ORONO – There were some anxious and excited players on the basketball court Saturday during the annual Blue-White scrimmages at Alfond Arena.
Senior captain Kevin Reed and freshman Mark Socoby of Bangor competed in front of a crowd for the first time in more than a year after rehabilitating injuries that sidelined them last season.
And flashy guard Junior Bernal made his anticipated preseason debut after redshirting last winter.
The Black Bear women introduced six first-year players, including point guard Abby Greene, small forward Amanda Tewksbury and walk-on Kristin Baker of Bingham.
An estimated crowd of 600 turned out to watch the men’s and women’s squad alternate playing two 15-minute halves of running time.
“You just want to shake off the nervousness and kind of see what it’s like when there’s people in the stands,” said UMaine men’s coach Ted Woodward. “We were looking for what it would be like when the lights come on for us and we’re also looking to see how consistent we’ve been with some of the things we’ve been doing in practice.”
Among the positive developments for the UMaine men was the presence of Socoby. The versatile 6-foot-4 guard-forward, who missed his senior season at Bangor High School with a torn knee ligament, was at one time considered a candidate to redshirt this season.
“We’re a year past his injury now, so that’s usually a time frame when guys are fine,” Woodward said. “As you can see, he’s very comfortable on the court. Right now, we’re counting on him being part of the team this year.”
Socoby scored eight points, grabbed three rebounds and showed off his court vision with some nice passes.
“He played 30 minutes hard and it [the knee] wasn’t an issue for him,” Woodward added.
Senior point guard Jon Sheets led the Blue team, made up of upperclassmen, while scoring nine points on three 3-pointers. Bingham junior Brian Andre, who will be eligible in January after transferring from Buffalo, contributed eight points and a team-best six rebounds for the Blue.
Christian Cavanaugh posted seven points and five rebounds while Jason Hight of Westbrook added seven points.
The White team was sparked by Phillippe Tchekane Bofia’s 13 points and four rebounds. Bernal added seven points.
Senior center and co-captain Olli Ahvenniemi sat out the scrimmage while nursing an undisclosed injury. It is hoped he will be able to return to practice this week.
In the women’s game, senior forward Bracey Barker of Bar Harbor dominated play while scoring 16 points, mostly from along the baseline and in the paint.
“I think Bracey showed that it’s her senior year and she’s ready to be one of the elite players in the league,” said women’s coach Ann McInerney.
Fifth-year senior Katie Whittier of New Gloucester chipped in with six points.
Senior guard Ashley Underwood of Benton was the only “no-go” for the women’s squad. She is coming off a leg injury and is expected to miss approximately one more week of practice.
“We keep telling her it’s better for her to rest now and be ready for the season in January and February,” McInerney said. “She means so much to our team offensively, defensively. She’s the toughest kid.”
Greene, a ball-distributing point guard, and Tewksbury, a lefthanded-shooting wing player, are among the freshmen who are expected to contribute immediately for the Bears.
“I think [Greene’s] as steady as they come as a point guard,” McInerney said. “She’s smart, gets the ball to the right people, and she doesn’t turn the ball over too much.”
Sandra Vaitkute, a 6-6 center, tallied five points in the scrimmage and showed she could be a tough matchup for opponents.
“They’re hardworking, tough kids that love to play,” McInerney said of the freshmen. “They’re very passionate about the game.”
The women open their exhibition season Halloween night against the University of New Brunswick. The men tip off with a Nov. 1 exhibition contest against the University of Quebec-Montreal.
Both games will be played at 7:30 p.m. in Alfond Arena.
Valley puts two on UM rosters
UMaine basketball has a unique situation this season in that it features two players from Class D Upper Kennebec Valley High School of Bingham in Andre and Baker.
Andre, a rugged 6-9 center, has earned the nickname “Big Valley,” since joining the men’s program last semester.
That would appear to make “Little Valley” an appropriate moniker for Miss Maine Basketball finalist Baker, a tenacious 5-6 guard.
Both players were BDN All-Maine second-team selections during their senior seasons.