All-Region Boys Basketball Player of the Year Wol Maiwen of Edward Little. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

Wol Maiwen was in fourth grade when his relationship with basketball and Edward Little coach Mike Adams first took root.

“He came to my house one day and was, like, ‘I want you to come play YMCA basketball. Try it out,'” Maiwen said.

“He saw something in me. I don’t even know where he saw it from, but he stuck with me and I stuck with him,” Maiwen said

Maiwen, who fled from South Sudan with his family during a civil war when he was 2 years old, had just moved from Lewiston to Auburn when Adams and basketball introduced themselves into his life.

Eight years later, Maiwen would be recognized as one of the top players in the state, and, for the second consecutive year, as the Sun Journal All-Region Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Coming off a junior year that saw him lead Edward Little to its first state championship in 72 years, the 6-foot-4 center had a lot more responsibilities to his team and to himself for his senior season.

Already known as one of the most disruptive and intimidating defenders in the state, Maiwen had to pick up the scoring and leadership slack caused by the graduation of three senior starters, Ibn Khalid, Tyler Morin and Darby Shea.

“Losing Khalid, Darby and Tyler and a lot of seniors, they put up a lot of points and had a huge impact on our offense,” he said. “I knew I’d have to pick up a little bit from last year.”

As the season unfolded, Maiwen found more ways to pick up points with an improved jump shot, but he also knew he would have to dominate inside to get the production EL needed.

“Last year, I was successful playing in the post,” he said. “I had an advantage down there and I wanted to use it to the best of my ability. This year, I didn’t want to change it up that much because Coach Adams always says, ‘Paint wins.’ I believe in that after seeing the success we had last year.”

Maiwen nearly doubled his scoring average from last season, leading the team with 22.7 points per game. More important to Adams, though, was that the rest of his game didn’t suffer. Maiwen also led the Eddies with 9.2 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.7 blocks per game.

“I’ve always had the same mentality, to play my hardest on defense and let my offense come from that,” Maiwen said. “If I had a bad game offensively, it never really felt like a bad game if my defense was good.”

“You couldn’t prepare for him with all of the things he did,” Adams said. “He was our everything. He was our pressure-maker when we pressed. He was our rim protector in our half-court defense. He was our rebounder. Offensively, he stepped up and made shots. The last three weeks of the season, his free-throw percentage went up considerably.”

“There were more fundamental players than him. There were more skilled players than him. But I don’t think there was anyone in the state who did more,” Adams added.

Maiwen earned co-KVAC player of the year honors and was named a Maine Mr. Basketball finalist while leading the Eddies to an 18-3 record and the Class AA North final.

“It’s just been a pleasure to coach him and to know him,” Adams said. “It’s a cliche, but as good of an athlete as he is, he’s a better person.”

Unfortunately, testimony to his character and his dominant play on the court haven’t enough to get NCAA Division I college coaches knocking down Maiwen’s door.

The first man to knock on Maiwen’s door about basketball, though, was actively involved in helping Maiwen get exposed to as many coaches as possible.

“Coach Adams helped me out a lot,” Maiwen said. “He got me in front of a couple of more coaches and talked to a lot more coaches over the phone for me, spent countless hours trying to find a place for me to play next year. That means a lot.”

The process was a long and at times overwhelming one, Maiwen said. Earlier this week, he officially decided to enroll at Williston Northampton School in East Hampton, Massachusetts, next fall for a year of prep school, in hopes of attracting more Division I opportunities.

“I just loved the environment there,” said Maiwen, who also recently joined the AAU Metro Boston Basketball Club. “The second I stepped on campus, it felt like home. I could really relate to a lot of people there. They have a strong enough program where I can improve myself, on and off the court.”