ORONO, Maine — Being a point guard in basketball isn’t easy.
They are responsible for running the offense and making sure everyone is where they should be. They also must make smart decisions with the basketball and take care of it since they possess it so often.
For the University of Maine women’s basketball team, that responsibility has fallen this season to freshman Dor Saar, who has taken over from departed three-time America East first-teamer Sigi Koizar.
Adapting to Division I basketball can be challenging enough but Saar is from Ma’anit, Israel, so she has had to adapt to a new country.
“The weather is the biggest difference,” said Saar. “I had never experienced this kind of cold. I liked the snow at first but now it has become too cold for me. I had to buy new clothes. I’m not a fan of it but it’s OK.”
It rarely gets below 40 degrees in the winter in Israel and the summers are hot, usually in the 80s and 90s, she explained.
The 5-foot-6 freshman is second on the team in assists with 2.2 per game. She is also averaging 4.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.9 turnovers in 24.5 minutes.
Saar had been hampered by a sprained ankle that sidelined her for one game and resulted in reduced playing time during her recovery.
She is enjoying the basketball and school and she said playing in the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor is “really fun.
“I like our fans, they have been really supportive. And I like the routine,” she said.
According to her coaches and teammates, Saar is a basketball junkie.
“On a road trip, everybody will be watching a movie on the bus but Dor will be watching basketball, especially European basketball,” said UMaine assistant coach Jhasmin Player.
“I’ve been her roommate on the road a couple of times and she’s always watching basketball and learning. She is a lover of basketball, that’s for sure,” said UMaine senior forward Kirsten Johnson. “She is always asking questions (about basketball). She always wants to learn.”
Interim head coach Amy Vachon said Saar’s love of basketball and desire to learn is reflected in how she plays. She has a high basketball IQ.
“She is a very smart kid. She knows the game, she understands it and she knows where the ball needs to go and who needs to get it. It’s fun as a coach having a kid on the court who can do that,” said Vachon.
“She creates (shooting opportunities) for everyone else and she has started creating for herself, too, and that’s good,’” said junior guard Tanesha Sutton.
Basketball is in Saar’s genes.
“My grandfather used to be a professional basketball player and a really good one,” said Saar.
The freshman can be a little shy in new surroundings, but hasn’t been the least bit timid running the offense. She shouts instructions to her teammates and directs them to where they should be.
“Because of my role as a point guard, I have to take more responsibility and take charge in the game. I’m just doing my job,” she said.
“Even in our big games, she has held her composure and her poise,” said Sutton.
Saar said she has been generally pleased with how she has performed.
“Every player has ups and downs during the course of a season,” she said. “You aren’t always going to be at your best. I’ve been playing OK but I can definitely do better and I’m working on it.”
Vachon said the coaches are encouraging Saar, who is averaging 5.1 shot attempts, to be “more aggressive offensively” and that she has done that the last few games.
“She’s a great 3-point shooter and she can also take the ball to the rim,” said Vachon. “When she looks for open shots, that opens things up for the rest of the team.”
“I need to be more involved in the offense,” agreed Saar. “I need to have more of an effect on the game.”
Saar, who has played for the Israeli National team at various age levels, said she also wants to become a better defender.
“I want to bring more energy on defense and be there when we have breakdowns,” said Saar.
“Her defense is a work in progress. She’s really dedicated and committed to (improving) and that’s fun to see,” said Vachon.
Saar, who was spotted by head coach Richard Barron — who is serving in an administrative role at UMaine while on medical leave from coaching — and Vachon at a big tournament, was able to come to Maine after receiving a waiver from her basketball federation.
The waiver will allow her to serve her mandatory two-year military service after she graduates from UMaine.
UMaine lost another Israeli player, Michal Assaf, to military service after one semester during the 2012-2013 season.
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