ORONO – Since bursting on the scene with nine rebounds in his team’s season opener and a game-high 10 rebounds in the third game of his collegiate men’s basketball career, Sean McNally had been a bit invisible over the next two months.
The 19-year-old University of Maine freshman from Gardiner has noticeably rebounded the last two weeks, however, to elevate himself as a legitimate candidate for the America East conference all-rookie team.
A 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward, McNally is the fourth leading scorer and No. 3 rebounder among AE freshmen in conference play. He’s scoring 4.7 points and grabbing 4.2 rebounds per game this entire season but is averaging 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in his last five games.
“His contributions are big for us, whether [injured junior forward] Phil [Tchekane Bofia] is healthy or not,” said Maine coach Ted Woodward. “I’m very happy with the way he’s been playing.
“We’ve expected him to be a very solid player for us in his career and it’s nice to see him start to take on some of those things now.”
McNally says much of his improved play has to do with an attitude adjustment.
“Coach told me I needed to pick up my aggressiveness and play with reckless abandon out on the floor,” the construction management major explained. “I’ve kind of gotten a hold on things – how I can play and how I can’t play – and I’m a lot more comfortable out on the court.”
McNally flirted with his second career double-double and first against a Division I opponent when he had nine points and eight rebounds after getting a start in place of the injured Bofia against Boston University last Wednesday. He also contributed a block and a steal.
“Sean stepped up big time and we need that, but we need others to step up as well,” said Black Bears sophomore guard Mark Socoby.
The 6-15 Maine men have lost two straight and five of their last six games, but only two games (a 75-58 loss to Vermont Jan. 16 and a 69-58 loss to Binghamton Jan. 27) had a margin of defeat greater than seven points. The other three were by five, six and seven points.
“One of the reasons we’re right in everything right now with chances to win is because of his play,” Woodward said. “He’s solid physically, especially with his rebounding. Sean’s able to mix it up in there very well.”
McLemore feels like Maine man
A little more than two weeks ago, Gerald McLemore was a small forward but a big part of the Worcester (Mass.) Academy prep basketball team.
During a break between games, the 6-foot-3 San Diego native arrived in Orono Jan. 25 for an official recruiting visit at UMaine. Less than 48 hours later, McLemore not only decided to commit to the Black Bears but also to leave Worcester Academy, start practicing with the Bears and begin his studies.
“He really enjoyed his visit, felt very comfortable with our guys and decided this is where he wants to be,” said Woodward. “He’s already enrolled for classes and wanted to get started in college as soon as possible.
“He’s jumped right in with both feet. He gets a chance to work with our guys early and it’s going to be a great benefit to him.”
Woodward said McLemore averaged 17.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a steal per game while leading Scripps Ranch High School to a Western League Division II championship.
“He’s a very good shooter and an extra year [more] mature coming out of prep school as a postgrad,” Woodward said. “I think he can give us something we need on the perimeter a little more as a shooter, and he’s a good defender, too.”
Strong sophomore season
Portland native Carlos Strong is enjoying a solid sophomore season on the Boston University men’s basketball team.
The former Deering High School star is the Terriers’ second leading scorer (11.3 points per game) and is tied for second in rebounding (4.0 a game). He’s also third in steals (20) and fourth in assists (39).
Strong returned to his home state Wednesday and made his 16th start for BU. He said playing Maine put a bit more intensity into his game.
“Yeah, I mean you want to come out and play very well when it’s where you’re from. You’ve got to show them you can play,” he said.
The 6-3 guard was a bit disappointed in his effort as he finished with five points, three rebounds and an assist in 25 minutes as the Terriers beat Maine 56-49.
“As a player, you have your ups and downs,” he said. “I’m just trying to get back up and play more like I should be.”
With eight Maine natives and a Maine postgrad player, UMaine’s roster has plenty of faces familiar to Strong.
“I probably have played against or with just about everyone from Maine on that team either in summer league or AAU,” Strong said. “I played with and against [Sean] Costigan in high school for two years.”
Forgues medals at Millrose
University of Maine sophomore Lauren Forgues won a bronze medal after finishing third in the mile racewalk at the 101st Millrose Games in New York City Friday. The Boothbay woman’s time of 7 minutes, 13.54 seconds was a little over 12 seconds off Olympian Teresa Vaill’s winning time (7:01.17).
Alpert signs with UM soccer
Sam Alpert of Falmouth has joined the University of Maine men’s soccer team.
The defender, who is already enrolled at UMaine and training with the Black Bears, will be a freshman – eligibility-wise – next fall. The former all-state selection led Falmouth to a state championship and spent the past fall at Worcester (Mass.) Academy, which he helped lead to a Class A Prep School quarterfinal berth.