AUBURN — The changing face and philosophy of Central Maine Community College basketball was on full display Friday afternoon at Kirk Hall.

Seated at a table adjacent to the court where they’ve done some of their best work as student-athletes, an international blend of three Mustangs signed national letters of intent to play the game at a higher level next season.

On the heels of a winter in which she was named a USCAA All-American, Maggie Sabine of Litchfield committed to St. Michael’s College, an NCAA Division II program in Colchester, Vt.

“I came to CM to get started on my education,” Sabine said. “I didn’t plan on this happening, but it’s a blessing to me, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.”

Sabine selected St. Michael’s over Southern Connecticut State, Post, Southern New Hampshire and Southern Maine.

She wasn’t alone on the big day.

Samson Oleyami of Manchester, England, CMCC’s male athlete of the year and a two-year standout with the Mustangs, signed with John Brown University, an NAIA Division I school in Siloam Springs, Ark. And women’s point guard Nohemy Aguila of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, took another step up the junior college ladder, joining Hillsboro Community College in Tampa, Fla.

“For years we’ve been trying to recruit a better caliber of athlete,” said CMCC men’s basketball coach and athletic director Dave Gonyea. “This year to have three, we’ve had kids who went out and got scholarships before, but nothing like this.”

Gonyea said the total value of the three scholarships is $188,000.

“The thing that appealed to me the most is the academics,” said Oleyami, who attended prep school in Connecticut prior to his stint at CM. “Basketball for me is just my meal ticket to have a better education and to graduate with a degree.”

Sabine, a 1,000-point scorer during her high school career, joined the Mustangs in the second semester of the 2011-12 season. She averaged 16.9 points, 11 .7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.5 steals per game in 2012-13 for CMCC.

In her last four games with the Mustangs, two in the Yankee Conference playoffs and two in the USCAA national tournament, Sabine increased those numbers to 25 points, 13.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists.

“She put the entire team on her back,” CMCC women’s coach Andrew Morong said.

A six-footer who was able to play any position in the frontcourt for CMCC, Sabine has been advised that she may be slotted as a small forward at St. Michael’s.

“Here I was usually the biggest girl on the floor. Looking at the rosters of the teams we’re going to be playing next year, I’ll be one of the smallest girls on the floor,” Sabine said. “The biggest thing I need to do is get in the weight room and bulk up. The coaches told me I need to get quicker behind the 3-point line and get more comfortable with my ball-handling so I can play the 3 (small forward) position if needed.”

CMCC’s players and coaches say that the signings are evidence that the basketball program, now 20 years old, has turned a corner.

Although still a destination for many players, it has become a starting point for others.

“Off the court, academically, the faculty was very involved and helped me along the way. The coaching staff also prepared me,” Sabine said. “I think there’s a certain stigma that goes along with community colleges, but I feel once people step on our campus that stigma goes out the window.”

Gonyea noted that of the eight players in the 2013-14 men’s and women’s basketball recruiting class, one — Carrington Miller of Valley — is valedictorian of his senior class, and seven are high honor students.

“I think the perception of community colleges has changed dramatically,” he said. “The economy’s a piece of that, but our mission has a changed as well. I think we’re more attractive to a different kind of student than we were 10 years ago.”

Sabine cited St. Michael’s job placement rate as another factor in her decision.

CMCC has made its athletes visible worldwide with live web streaming of all basketball games.

What the players did when the cameras were off still had the biggest impact, though.

“(Sabine and Aguila) were in here six, seven days a week, putting in the work, getting shots up when other people were sleeping in,” Morong said. “It’s just a testament to who they are as young women and as female athletes. They set the bar high. Hopefully this becomes a new expectation regarding our program, and hopefully it becomes a pattern.”

Aguila’s lone season at CM was highlighted by a 15-point, no-turnover performance in the Yankee Conference title game and 17 points in the first-round of the USCAA tourney.

Oleyami, also a point guard, put up 12.3 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists per contest.

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