Mar. 26—First-year men's basketball coach Sam Leal said consistency and sacrifice were the prerequisites to make the University of Maine at Farmington's abbreviated season a success.
"I am incredibly proud of our team's consistency," Leal said. "I think sticking together through a challenging season, I know, we will be better because of it.
"I had to ask a lot from them ... to make sacrifices to stay healthy. They were so consistent with that. I am so appreciative of the effort they consistently gave to our team and to protect our team to stay healthy so that we were able to have the opportunity to compete in practice."
The three-game season was worth it for the basketball-starved Beavers, who squared off against Maine Maritime, the University of Southern Maine and Husson University. UMFs' captains —junior forward Kyle Donlin, center Jack Kane and senior guard Nathan Violette — helped steer the Beavers to an 81-56 win over the Mariners and a 90-64 victory over the Huskies.
"All three had outstanding seasons, not only on the court, but also with their off-the-court consistencies." Leal said. "They were absolutely our leaders. I am lucky to have Kyle Donlin, Jack Kain and Terion Moss to anchor the transition because they are really talented in their own right. We graduated a lot, but we return some really good leadership and some really good talent."
UMF guard Issac Witham, forward Bill Ruby, center Anthony Owens and forward Riley Robinson were all impact players who helped steer the Beavers to the North Atlantic Conference final in 2020.
Statistically, Donlin's numbers on the court rose during the short season. He went from averaging 4.8 and 3.8 ppg his first two seasons (three games in double figures —12 points twice and 13 points once) to averaging 17.7 ppg this year. He scored 16, 18 and 19 points during the three-game stretch.
"Donlin is awesome," Leal said. "He really came into his own this year. We graduated so much the previous season. I knew he was a hard worker and would do every little thing for us to win, but I didn't fully realize how talented he is. He showed it to all of us every single day in practice.
"Moss is always bringing it; he is always talking. He brings a competitive nature to practice that is really important to us and helps make us better. He takes a lot pressure off the other guys because he draws so much attention from the other team."
The 6-foot-9 Kain averaged 17.3 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Violette is a pre-med student who will be graduating and heading to Philadelphia to become physician assistant.
"Just a spectacular person who represented our community really well," Leal said.
Leal pointed out that several freshmen — guards Brian Austin, Colby Pomeroy, Zack Maturo and Kyle Pasieniuk — stepped up this season, too.
"The No. 1 message I would like to leave is that I am incredibly proud of our team's consistency and sticking together through a challenging season," he said.
Leal said he will continue to do most of his recruiting in Maine, for several reasons.
"It is very competitive to play here because we have so much talent," Leal said. "I think our best talent will typically come from within the state. Players across the state are familiar with UMF and it is the best way to build up with relationships with them because it easy to go see them play more consistently than it is with an out-of-state recruit.
"Recruiting is all about relationship building and finding players who want to be a part of what we are doing here."