Matt Gaudet of the then-Rumford Panthers pulls up for a jump shot during the 1989 Maine basketball state tournament against Gorham in Augusta during his sophomore year. During Gaudet’s career, which included winning the 1991 Mr. Maine Basketball award, Rumford High School merged with Mexico to become the Mountain Valley Falcons. The Panthers lost this game but, as the Falcons, avenged the loss the next year, beating Gorham to cap off a perfect 22-0 season and winning the gold ball. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Matt Gaudet was a 1,000-point scorer, a state champion and the 1991 Mr. Maine Basketball award winner at Mountain Valley High School, and then an ECAC champion while playing at Colby College. 

But what former teammate and current Mountain Valley boys basketball coach Scot New remembers from playing with Gaudet is his selflessness.

Gaudet will add to his list of accomplishments when he is inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

Gaudet was a junior and New a senior in the first year of Mountain Valley High School’s existence, and the two Rumford natives and their teammates joined with players from Mexico and went through the regular season with an undefeated record. 

New said that in the playoffs that year, Gaudet showed he was the real deal. 

“One story that sticks out is when we were playing in the Western Maine Championships and we were going five-in and five-out,” New said. “We were going to the bench, and just the fire he had, saying, ‘We can do this, we are better than they are.’ That’s just the type of guy he was. He was just a true competitor. I think he was a captain, as well, as a junior, he was just a leader no matter what.”

Gaudet and company went on to finish off the undefeated season with a win over Rockland in the state championship game. 

Gaudet played shooting guard while New was a small forward, and each averaged 17 points per game in 1990, according to New. By that point, the two had been playing basketball together for several years.

“I was really young, and of course, in the Rumford area, a smaller community, it started in the community center,” Gaudet said. “(New’s) dad had coached a number of years, and when we were kids he would open up the old Rumford High School and they would always invite me. It was that relationship that got me more serious about basketball, getting better, working on my game, and having that coaching outside of the season.

“You have maybe have three months of coaching in season, so that relationship with Scot and his family really took me to taking those next steps.”

Gaudet said he would play basketball either with New, who lived down the road from him, at the community center, or on his grandfather’s driveway next door to his house in Rumford. 

While Rumford and Mexico were high school rivals until Gaudet’s junior year, many kids from both schools played at the community center and already had a familiarity with each other that helped when the two towns joined forces. 

And, the 1990 Mountain Valley team was stacked. 

Gaudet said every player, from the starting five to the last player on the bench, was talented. Sometimes the starters didn’t play many minutes in the regular season because the Falcons often built such big leads that the coaches turned the game over to the substitutes.

That didn’t stop Gaudet from scoring, though. He said he scored his 1,000th point early in his senior year, though that was never his main goal.

“It is interesting to look back at it,” Gaudet said. “We were so talented from top to bottom that really anyone could score. I happened to be the one that may have scored more overall, but it was such a great chemistry all-around.

“I certainly didn’t start my high school career thinking I wanted to score 1,000 points.”

Rather than talk about how many points he scored or how skilled he was at shooting a basketball, Gaudet instead focuses on his teams and the friends who helped him become the successful player he was at Mountain Valley and then Colby College. 

“It always goes back to the camaraderie that we had as a team,” Gaudet said. “We always had a joking and playful kind of approach to the practice and games. We all got along so well and we could joke around with each other. It really took a lot of pressure off during the tournament.”

Gaudet moved to Minnesota in 1996 with a friend and has lived there ever since. He does travel back to Maine occasionally, and is excited to be back in Maine this weekend for the Hall of Fame ceremony and to be able to catch up with old teammates and friends. 

“The past accomplishments and experiences, like with many, are in the past,” Gaudet said. “It really brought up feelings of enjoyment, thinking about the teams I played on, the players and coaches. How selfless they were to let me maybe score a little more here or do something that isn’t always a possibility with other teams.”

NEXT-LEVEL WINNER

As a point guard at Colby College, Gaudet helped the Mules to 85 wins compared to 16 losses, and from 1992-95 he led the team in assists.

When Colby played Williams for the ECAC title in 1993, it rivaled Gaudet’s journey to the state title game at Mountain Valley.

“My junior year in 1990 we went 22-0, we didn’t experience loss, we played in Bangor against Rockland and won,” Gaudet said. “But in college, we had to travel from Waterville to Williamstown, Massachusetts. We had a huge snow storm so we didn’t have a lot of fans. Everything was stacked against us. To take an ECAC championship out of that gym under the circumstances, it’s hard to match. We still talk about that.”

As with his high school teams, Gaudet spreads the credit around to his college teammates. 

“It was just playing hard, but with few mistakes,” Gaudet said. “I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I believe we went 21-for-22 from the free throw line, something like 94 or 95 percent. Something you don’t see on any level.

“Just playing hard, being tough defensively. Great efforts from guys off the bench, some of them really young. That’s how you win, you don’t win with one person, you win with a great team effort.”

UPLIFTED AGAIN

Gaudet’s life changed forever in 2001 when he was in the British Virgin Islands for a friend’s wedding. The day before the ceremony, Gaudet jumped off a boat into the water and hit his head on the ground, knocking him out. When he regained consciousness, he panicked. 

“It knocked me out temporarily, and when I came to I was face down and I couldn’t move at all,” Gaudet said. “I could hear my friends talking and then screaming because I wasn’t moving but I was lucky that I was friends with people that heard me and were able to pull me out of the water and save me.

“I had to stay three for three weeks in Puerto Rico until they were able to put me on a plane to Minnesota.”

Gaudet has been in a wheelchair ever since.

He was, once again, uplifted by his teammates after his accident. A few of his Colby teammates started a charity golf tournament and ran it for 15 years to help Gaudet with his gaudy medical expenses.

“What I’ve told people, when you have good people around you, family that is supportive, friends, teammates that I had, it helps,” Gaudet said. “A couple Colby teammates started a golf tournament to help with the incredible amount of expenses that I had. They ran that for 15 years, which is pretty amazing. It was just awesome.

“Without that, without the people and support of family and friends, the challenge is a lot greater than what I had gone through. It’s still a challenge everyday but certainly I have a lot of good in my life. I resort back to that on my tougher days.”

Gaudet is excited to meet up and catch up with some old teammates in the Old Port part of Portland this weekend. He stays in touch through social media and a 20-plus-year-old fantasy football league that he runs with his friends, but this weekend will be special for Gaudet. 

“We’re going to get together in the Old Port and relive old memories,” Gaudet said. “That’s what you do when you get together with people you don’t see that often … when you’re getting together with good friends.”


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