High school senior year. Oh the activity, and depending upon your perspective the excitement and/or stress that accompanies it. Of course once you step off the stage with diploma in hand, it is not only a coronation but a beginning. Some will enter off into the workforce. Others will enter enlist in military service, while some may take a bit of time trying to “find themselves”, whatever that might entail. Most will embark on yet another adventure into academia, college.
Of course, selecting the right college can be a daunting task. Being eighteen years old facing the decision of what to do with the rest of one’s life can be arduous indeed. Countless high school seniors will be making these decisions over the next several months, shaping what the next four years and beyond have in store.
If one has a considerable amount of athletic prowess, this throws another factor into the equation. Above all, the student-athlete needs to weigh in academics and what it is he or she wants out of the entire experience. Certainly an athlete of this caliber has given extensive time to their craft and wants to choose a school where they can successfully compete at the highest level possible, while also gaining a great education.
Two Eastern Maine basketball players recently concluded this decision making process. 6’7″ Nick Mayo of Messalonskee High School and 6’4 Kyle Bouchard of Houlton High School have accepted basketball scholarships to attend Division I Eastern Kentucky University and Division II Bentley University, respectively. I’m sure all of the factors mentioned went into their decisions and they received a countless amount of input from their parents and coaches.
The two have undoubtedly received their fair share of congratulations and well wishes as they look forward to what the next four years may bring. Behind the scenes, though, there is the collective consternation and hand wringing that comes when one of “our own” by-passes our state U, the University of Maine.
While high school basketball is king during Maine’s long, cold winter, a small select few have the talent to play at a scholarship level. When those that do choose options beyond the reach of the Piscataqua River Bridge, we are quick to place blame on UMaine coaches for not keeping our best talent home. This has been true whether it’s been Rudy Keeling, John Giannini, or Ted Woodward at the helm. The new guy in charge, Bob Walsh, is sure to meet the same fate. It’s time to stop thinking of “Maine kids” as some homogenous lump that can be easily sold on the virtues of playing for the good ‘ole state of Maine. Remember, each one is an individual with different desires as to what constitutes the ideal college experience.
Mainers, especially those who live in what we like to call “the real Maine”, from north of the state capital, are a notoriously provincial bunch. Many take it as a personal affront when “our own” leave to explore a different lifestyle for themselves. I love Maine. I’ve lived here all my life but realize it’s not for everybody. This isn’t the 1960’s and 70’s anymore when generations lived in the same town, went to the state U, graduated and moved back with a decent job in hand.
The advent of travel and AAU clubs over the past twenty years or so has not only provided players exposure, it has also exposed other parts of the country to our kids. The more kids have travelled the more options they see as available to them.
In the end, few players going on to play at the collegiate level will go on to play in the professional ranks. Nick Mayo and Kyle Bouchard realized this I’m sure and made decisions based on what will be in the best interests of their futures, long after the sneakers are put away. For some others in their situations, this may involve becoming a Black Bear athlete at the University of Maine. For others it won’t and that’s o.k. too. No one to blame, just decisions that are made with MANY factors involved.
Of the many students heading off to college in the fall of 2015, some will elect to stay close to home, while others will look to explore new locales. This decision shouldn’t change based on the ability to dribble or shoot a basketball.