Nia Irving remembers her only time playing at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
She was playing for Lawrence High School of Fairfield in an exhibition game against John Bapst High School of Bangor.
“I don’t remember too much, but I do remember there were a lot of lights,” Irving said.
The Fairfield native will get to play under those lights again Sunday afternoon, when she leads Boston University against the University of Maine in a 1 p.m. nonconference game.
The 6-foot-1 Irving, a senior forward, is one of Boston University’s captains. She has enjoyed a successful career at BU, where she was a second-team All-Patriot League selection last season after earning a third-team berth as a sophomore and All-Rookie status as a freshman.
Irving goes into Sunday’s game with 872 career points, an average of 11.3 per game, and 530 rebounds (6.9 rpg).
“It will be exciting to play in front of my family and friends, especially those who haven’t been able to come to Boston to see me play the last few years,” Irving said. “That will mean a lot.”
Understandably, she has been quizzed about Maine by her teammates.
“A lot of them are from cities. They think it’s going to be out in the sticks,” said Irving, who has advised them to be prepared for the cold weather.
Through two games, Irving is the Terriers’ leading rebounder (8 rpg) and third-leading scorer (13.5 ppg).
She is happy with her career and feels she has improved every year. Statistics are the last thing on her mind.
“I want a [Patriot League] championship,” Irving said.
Second-year BU head coach Marisa Moseley said Irving is the epitome of a team player.
“She will do whatever it takes to help the team win,” Moseley said. “She is more likely to take a charge than any player on our team. She’ll sacrifice her body for the team.”
Irving had a busy summer preparing for her senior season. She couldn’t work out with her teammates in Boston because she was doing an internship in Washington, D.C.
“So I played as much pickup basketball as I could and also worked out. I wanted to come back in the best shape of my life,” Irving said.
Moseley said Irving is an aggressive rebounder who does a great job running the floor. The BU staff has been working with her on expanding her shooting range, but Moseley admitted her bread and butter is her inside game.
Irving was recruited by former coach Katy Steding, who wasn’t rehired after four seasons and a 31-88 record, including 23-36 in Irving’s first two years.
Moseley is a former Boston University star who spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Connecticut, where she was part of five NCAA championships.
“She knows the game inside and out and learned from one of the best [UConn coach Geno Auriemma],” Irving said.
“I have learned so much from her,” said Irving, who racked up 1,761 points and 1,206 rebounds in her tremendous career at Lawrence. She was Miss Maine Basketball as a senior and was a two-time Maine Gatorade Player of the Year.
Irving, the daughter of Harry and Lisa Irving, was a Bangor Daily News All-Maine first-team selection. She led Lawrence to two Class A North titles and the 2015 state championship.
Irving is the only senior starter for the youthful Terriers, whose lineup also includes two freshmen, a sophomore and a junior.
The Terriers were picked to finish fourth in the Patriot League.
“We’re definitely a young team, but even though we lack experience, we make up for it in hustle,” Irving said. “No matter who we’re playing, we’re going to play hard and support each other. We have all the pieces [to contend for a conference title]. We just have to keep getting better.”
Irving, a health science major who wants to attend grad school and get a master’s degree in public health, knows she will be treated to a lively Cross Insurance Center on Sunday.
“Maine gets great crowds. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. This will be one of the few games in which we will have a size advantage, so we’ll be looking to take advantage of that,” she said.