UMF sophomore Ben Johnson defending against a key opponent in a conference game. (Photo courtesy of the UMF Athletic Department)

By Ian McAlister – Staff Writer

The University of Maine at Farmington’s (UMF) Men’s basketball team is full of young, yet talented players, but surprisingly they have shocked the crowd by standing alone at first place in the North Atlantic Conference (NAC).

In the 2009-10 basketball seasons, the men won the NAC championship. The following year the team struggled to find team chemistry and got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. Losing senior stars such as Roy Burdin, Andrew Dean, and of course 1,000 point scorer Eric Taylor, it seemed like it was going to be a difficult task to fill those big shoes. With a roster full of young players, it was most likely going to be a rebuilding year. Fortunately, that was not the case. With most of the returning players being of the same age, it looked like the chemistry was brewing.

“We’re a lot more strong mentally than last year,” said sophomore guard Sam Leal. “The majority of the players are in the sophomore class which is an advantage. We do everything together and have each other’s back.”

After the first three games of the season, the UMF Men’s basketball team reached a miserable 0-3 start. It looked as if there was no hope to turn the season around and make the games worth watching for the fans of UMF.

“The first three games we just got demolished. It was very embarrassing, but it was all the more reason to bounce back. Once you get that first win or two, it’s easy to go on a run and never be stopped,” said Leal.

According to Nate Carson, a sophomore forward, much has changed since last year’s team. “The biggest difference I saw from last year to this season was there were no grudges or egos in the locker room. Last season it felt as if it was just a competition to see who the best were,” said Carson.

As the season went on the team began to start their NAC record at an impressive 7-0 before suffering their first conference game loss to Thomas College. After achieving win after win, it might be hard for a team to keep their composure and not get caught up in their accomplishments.

“We understand we haven’t proved anything. Even though lately we have been successful there are plenty of goals still to accomplish in this organization especially trying to get our first non-conference win to show that we can play with the big boys,” said Leal and Carson.

With only a few more weeks left of regular season, the Beavers hope to continue with their success and to improve with every practice and game.

“It’s nice to see this team coming together and producing game after game. The best part about it is, there is a different hero every night,” said Carson.