ORONO, Maine — Mike Allison understands and embraces his role on the University of Maine men’s basketball team.
The senior appreciates the fact the Black Bears feature two all-stars in Alasdair Fraser and Justin Edwards. And he knows with the ball in Xavier Pollard’s hands and Zarko Valjarevic parked beyond the 3-point arc, his touches will be limited.
Instead, the post player from Lynden, Ontario, tries to dictate the action in the paint and on the boards with his 6-foot-9 frame, long arms and explosive leaping ability.
“I try to hold everything together on the defensive end, try to help people out where I can,” said Allison, who leads the Black Bears into Saturday’s 8 p.m. America East quarterfinal against host Albany at SEFCU Arena.
UMaine has been bounced from the tournament in the first game seven years in a row. He’s ready for that trend to end.
“I want to win one of these games in the tournament,” he said prior to Wednesday’s practice at Memorial Gym in Orono. “I don’t want to just show up and go home like we have previous years.”
Allison hopes to exert his influence for coach Ted Woodward’s 10-18 club by snaring rebounds, throwing down a dunk or two and making it hard for opponents to get uncontested looks at the basket.
Allison, who on Friday was named an America East All-Defensive Team pick for the second straight year, led the league with 46 blocked shots (1.6 per game) for the second year in a row.
“I feel like I didn’t play as good defense this year as I did last year,” Allison said. “I could have done better in some areas, but I think I still had a productive year.”
One of the key challenges for Allison has been contending with more versatile power forwards who have the ability to drive to the basket.
“As long as I can stay low and move my feet, I have no trouble guarding these guys,” he said.
Allison is a consistent rebounder who ranked fifth in the league with 7.4 per game. This season, he and Fraser both joined former UMaine star Jeff Cross as the only players in program history to surpass 500 rebounds and 100 blocks in a career.
“He does so many little things,” Woodward said. “He goes and gets extra shots off the glass and if someone happens to get beat [defensively], he’s able to clean things up. He’s obviously a big blocked-shots guy.”
On the offensive end, Allison is content to be a complementary contributor. Fraser is the go-to man in the low post, Edwards and Pollard like to attack the basket off the dribble, and Valjarevic and Jon Mesghna are the perimeter threats.
Allison tries to play off his teammates’ strengths and take advantage of his scoring opportunities.
“Most of the scoring options within the plays, they’re not for me,” said Allison, who averaged 6.7 points this winter on 50 percent (70-for-140) shooting. He is shooting 49 percent for his career.
“We don’t need another person getting up a whole bunch of shots,” Allison added. “Whenever they get double-teamed, I make a cut, or when the ball comes off the rim, I try to get it. That’s how I get my points.”
Allison is capable of picking up the scoring slack when needed. His ability to play cohesively with Fraser in the paint has been a key to his efforts.
“He can knock down the short jump shots in critical situations and he’s a great free throw shooter,” Woodward offered.
Allison sometimes has his hands full underneath. Although he is agile and athletic, he must often battle against bigger, stronger post players.
He explained that his father, a former member of the Canadian National Team, has been the most dominant influence on his basketball development.
He has always encouraged Allison to be tougher and more physical.
“He’s the exact opposite kind of player as me. He was just big and mean. My dad gives me hell about it all the time,” Allison said with a laugh.
Allison plays a secondary role in trying to exert his influence as a team leader. He often defers to the more vocal style exhibited by Fraser and the strong, but quiet approach of fellow senior Jon McAllian.
“Together, we evenly distribute what we have to do and it’s not as demanding,” Allison said.
Allison, a kinesiology major, features a grade point average in excess of 3.2, according to Woodward. He plans to pursue becoming a chiropractor — he has been doing an internship at Orono Chiropractic — once his basketball days are done.
Allison hopes to have the opportunity to play overseas once he closes out his UMaine career.
First, he and the Black Bears have some unfinished business in Albany. Woodward knows Allison’s experience will be pivotal.
“He’s a guy who’s been in our lineup for four consecutive years,” Woodward said. “He’s a guy that comes out and does a lot of the things that you need to go out and win.”
With underclassmen in key roles, Allison sees taking care of the ball as UMaine’s top priority.
“If we keep our turnovers down, it stops them from getting on runs and taking off,” he said.
“We just need to relax and do it,” he added.