ORONO – Three weeks into preseason there are new developments to report on the University of Maine men’s basketball team, as was demonstrated in Wednesday night’s Blue-White game in the Memorial Gym. Francois Bouchard, the 6-foot-8 forward, who won North Atlantic Conference Rookie of the Year honors last season mostly by banging inside, shooting 15-foot jumpers, and getting to the foul line, unveiled a new 3-point shot. The sophomore swished three from beyond the arc, including the game-winner at the buzzer for the white team, en route to a game-high 22 points.
“I really worked on that this summer and it really came through for me tonight,” said Bouchard, who has the green light to shoot the 3-pointer, according to fourth-year Maine coach Rudy keeling. “We’ve put that into the offense this year. I’ll be shooting a lot more outside shots.” Fritz Marseille, a 6-6 junior college transfer out of Chicago making his first game appearance as a Black Bear, mirrored Bouchard on the Blue team, nailing a pair of 3-pointers and also working the paint for 16 points.
“I come in as a post-up threat, a 3-point threat, I can play inside or outside,” is how Marseille describes his role. Ed Jones, a 6-6 sophomore forward, used mainly as a shot-blocker on the back of the press last year, dumped in 18 points from in and around the paint in a surprising offensive display. He also hit six-of-eight from the foul line after shooting 34 percent from there a year ago.
“Ed needed to improve his offense and he’s worked hard,” said Keeling.
Keeling said Maine’s performance demonstrated a different offensive approach this season.
“We’re playing a little differently. We’re playing with one post and what we call a low mover. That low mover is the guy you saw playing on the baseline and way out getting the screens. We’ve given Francois the green light when he’s the low mover. If we can add posting up with that, when he flashes across and posts up, I think people are going to have a problem with who to guard him with,” Keeling said.
A concern area, according to Keeling, is team defense amid man-to-man or matchup zone.
“I don’t think our defense is as good as it has to be. Position wise, we’re in good position. Technique we’re fine. But we didn’t pressure the ball at all. That’s why you saw those open jumpshots,” Keeling said.
“We’re deeper,” Keeling summarized. “We have more quality in a lot of positions. If we get to seven or eight (players in the rotation), we’ll have a good seven or eight. And we’ll have a pretty good guy sitting down at nine,” Keeling said.
Maine next plays the Nova Scotia All-Stars Saturday night at Caribou High School.