The Black Bears (2-10) open America East play Sunday with a 4:30 p.m. contest against Binghamton (3-10) at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The game is part of a single-admission doubleheader that kicks off with the UMaine women playing Yale at 2 p.m.
“The guys definitely played hard over the last two games in Tennessee, so going into conference we definitely want to build on that,” said junior guard Xavier Pollard, who missed those games with an ankle injury. “It’s the second half of the season. It’s time to start fresh.”
Cato, a junior from Espoo, Finland, returned to UMaine after serving an academic suspension during the fall semester. He was ineligible for basketball until completing further course work.
“Unfortunately, because I failed one class, I wasn’t able to play,” Cato said Friday. “That’s why I took the online classes, so I would get the credits, and now I’m eligible again.”
Cato was back on the court Sunday and Monday during the Dr. Pepper Classic at Tennessee-Chattanooga. He averaged 12 points, on 53 percent shooting, and 4.5 rebounds in 25 minutes per game.
He jumped back in the mix despite practicing with the team only three times since his return to the U.S.
“He’s got a lot of minutes under his belt,” said UMaine coach Ted Woodward. “He’s a kid that started 20-something games for us and has played for two years and understands our spacing, understands our schemes.”
Cato, a 6-foot-7 wing player, shot 4-for-8 from the 3-point arc at Chattanooga and gives the Bears another perimeter threat.
He is pleased to be back in the swing of things after spending the summer and fall at home.
“I’ve been away for some time, and I’ve always played basketball, so I’ve been kind of missing it. It’s great to be back,” Cato said.
He found his time away to be beneficial. He was able to spend some quality time with family and friends for the first time in two years.
He also had the chance to ponder his future.
“It was a good time to think about things and what I want basketball-wise and what I need to do better,” Cato offered.
He said he was able to play pickup ball with his friends and put in considerable weight training time at the gym. He also got some rest.
“I had a couple minor injuries during the summer so I got a good rest, and I should be able to go hard until the season ends,” Cato said. “I’m in decent shape now.”
Woodward is looking for continued growth from his young team, with a needed emphasis on defense and rebounding.
“Obviously, we’re very excited about getting into the conference,” Woodward said. “We think it’s a wide-open league. We’re excited about getting into conference play and getting into a rhythm of playing games every third or fourth day is a big thing for us.”
UMaine is led by Pollard (16.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.1 steals per game), Dimitry Akanda-Coronel (15.7 ppg), Zarko Valjarevic (13.2 ppg), Shaun Lawton (10.2 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.5 spg) and Garet Beal of Beals Island (7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg).
Binghamton’s catalysts are 6-4 guard Jordan Reed (16.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg), 5-11 guard Marlon Beck II (11.1 ppg) and 6-9 forward Nick Madray (11.0 ppg).