The University of Maine’s Heather Ernest claps during introductions during game against Kent State in 2001.
When she is not going one-on-one with her students in the classroom, Heather (Ernest) Bond is usually in the middle of a fast break at home raising her adorable nine-month-old twin boys, Carter and Colin.
But long before she was a ‘Bond,’ she was Heather Ernest, the most feared basketball player in the Class A girls’ game, and she eventually etched her name in University of Maine lore.
Bond was a member of Mt. Blue’s storied girls’ basketball team that beat the undefeated Lewiston Blue Devils to slip away with a Class A state title in 1999. The Cougars went on to scoop up another A title in 2000.
She then became a force for the Maine Black Bears for four years. Her jersey, No. 11, was retired in 2004 after a career that saw her amass the fifth-most points in team history. She joined Cindy Blodgett, Rachel Bouchard and Liz Coffin on a banner high above the court in Alfond Arena.
She went on to play pro hoop in Germany — where she met and fell in love with her future husband — Chris Bond.
But life has moved on for the 6-foot-1 center.
She is now a science teacher at Dover Sherborn Regional Middle School in Dover, Massachusetts, where she lives.
“Teaching wasn’t even on my radar,” Bond admitted. “I was in the kinesiology program at the University of Maine.”
The UMaine standout was thinking about becoming a physician’s assistant.
“Then I got a chance to play overseas,” Bond said. “I took it and didn’t pursue the PA thing, and it turned out to be a really good decision.”
Bond played basketball in Germany for five years before returning to the states.
“I loved it,” Bond said. “If I could go back, I would go tomorrow. It was so beautiful. The food was amazing.
“Just being in Europe was amazing. You don’t really comprehend how small Europe is compared to how big the United States is. Everything was so easy to get to.
“(And) that’s where I met my husband. He was playing professional basketball. To think basketball was doing all that for me was awesome.”
As time goes by
Chandler Woodcock, now the commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, was Bond’s coach for three years and directed the Cougars to those back-to-back Class A girls’ basketball titles.
“It’s been almost 20 years, so one of us is getting older,” Woodcock quipped. “Twenty years ago next year, my, my.”
Woodcock said coaching Bond was a joy.
“Very coachable athlete. Hard working athlete,” Woodcock remembered. “Because of her size and athleticism, she really was a predecessor of today’s ‘big person.’
“You see a lot of college teams moving away from the traditional Shaquille O’Neal type — the big person who doesn’t have the mobility and change to a mobile center or center power forward.
“Everybody has to handle the ball. She was a great handler of the ball, too…We used her to break any pressure that other teams would apply.
“It made it complicated defensively because you would have to put somebody on Heather and who probably didn’t have the foot speed and that meant that she would be able to go by you and not only to break pressure but to score from the high post.”
Woodcock remembers Heather as a typical teenager who was involved in high school activities.
“Rather reserved a portion of the time,” Woodcock said. “I am sure if you put that in the paper, somebody is going to be laughing. Great sense of humor, but rather reserved. Very intense about the game. She practiced very hard. Loved the game and really brought everybody else up around her, too.
“We had a really good group athletes those two years we won back to backs. We took on the cities. We were just a bunch of country girls playing basketball. We beat Cony, We beat Bangor, beat McAuley at the Cumberland County Civic Center that last game.”
Woodcock shared a memory of his assistant coach Stella McLean and Bond, who was exhausted during a game and wanted to call it quits.
“(McLean) was my kindergarten teacher,” Woodcock said. “She coached at the University of Maine at Farmington. She had great teams at UMF. In fact, they (Beavers) beat UMaine one year. I had her as an assistant coach at the end of the bench write notes.
“And I remember one time, I think it was the finals, Heather played most of game as she did in big games. She was getting a little tired. Coach McLean looked at her said, ‘Suck it up and play.’ Great coaching insight on Stella’s part — and Heather did.
“She had a pretty significant wing span for 6-1. She would touch balls when they were being past or shot all the time. Sometimes we would play a zone with her out front. Great hands. You would throw the ball to her on a press break and she would catch it and keep it above her head and that would be it.”
Bond said she misses basketball at that level because it was fun.
“Now I am in charge of 87 kids,” the Dover schoolteacher said. “Tough job but super rewarding.
“Coaching is a lot like teaching … It has been pretty awesome. I feel pretty fortunate that I love my job. I like to get up and go, hang out and chat.
“I’ve got my guys waiting at home, too. It is a pretty good gig I have here.”
Life goes on, and many times, it is for the better.
Heather Ernest sits on the bench during team introductions before a game against Kent State in 2001.Heather Ernest, top, and her University of Maine teammate Tracy Guerrette, left, battle under the hoop against Kent State’s Valerie Zona in 2001.
Heather’s UMaine Highlights
Ranks fifth on UMaine’s all-time scoring list (1,804 points)
Ranks third on UMaine’s all-time rebounding list (1,040)
Twice America East Player of the Year (2003, 2004)
Thrice America East All-Conference First Team Selection (2002, 2003, 2004)
America East All-Conference Third Team Selection (2001)
America East All-Rookie Team Selection (2001)
America East All-Tournament Team Selection (2003, 2004)
America East Tournament MVP (2004)
Guided Team to America East Championship and NCAA Tournament Appearance in 2004
Played in 115 games, averaged 15.7 points per game
Her jersey No. 11 retired in 2004