Bates College sophomore Meghan Graff played for South Portland High School before coming to play for the Bobcats. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The Bates women’s basketball team went 12-12 last season, five more wins from the season prior, due in large part to a talented class of seven freshmen that came in and contributed right away for head coach Alison Montgomery. 

A key player in the group of now-sophomores is Meghan Graff, who led the Bobcats in points with 11.4 a game. The South Portland native slipped right into the role of starting point guard and the points came naturally with her playing style. 

“I don’t want to say it was the plan, I don’t want to sell myself short or anything but I want to also say that it just happened,” Graff said. “I think coach and the team knew that my grade has a lot of talent, so I think she believed in the abilities we had. I think it was just a matter of who was going to be able to perform.”

Graff also led the team in shot attempts per game with 11.5 a game, but Montgomery never blinked an eye at the shooting rate. 

“I think it was our scoring and our shots were pretty balanced among our top point-getters,” Montgomery said. “I honestly can’t think of a possession where I thought Meghan took a bad shot. She does a lot of other things, too, she shares the ball well, so we definitely want the ball in her hands.”

The transition from Maine high school basketball to basketball in the NESCAC conference was a leap for Graff, as the transition from high school to college is for many players. But the sophomore was able to fit in easier than some given her relationship with Montgomery and the school already. 

“I’m only 45 minutes away from here so throughout the process of being recruited and constantly watching these games and being able to come watch them play has allowed me to get a feel for the program a lot more,” Graff said. “…Between the pace of it, it’s a lot faster, but the mental aspect is huge. You have to be a lot more focused, mentally, so I think it’s always going to be an adjustment and I think I’ll still be making that adjustment going into this year.”

From Maine herself, Montgomery always feels a strong connection to players she recruits from the state. So building her relationship with Graff for two years prior to her joining last season helped both of them get a feel for each other, the team, and the direction they hoped to bring the Bobcats. 

“I think she’s a super smart player, kind of like having a coach on the floor,” Montgomery said. “That kind of skill set and ability in my time here so far is kind of rare so I am excited about what she can bring and that she has three more years ahead.”

With such a big leap in wins and on-the-court progress experienced by Bates last season, Graff hopes to lead the Bobcats on that same trajectory this winter. 

“A lot of what we have talked about is consistency,” Graff said. “I can say that I was pretty consistent last year, so to be able to have our team super consistent when we are playing and not have these up and down waves. We need to stay consistent and even get better instead of good, bad, good, bad.”

Graff will have a lot to do with that consistency with her play at the point, but Montgomery is excited about Graff’s entire class and the leaps they will make in year two. 

Some sophomores that should be big contributors this season are Mia Roy who averaged nine points a game in just 22 minutes, Amaari Williams (6.3) and Ariana Dalia (8.3). 

“I think I am seeing a really steady incline in our growth from what we were building on last year,” Montgomery said. “We were certainly young last year and will remain so this year, but a lot of our younger players got good game experience so hopefully that takes us places. Our team has really good morale and I think we all feel really good about the culture we have built over the last five years.”

This summer was one of continued work for Graff. She’s adapted well to the college game, but like her team, expects to make even more strides in the second year. 

“Just getting a little bit quicker. I am also a very upright player so a lot of focusing on getting lower,” Graff said. “Our strength and conditioning coach calls it ‘dropping my hips.’ When you’re in the NESCAC you’re playing against girls who are very, very tall so just being able to finish over tall girls and drawing contact.”

Montgomery wants Graff to continue to grow on the court and knows that her quarterback on the court is on the right path. 

“Meghan mentioned consistency which is a real strength of hers,” Montgomery said. “I think just maintaining that, coming in making a splash as she did as a freshman, as did her teammates, I think when you come in as a freshman and have that impact everyone is aware of you now and can make you feel like you’ve established your place. I think just staying consistent with expectations and where we want our program to go and staying competitive is really all I’m worried about. I don’t have any expectations with her stat line, just continuously moving forward and keeping our program consistent.”

Bates College sophomore Meghan Graff played for South Portland High School before coming to play for the Bobcats. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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