Tianna Sugars, who graduated from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in 2016, recently returned to Maine from Scotland, where she spent the winter season playing competitive basketball and coaching youth with the Falkirk Fury. She now plays for the LA Maples, a start-up team in the Women’s American Basketball Association. Submitted photo

AUBURN — According to Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School alum Tianna Sugars, she came late to the sport of basketball. As a child she would shoot hoops with her father Dwaine but her shyness kept her from seeking it out beyond home. That changed in fifth grade when her mother Christina signed her to play on an Oxford Hills basketball travel team, coached by Troy Eastman.

Sugars was hooked on the sport and has not stopped playing since, dribbling and shooting her way through middle school to the girls varsity team at OHCHS and then to Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH, where she majored in sports management.

Since graduating from college, Sugars has been open to any and all opportunities to continue making her mark on basketball. It has taken her as far away as Scotland, where she played professionally for the Falkirk Fury, a basketball club with teams from development to national play, and also worked as a coach to younger players.

After returning from her season abroad, Sugars heard about a new basketball team – the Lewiston-Auburn Maples – from her friend and former summer league teammate Allie Goodman, a start-up team within the Women’s American Basketball Association.

“When I got back from Scotland, Allie called to tell me she had joined the team, that they needed more post players and she would love to play with me again,” Sugars told the Advertiser Democrat. “Then she called the coach (Jim Seavey) and I went to a practice. And all of a sudden, I was on the team!”

The Maples played their inaugural game on July 10, an 83-39 win over the New England Trailblazers from Massachusetts. The Maine team will play other northeast teams during its first season; playoff games may extend to other regions.


With the level of play across the Atlantic not as sophisticated as Sugars was used to she has had to adjust quickly to her old form. She said Scotland’s national teams were not as disciplined with a different style of play as she was used to. Nor were referees as rigid in making their calls. She noted that basic moves that would be penalized stateside, like traveling, go uncalled. Playing against less developed players did not help Sugars up her game on the court. Still, her time in Falkirk helped her further develop her basketball IQ in other ways.

“I coached 14-year-olds in Falkirk,” Sugars said. “It taught me patience and made me a better coach. I had to explain things in different ways. Some of the lingo was different. It made me have to really use the coaching skills I learned in college, explaining a drill step by step, or form of shooting and mechanics. The fundamentals.

Tianna Sugars coached 14-year-old girls in a Scotland basketball club last season. She said her team is excited to know that she talked about them to a U.S. newspaper. “They mean a lot to me and were my favorite part of my experience in Scotland,” she said. “They made it worth it.” Submitted photo

“I was nervous about it, but they loved me. The organization, the team, the parents – they really enjoyed having me as a coach and they wanted me to come back this year. I was planning to go, but then I found opportunities here in America. They really valued me, and needed that hardness on them. I taught them discipline. They weren’t running for a missed foul shot during practices.”

Playing on the semi-professional Maine Maples is one opportunity that beckoned Sugars to stay in Maine this summer season. Another is the Saco Sports Zone, where she is joining her OHCHS coach, Nate Pelletier, to work with developing players on travel teams.

Coach Pelletier expects that his former player will go far playing and coaching basketball.

“Tianna has the ability to make everyone feel welcome on her team.  She understood that it took the collective abilities of her teammates to be successful,” Pelletier told the Advertiser Democrat in an email statement. “She has always wanted to have a career in basketball, whether that was playing or coaching. She has an incredible basketball mind and is a calming influence to her teammates during games. I am super proud of her pursuing her dreams in basketball.”


Sugars is pursuing that dream with the understanding that reaching her goals may require different avenues.

“This is a summer of change for me and my career,” she said. “I had planned on going to Scotland for two years to play and coach. But I’ll stay here between Old Orchard Beach and Lewiston. I’m meeting more people and honestly, expanding my social skills because I’m still shy. As a coach, especially a high profile coach at a division I school or the NBA level, I’m going to need to learn how to talk better to others. I am developing my skills in one way or another.”

In addition to building her coaching resume as she eyes the big leagues, Sugars sees working with younger players as equally important to becoming a coach in the NBA

“It can be scary to work out, especially for younger female athletes. I want the gym to be a safe place for them, for women to know it’s okay to be strong,” she said. “The opportunities for me in basketball are endless. I want to be a change-maker and a leader. To make an impact for kids in the field of basketball.”

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