UMF’s Eric Berry (33) watches as Riley Robinson (20) looks to pass the ball practice at Dearborn Gymnasium in Farmington. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
FARMINGTON — Eric Berry and University of Maine at Farmington assistant coach Jim Bessey have a positive history that developed and flourished on the basketball court.
Berry played for Bessey at Mt. Blue High School and unwittingly followed the longtime coach to UMF where Berry, who is an art major, is now a 5-foot-10 senior co-captain and guard for the Beavers. This is Berry’s second year as a team captain and he is joined by co-captains Michael Atkins and Riley Robinson.
They go way back and their relationship is one of mutual respect and admiration for each other.
“Jim taught me the most that I know about basketball,” Berry said. “This will be my eighth season with him. I was 13 or 14 when I started. I am 23 now so a lot of my credit to my knowledge of game is from playing for him.
When he enrolled at UMF, he discovered he would be playing for Bessey again.
“It was a surprise, but it was nice,” Berry said with a smile.
Bessey met Berry as a seventh-grader and was impressed with his basketball skills.
“Once you cross the lines and you’re on the court, he is a very competitive person,” Bessey said. “Winning is very important to him so you get everything out of him.
“I think he is a good example for his teammates because he never gives up and never gives in.
“What he brings to this team is the energy and competitiveness that you want in someone who is going to lead you. Obviously, being captain, he takes that very seriously.”
Berry also enjoys playing for UMF head coach Dick Meader.
“Coach Meader is great, too,” Berry said. “Both coaches combined have probably the most knowledge in the state. They have coached for a really long time. They know what they are talking about. So I have full trust in them. I hope they have trust in me.”
Meader appreciates Berry’s tenacity and his efforts to go the distance for the Beavers — especially on defense.
“Eric is a player who brings energy to the game — a lot of energy — and creates shots on offense you normally wouldn’t find in an offense you are running,” Meader said. “He produces points for us, and defensively we usually put him on the toughest perimeter player.
“He is a very good defensive player. He is a great kid. He is just a quiet player who you don’t know all that well just because he keeps to himself a lot, takes care of himself. He leads by example — very quiet.
“But just a solid human being who you love having on the team. He is a great teammate and he is very good player.”
Meader said Berry will “probably start,” but the UMF coach would like to see the senior come off the bench, too, as sixth man who will play the role of a disruptor.
“He changes the game,” Meader said, “and adds energy to it.”
In search of a NAC title
Berry is stricken with title fever and the only cure for his affliction is a North Atlantic Conference crown.
“This is my last year and I am going to use everything in my tank and leave it all out in the court,” Berry said. “I want to get a championship. That is my main goal. If you are not playing for a championship, I don’t know why you are playing.”
The co-captain likes the Beavers’ chances and what he has been seeing at practices, too. He admits a couple of big men would help, but he also believes UMF could still snatch a NAC title.
“Definitely camaraderie, just working hard at practices because practices translate to games and just coming together and working hard together will help us succeed,” Berry said. “We like to run. We are quick. We are athletic. We like to pass the ball. We like to move very fast.”
“I am really excited for (the season). I think we have a good group of guys. I think we are coming together than I think I have seen before. So I have high hopes for it.”
University of Maine at Farmington men’s assistant basketball coach Jim Bessey, middle, provides direction Bill Ruby (24) and Branden Robinson (14) during practice at Dearborn Gymnasium in Farmington. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
UMF’s Alan Young tries to take the ball away from Anthony Owens during practice at Dearborn Gymnasium in Farmington. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
UMF head basketball coach Dick Meader explains a drill as Isaac Witham watches during practice at Dearborn Gymnasium in Farmington. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
UMF assistant basketball coach Nate Carson speaks to a couple of players during practice at Dearborn Gymnasium in Farmington. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
UMF’s Anthony Owens (54) reaches for the ball during practice at Dearborn Gymnasium in Farmington. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
UMF’s Alan Young (25) tries to pass the ball around Riley Robinson (20) during practice at Dearborn Gymnasium in Farmington. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
UMF co-captain Eric Berry has his sights set on North Atlantic Conference basketball title. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)