Bates College sophomores Nick Gilpin (from Hampden), left, and Tom Coyne (from Falmouth), are looking to take the next step this season after solid freshmen campaigns. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
LEWISTON — When Nick Gilpin and Thomas Coyne came to Bates College together, first on an official visit and then as classmates, they were one-time teammates turned opponents on the court. Being on the Bates men’s basketball team brought them back together, and back on the same team, and as college sophomores they may find themselves as fellow starters for the Bobcats.
The two players have known each other for years, playing either with or against each other through the ranks, from AAU to high school and even in pick-up games. Gilpin, from Hampden, and Coyne, from Falmouth, never faced each other during the high school regular season or playoffs, but did face off in some preseason games.
“We knew each other pretty well,” Coyne said. “We were pretty close (by that official visit). And I don’t think it was something we like set up, but once we realized that it was a thing that could happen … it was just kind of like a plus at that point. We’ve played well together before. Our games match each other well. So that was just like a bonus. I don’t think it was like a pre-determined thing.”
The two players, both guards, shared the court at times as freshmen for the Bobcats last year, though Gilpin was largely a starter and Coyne came off the bench. The 6-foot-3 Gilpin averaged 5.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 24.3 minutes per game last year, starting 21 of 25 games. The 6-foot Coyne poured in 7.0 points and 1.2 rebounds a game, and made 1.7 3-pointers per contest.
“I think their first year they exceeded the expectations, given the amount of talent I thought we had last year,” Bates coach Jon Furbush said.
“Coming in I really didn’t know what to expect. Playing time wasn’t really something I talked to Coach about coming it. It was just I wanted to get in, do whatever I could to help the team,” Gilpin said. “So I was a little surprised by how many minutes I got, but I was excited about the opportunity to (come here) and play as much as I did.”
Furbush said he thinks both players could take a “massive jump” from their respective freshmen outputs just because of their comfort level with the college game, the program and the opponents.
“And they changed their bodies, I think a lot,” Furbush said.
Both players are expected to be starters this season. That means more time on the floor together, which is something they are looking forward to.
“I think that I’m more of trying to get to the hoop and create for others, and Thomas is one of the best shooters in the league this year. So I’m just penetrating and trying to find the open man, he’s going to knock it down,” Gilpin said. “So our games really complement each other well.”
The players’ best moments happened at opposite ends of the court last season. Furbush said Gilpin’s role was to guard the best player on the other team, while Coyne was more a scoring guard. Both players will be asked to contribute at both ends this season, and they are prepared for it.
“For me, I’m going to have to do a lot more than I did last year, same with Nick,” Coyne said. “We lost six seniors. We’re definitely going to have to take on a bigger role. Not just necessarily, like for me, just looking to shoot, but I have to create for everyone.”
“Nick’s role this year will be to also score more because I think there were some games last year where teams didn’t necessarily respect his ability to shoot it, and he’s a really good shooter,” Furbush said. “So he’s starting to understand that not shooting is actually being selfish, because that’s not what’s best for the team. And I think he’s been a little bit more aggressive offensively, which ultimately is going to help us win some games this year.”
In losing a half-dozen seniors, the Bobcats lost lots of length. That could be a benefit for Gilpin and Coyne, according to Furbush. The team will look to play faster and drive to the hoop more, which works to both players’ strengths.
They’ll be counted on to help the Bobcats keep pace in a competitive NESCAC. And Coyne said any jitters he had last year are gone now. His classmate agreed.
“I feel as though my confidence level is a lot higher already, even though we haven’t even played our first game of sophomore season yet,” Gilpin said.