AUBURN — It didn’t take long for Dave Gonyea to realize he had something special.

With only two regulars returning, his Central Maine Community College’s men’s basketball team had a whole lot of rebuilding to do.

But after some heavy recruiting and finding a great mix of talent, Gonyea is excited about what he’s got brewing on campus.

“This is as good a team as I’ve had in five years,” Gonyea said.

The Mustangs have a different collection of players than what Gonyea has assembled in the past. He has some new Maine kids — Dirigo’s Robbie Babb, Katahdin’s Colton Bivighouse and Valley’s Carrington Miller.

There’s also the addition of Luis Medina, who played at Lee Academy, and a collection of out-of-state recruits, five from Rhode Island, two from Virginia and two from Florida.

“You mix them together and they complement each other very well,” Gonyea said. “That’s what we’ve finally done. It’s a nice complement of players.”

One aspect of the team that is especially exciting for Gonyea is their defensive intensity. That’s an element his Mustangs haven’t had in recent years.

“In my 20 years, I don’t think I’ve had a team that plays better defense,” Gonyea.

He recognized the intensity with which they played and the work they brought to the court. He knew that could mean nothing but good things.

“Early on, I could see a different kind of edge on the kids,” Gonyea said. “We have five kids from Rhode Island. They just got after it. Medina has played at a high level and he just gets after it. That becomes contagious and everybody’s jumping on.”

It has made Gonyea excited for this season, but also made him tougher as a coach. With the potential of this group, his aspirations for this team have risen.

“I can see that this team can do something,” Gonyea said. “I haven’t felt that way the last four years.”

Sophomores Jalen Lincoln and Josh Ayoob are the only two regulars back from last year. Lincoln played in 26 games and averaged 8.6 points. Ayoob played in 18 games and started one. That means the new faces have taken on large roles. The players have had to adjust to each other and learn to play together quickly. So far, the results have been impressive, starting the year 6-0 with some strong performances in some exhibition games.

“I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in five years,” said Gonyea, whose team beat Maine Maritime Academy on Monday in an exhibition game. “It’s a matter of the pieces coming together. The work ethic, I’m just trilled about. They work so hard together. They get along together. They seem to like each other a lot. They’re a fine team to coach.”

So far, the Mustangs have used 12 players regularly and have a number of players contributing. Seven players are averaging seven points or more on a club scoring 86 points per game. Miller and Shaun Hill, a freshman from Providence, lead the team averaging 10.8 points while Medina has scored nine points per game.

After falling short of the conference title last year, Gonyea said this team could challenge this year.

“Our conference is a pretty good conference, and I think we can compete for a conference championship,” Gonyea said. “We just need to keep at it. It’s a battle. They have to keep going to class and keep doing the things they have to do. They just have to keep working.”

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