Head Coach: Bob Walsh
2014-15 Record: 3-27 (2-14 America East)
Key Losses: Zarko Valjarevic (10.0 PPG)
The Maine Black Bears are coming off one of their worst seasons in school history, after finishing the 2014-15 campaign with a 3-27 record. In Bob Walsh's first year as head coach, the Black Bears notched victories over Wagner, Hartford and Binghamton. Maine is kicking off their regular season at Gampel Pavillion Friday night against the Huskies and is hoping UConn catches some of that Friday the 13th bad luck.
Maine is down two starters from last season, one to graduation and one to suspension. Zarko Valjarevic, a 6-foot-4-inch undersized forward from Serbia, averaged 10.0 PPG and led the team in 3-point field goals, shooting 64-for-187 from behind the arc. In mid-October, Walsh suspended senior point guard Shaun Lawton indefinitely for failing to meet team standards. The 6-foot-5-inch, do-it-all guard averaged 9.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 40.6 percent from the field.
In their first exhibition game against Husson University, the Black Bears struggled to put away the Eagles but ultimately won 93-79 with three players scoring in double figures. In their second exhibition game, a rivalry game against Southern Maine, the contest was blowout from start to finish. The Black Bears had six players finish in double figures en route to a 104-58 victory. After only recording three wins last season, Maine needs all the confidence it can get and certainly achieved that against Southern Maine.
Before we get to the key players section, it should be noted that Maine has two players with Connecticut ties (not counting the suspended Lawton). There is 6-foot-6-inch freshman forward Issac Vann, a Stratford native and graduate of Bunnell High School. He will be covered in our key players section. Next, there is 6-foot-8-inch freshman forward Vincent Eze from Putnam, a graduate of Putnam Science Academy.
#2 Kevin Little, Sophomore, Guard (6-0, 160): Led the team in scoring as a freshman last season, averaging 12.5 points per game to go along with 2.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists. While Little only shot 37.4 percent from the field last season, he is the team's top returning deep threat as he went 44-for-113 from behind the arc. The sophomore scored in double digits 12 times last year including in 10 of his last 11 games. Little's career and season high was a 25-point performance on 8-for-16 shooting, 5-for-10 from three in a win at Hartford last season. He was named to the All-Rookie team in the America East least season.
#25 Till Gloger, Senior, Forward (6-8, 220): From Bochum, Germany, Gloger is the team's second-leading scorer from a year ago as he averaged 11.5 points while pulling down a team high 4.8 rebounds per game. The senior did all of his work inside the arc as he shot 52.6 percent from the field and only attempted one 3-pointer, which he missed. Gloger scored in double digits 16 times last season, including a 23-point performance on 9-for-15 shooting in a loss to UMass Lowell. He recorded one double-double last season, scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in a win at Hartford.
#1 Aaron Calixte, Sophomore, Guard (5-11, 175): The team's leader in assists from last season, Calixte was a stat sheet stuffer, averaging 3.4 assists to go along with his 7.3 points and 2.7 rebounds. The sophomore shot 40.2 percent from the field and 19-for-72 from three. While he has the chance to be a special player for Walsh, he must cut down on his 2.8 turnovers per game. Calixte scored in double figures 10 times last season, and had 14 games with at least four assists and eight games with at least four rebounds. His best game of the year last season was a 15-point, seven-assist, three-rebound performance in a loss to Albany.
#23 Issac Vann, Freshman, Forward (6-6, 190): From Stratford, Vann rounds out the key players for the Maine Black Bears. Vann made my Key Players list for a couple reasons, but mostly because he is a Connecticut native. Before attending the Coastal Academy, the freshman scored 1,486 points in his career at Bunnell High School and was named to the Hartford Courant's Top 10 players during his final season. Vann is expected to play a lot of minutes and use his athletic ability to clean up boards. He had 22 points and 16 rebounds against Husson and went for 15 points and eight rebounds against Southern Maine.
Despite such a poor first season, second year head coach Bob Walsh is very optimistic about the team due to his previous coaching successes. Before taking the head coaching position at Maine, he was the head coach for nine years at Division III Rhode Island College, where he went 204-63 and made eight straight trips to the NCAA Division III Tournament. UConn fans may recognize Walsh's face from the mid-2000s. He was an assistant at Providence College for seven seasons before taking the head coaching job at RIC. He was also an assistant at the University of San Diego (BOOOOO) and Iona College.
Maine is young and uninspiring, but the duo of Little and Calixte could be one of the better backcourts in America East during their junior and senior years. Fortunately, UConn does not have to worry about that now. It should be an easy one on opening night for the Huskies.