Aroostook County ball is synonymous with the fast-break and transition game, so it should be no surprise a player from Fort Kent High School has fit in nicely with the run-and-gun Saint Joseph’s College Monks.
Still, the sight of the 6-foot-7, 275-pound Mitch Ouellet on the court with his much shorter -and much faster – teammates offers quite a contrast.
Ouellet may not have the same 40-yard dash time as his teammates, but he gets up and down the court pretty well in the Monks’ uptempo attack. He also gives them a dimension they wouldn’t have without him, keeping opponents honest when they slow things down and play a half-court game.
“He’s a big boy. He’s a little out of shape right now and he knows it, but he got a late start to the season,” said Saint Joseph’s head coach Rob Sanicola. “Those northern Maine kids, it’s just born and bred in them to be hard workers and he is.”
Ouellet is a starter and captain this season for the Monks, who have begun the season 2-1.
“Ultimately, what we want to do was not even have to run an offense,” said the senior forward. “We just want to run them [opposing teams], play ‘D’, get steals, and get some easy buckets in transition.”
Ouellet has had a slow start with just 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game this season, but Sanicola expects those numbers to rise dramatically once Ouellet rounds back into top form.
“He’s going to be a big part of this team and there’s a reason he was elected team captain,” Sanicola said. “It’s because of his leadership, toughness, and willingness to do whatever to win. He’s the epitome of a Saint Joe’s College player.”
Ouellet is the only player from a school north of the Standish college campus.
“We’ve done well with kids from northern Maine. I played with a couple in school,” Sanicola said.
So how did a guy from the northern tip of the Pine Tree State wind up headed due southwest to join the Monks?
“The players do a lot of the recruiting, selling Saint Joseph’s,” Sanicola explained. “His older brother was a student here and talked him up about it, and he wanted to be in the sciences program.”
The 21-year-old history and secondary education major saw immediate game time when he joined the Monks in 2006. He’s played in at least 25 games each of the last three seasons and averaged 5.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game last year.
Despite the switch to a more uptempo style, Ouellet is excited about his role.
“This is a little different style than what we’ve played in the past as far as taking chances defensively and getting out on the break more,” he said. “We’re more athletic and it’s a fun system for all the players involved.”
That’s exactly the kind of system Sanicola has been working toward the last three years.
“This is the fourth year these guys have been with us and it’s the first time we’ve had guys at all grades who can play this way,” he said.
That seems to be translating well on the court as the Monks are off to a good start, both in wins and statistics as they’re averaging 74 points per game and yielding 69.
“We have high expectations,” Ouellet said. “We want to get to the NCAA Tournament and anything less than that will probably be a disappointment.”
From Jamaica to Fort Kent
When third-year University of Maine-Fort Kent men’s soccer coach Bill Ashby was the head coach at Brescia University in Owensboro, Ky., a new recruiting area presented itself to him.
“There was a great player from Jamaica who attended Lindsey Wilson College (Ky.), the eight-time national champ [in NAIA Division I]. But he was dissatisfied with his playing time and transferred to East Stroudsburg University,” began Ashby. “One of this players’ best friends was killed in an auto accident so they started a memorial soccer tournament in his honor.”
Ashby received a call from one of the tournament organizers, Copeland Lewis, inviting him to attend the tournament.
“He knew we played Lindsey Wilson and that we played in a tough conference. He told me all I’d have to pay for is my plane ticket,” said Ashby.
Ashby expected to see a lot of college coaches but he and the East Stroudsburg coach (Jerry Sheska) were the only two there watching 10 teams.
“I had my pick of great players and I built from there,” said Ashby, who made another visit to Jamaica after taking over at the University of Maine-Fort Kent and has nine players from Jamaica on his current roster.
UMFK takes on Notre Dame College (Ohio) in the NAIA Division I Final 16 in Fresno, Cal. on Tuesday at 2:30 (EST).
He said his Jamaican players have adapted well to the vastly different climate.
“These kids are from rural Jamaica and the opportunities are limited. They are from places with no running water or paved roads,” said Ashby. “So Fort Kent is a great place for them. They can get a great education and play on a good soccer team. And they know this will open a lot of doors for them in the future.”
Eight of his nine players are from St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.
He said families and friends help them pay their bills to ensure they get their educations.
“It’s a community effort,” said Ashby, who does have the financial equivalent of 2.2 athletic scholarships.
“The idea is, once these kids [graduate], they can help somebody else [get an education],” said Ashby, who added word-of-mouth is a useful recruiting tool.
The Bengals, 20-0-1, continue preparing for Notre Dame College after ousting Northwood University in penalty kicks (3-1) last weekend after battling to a 1-1 tie through two overtimes.
Ashby said six inches of fresh snow have prevented them from practicing outside and a crafts fair has kept them from practicing in the gym.
“But I don’t think it will hurt us, not at this time of the year,” said Ashby. “We’ve been working out in the racquetball courts and on the treadmills.”
They bus to Portland on Friday and fly to Fresno, arriving at 1 a.m. (EST).
The 19-2 Falcons of Notre Dame have 15 players from Great Britain on their roster.
They are ranked No. 2 in the coaches poll, according to Ashby.
“They’re very good. They play a lot of long balls. They play with a lot of pace and they’ll be more physical than Northwood,” said Ashby. “But I think we’re ready.”