University of Maine at Farmington men’s basketball coach Sam Leal likes what he sees when it comes to the current crop of recruits, but his biggest coup might be coaxing back Jim Bessey to remain as the assistant coach for another year.

Former University of Maine at Farmington head men’s basketball coach Dick Meader, left, speaks with longtime assistant Jim Bessey during a game earlier this year. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

There were rumors that Bessey would bow out after head coach Dick Meader retired following this past season to conclude a long, successful coaching career.

“He is staying around. I did some convincing,” Leal said. “I need him; he is brilliant. His energy is so good, and more than anything, he will keep me on my toes.”

Leal said Bessey means business when it comes to basketball.

“I know keeping him around makes my job even harder,” Leal said. “I need him for one more year just to call me every morning and make sure I am doing everything I need to be doing to stay busy.

“He goes, ‘I will not make your job any easier for you like a normal assistant coach. I am here to challenge you.’”

As a former Beavers player, Leal has experienced Bessey’s value to a team.

“Pay that man and sign him up,” Leal said. “He is so respected from high school coaches across the state. I was lucky enough to play for him, so I want to make sure as many players as possible continue to have that type of experience to play for him as well because he impacts lives in a very positive way.”

Since being hired to coach at his alma mater last month, Leal has gotten to work adding some of Maine’s top high school players. The new coach noted that there are plenty of solid players left over from Meader’s recruiting efforts.

“We just have good people in the program already,” Leal said.”It wasn’t much on my part. It was really just pitching our guys and the recruits we were looking at liked the players we have. It is easy when you have terrific players already in the program.”

Leal is also counting on graduates to advocate for UMF and the men’s basketball program to help with his staff’s recruiting efforts.

Among those who have officially committed to play for the Beavers is Zach Maturo, a multi-sport standout at Bonny Eagle High School. Maturo was one of Maine’s top football and basketball players his senior year. He led the Scots to the Class A football state title and was named the Gatorade Maine Football Player of the Year. He also was a finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy. This past winter, Maturo was a finalist for the Mr. Maine Basketball award.

Edward Little’s Austin Brown is also heading to UMF. Brown, who was named the Sun Journal Player of the Year, played a key role on each of the Red Eddies’ recent Class AA state championship teams, as a sophomore in 2018 and this winter as a senior.

“He is outstanding, and he is a guy who kind of does a little bit of everything and very unselfish,” Leal said. “He is going to be a guard. I mean him and Zach Maturo, they’ve played some point, but they can also shoot the ball, so I would just call them guards, and they are all going to be interchangeable.”

Brian Austin, who had a stellar career at Scarborough High School, is also on his way to Farmington.

Austin Brown of Edward Little High School goes for a layup while being defended by Wani Donato of Portland during the first half of a Class AA North quarterfinal in Auburn in February. Brown, the 2019-20 Sun Journal Player of the Year, has committed to play basketball at the University of Maine at Farmington. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“He is an excellent shooter. He averaged 24 per game for Scarborough this year,” Leal said.

Also jumping aboard is transfer Ian McIntyre.

“Ian McIntyre is transferring in as an early-childhood major,” Leal said. “He was a 2018 graduate at Hampden Academy, so he is going to come in as a freshman. He is a forward, about 6-foot-5 and had an excellent high school career, very coachable. All of his coaches and teammates speak highly of him.”

Leal said McIntyre’s size means the coach will “ask a lot from him.”

Colby Pomeroy, a three-sport athlete from Winslow, was UMF’s first to commit in January, well before Leal took over the head coaching job.

The newcomers are joining a program that won a program-record 22 games last season. A handful of key seniors have graduated but, Leal said, thare are also some talented players returning next year.

“We have a lot talent coming back, no doubt about it,” Leal said. “Excellent people, too, who want to put in the work to be really good.”

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