Biddeford’s Emily Rousseau, whose productive freshman season was cut short by a knee injury sustained on Feb. 13, has decided to leave the University of Maine women’s basketball program along with sophomore center Sandra Vaitkute and freshman guard Magdala Johnson.
“They are all really good kids. Hopefully, they’ll go to places that make them happier and they’ll have great careers,” said first-year Maine coach Cindy Blodgett. “We’re at the point where we’re looking for players who want to be here.”
“We won seven games [7-23]. We know we have our work cut out for us,” added Blodgett, “and we want players who want to make a 100 percent commitment. If a player doesn’t want to make a 100 percent commitment, this isn’t the right place for them.”
Junior guard Brittany Bowen and Johnson left the team for undisclosed reasons earlier this month, but Bowen is expected to return to school in the fall. She won’t play basketball, however.
That means Maine will be without six of the 13 players on its season-opening roster with five leaving early.
Kris Younan is the only one graduating.
South Portland’s Whitney Morrow, who transferred to Maine from the University of Richmond, left the team for personal reasons in November.
The 5-foot-8 Rousseau, an All-State selection in softball as well as basketball at Biddeford High School, made the transition from shooting guard to point guard and averaged 8.1 points, three rebounds and two assists per game. She averaged 28.4 minutes of playing time.
“Emily’s best playing days are in front of her. She had a very good freshman year, and I thought she was going to continue to grow as a player along with the program,” said Blodgett. “But she wants to go in a different direction and I wish her well.”
The 6-foot-6 Vaitkute, a sophomore from Lithuania, averaged 4.8 points and 2.7 rebounds while playing 9.5 minutes. She also led the team in blocked shots with 12.
Johnson and Bowen didn’t see much playing time. Johnson averaged 6.7 minutes per game and Bowen 4.4 minutes. They each averaged just under one point per game.
Blodgett said none of the players who are departing early were in any way detrimental to the team.
“They’re all very good kids,” said Blodgett.
She explained that it’s “very common” to have turnover when you have a new coaching staff.
“It isn’t always the right fit for certain players and hopefully they’ll find a really solid fit for themselves,” said Blodgett, who will have seven returnees and four incoming recruits.
“The seven returning players are focused. We’ve already begun postseason workouts. They’re very committed. They don’t want to experience a repeat of this past season in terms of wins and losses. And the incoming freshmen are very anxious to get here, they’re very hungry to jump in and help the program any way they can,” Blodgett said.
Black Bears give back
Several University of Maine student-athletes and coaches are taking part in numerous community-service events in the upcoming weeks, while a number of athletes visited with local youths on Tuesday.
Colleen Kilmurray, Mackenzie Grobmyer, Kash Kiefer, Jerron McMillian, Derek Session and Kevin Phanor all visited the Dr. Lewis S. Libbey School in Milford, speaking to 60 fourth- and fifth-graders about the negative impacts of alcohol and drug use.
Today, members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams and women’s assistant coach Rita Sullivan, will volunteer with the local Special Olympics at the Old Town YMCA from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Men’s ice hockey coach Tim Whitehead, along with football coach Jack Cosgrove, men’s basketball coach Ted Woodward and women’s basketball assistant Kelley Gibson and players Kaimondre Owes and McMillian will head to the Asa Adams School on Friday to celebrate community reading day.
The coaches and players will read to students from 9-10:30 a.m.
More than 20 student-athletes will give their time at Healthy Kids Day on April 5 from 6-9 p.m. at the Bangor YMCA. Athletes from the soccer, basketball, football, swimming and hockey teams will participate.