AUBURN — Edward Little coach Mike Adams echoes a common lament among high school basketball coaches about the modern big man as a teenager.
“Nobody wants to play in the post today,” he said. “It’s not glamorous. It’s not pretty. It’s not going to get you a scholarship, supposedly.”
Adams’ creed is “Paint wins.” He has helped big men of all sizes, shapes and ability earn awards and, yes, scholarships in his 16 years with the Red Eddies.
To win the paint and so much more this year, Adams turned to Wol Maiwen. The 6-foot-4 junior center rewarded him for his faith by helping deliver Adams his first state championship, and Edward Little’s first since 1946. For his role as the Red Eddies’ game-changing big man, Maiwen is the Sun Journal’s 2018 All-Region Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year.
“We’ve always had a post presence,” Adams said. “Because of the work that they put into being post players, and the team’s commitment around him to getting him the basketball, I knew he could be as good or better, because he has some physical tools that none of those guys have.”
As a sophomore, Maiwen’s role was a game-changing sixth man for the Red Eddies, using his energy and athleticism to provide a spark. He could be an intimidator on defense, but the offense ran through seniors Jarod Norcross Plourde and Samatar Iman. Maiwen usually picked up scraps by pounding the offensive glass and running the break.
With all of those points and Norcross Plourde’s post presence gone, Maiwen knew he would have to become a focal point of the offense with senior forward Darby Shea.
“My role stepped up a lot from last year,” Maiwen said. “After last season ended and I knew we were losing Samatar and Jared (Norcross Plourde), before I even knew (Ibn) Khalid (was transferring from Lewiston), so I thought it was going to be Darby and me trying to get a lot of the work done. I knew a lot of other players were going to get work done, but right as last season ended, I knew I had to start working immediately.”
Maiwen admits that he’s no different than his peers with dreams of bombarding opponents with 3-pointers. But he also wisely trusts Adams to put him in a position to succeed. He bulked up to prepare for the poundings he would take, and deliver, in the paint and continued to work on his shooting.
“I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but it really got a lot more fun after I started getting a lot more points and a lot more wins,” he said.
While he developed confidence in his offense, his defense continued to flourish, whether blocking or altering shots at the rim or using his long reach to force turnovers at the point of EL’s press.
Those turnovers often resulted in the electrifying dunks that had already made Maiwen a viral sensation as a sophomore. And no, since it’s the hottest topic in Maine sports right now, he did not receive a technical in over 30 dunks this season (He was whistled for one during a regular season game that was quickly rescinded because he was hanging on the rim so he wouldn’t land on the defender he’d just posterized).
Not surprisingly, Maiwen weighs the ramifications his feats above the rim have on his team, while simultaneously pointing out the absurdity of how the dunking rule is interpreted in Maine.
“When I go up to dunk, I’m going to do what I’ve always been doing — throw it down and go back on defense,” he said. “Especially having to step up my game next year, I don’t know if I can really take a technical foul. Having a technical foul, that can change a game a little bit.”
Maiwen changed games more than just a little bit. He often did it in ways that can not be seen in a box score, but he could fill up a stat sheet, too, averaging 18.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.
The Red Eddies emerged from an arduous regular season with a 14-4 record and a No. 2 seed in Class AA North. As he often does, Adams turned to his mentor and former coach at Mt. Blue, Jim Bessey, for guidance as he prepared his team for the tournament.
Bessey suggested the wear-and-tear of the Eddies’ full court press, while also being their primary inside option on offense, might be wearing Maiwen down. He advised Adams to remove some of the physical burden.
Experience told Adams that tournament basketball is more of a halfcourt, grind-it-out game than the regular season, so he knew exactly what he wanted Maiwen to do.
“What does he do the best? He protects the rim for us,” Adams said. “Instead of putting him on the front of everything all of the time and wearing him down, you’re keeping him further away from the rim… (In the tournament), people didn’t go to him because they knew they couldn’t score, and they were scared. They didn’t even try to, and that took teams away from what they wanted to do.”
“When I’m at the bottom of the zone and I know that no one wants to come in, it feels kind of nice,” he said. “I like pressing, but it’s tiring.”
The Eddies rarely used their press in the post-season, but they were virtually impenetrable in the halfcourt playing both man-to-man and zone, allowing just 38 points per game over the four games.
Maiwen made his presence known at both ends in the regional tournament against Cheverus, Oxford Hills and Windham, averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and three steals, and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
Maiwen’s six points and four rebounds in the state final against Scarborough didn’t measure up to his previous performance statistically, but he was no less critical to the Eddies’ game plan to contain Red Storm star Nick Fiorillo,which they did in their historic 41-36 win.
Always vocal about his appreciation for the support he and the Red Eddies receive from alumni, Maiwen has spent the last month basking in the achievement and the congratulations he’s received everywhere from the school’s hallways to Wal-Mart.
“It’s kind of nice,” he said.
Maiwen is already working on his continued development as a player and turning the heads of college recruiters playing AAU basketball for the Maine Renegades. With the graduation of three of his fellow starters — Shea, Khalid and Tyler Morin — he knows he will have have to improve as the centerpiece of the Eddies’ title defense.
That will likely mean having to do even more scoring, and Adams said he will be more open to his top post player stepping out on the perimeter to do that.
“He could be a dominant low post player and a dominant all-around player by the time next season comes around,” Adams said. “As dominant as he was this year, he could go to a whole other level this year.”
If he does that, Maiwen could distinguish himself even more in Edward Little and Maine basketball history.
“I just want to be known as a player that wins, that goes out and does what the team needs,” he said.