AUBURN — New Zealander Boston Caldwell answers to the first name of a city that has been home to the Celtics since 1946. 

Caldwell’s father, Colin, an ardent Celts fan, gave Caldwell his first name shortly after his son’s arrival in the land down under. The first-name thing just might explain why he travelled over 9,000 miles from Auckland, New Zealand, to study and play men’s basketball for Central Maine Community College in Maine.

The 6-foot-6 Caldwell, a freshman forward averaging 12 points per game, is not the only “Kiwi” — a nickname of affection for New Zealanders — playing hoops for the Mustangs (9-1, 5-0 in Yankee Small College Conference play).

Sophomore Josh Thomson, who played for the Mustangs in 2019, returned this season to complete his education as a business major after he left the states when COVID-19 emerged. The Christchurch, New Zealand native, stands 6-foot-5 and plays center. He graduates in May.

Caldwell stumbled upon CMCC through a scouting service and then decided to attend the community college.

“I was going through this ad in the NCSA (National Collegiate Scouting Association) and I saw the Mustangs’ profile and I reached out to coach (Dave Gonyea), and then coach got kind of connected,” Caldwell said.


After speaking with Gonyea and learning more about the Mustangs, Caldwell said the CMCC men’s version of basketball matched his style of play.

“I heard that (CMCC) has a really good relationship with players here … “ Caldwell said. “Once I reached out to coach, we started getting to know each other … and here I am. I just felt like I wanted to be a part of the family environment, so that went toward my decision coming here.”

Caldwell said the 24-hour journey to New England has been worth it.

“We get to play basketball all day, get to workouts,” he said. “I like to be around my teammates. That is one thing I noticed is that my teammates are all brothers — like, I felt like I have known them my whole life. I felt like I have grown up here. We do everything together. It is pretty cool to be part of.”

Caldwell appreciates that he is looked after by his teammates and the coaching staff. Besides the camaraderie, he pointed out that there are no CMCC players who are selfish with the ball.

“It is such a good style of play. The coach knows what he is doing,” he said. “We have a really good coaching staff — easy to talk to, always willing to help.”


Rugby is the No. 1 sport in New Zealand, but Caldwell said basketball’s popularity increases each year and is the No. 2 sport in the nation.

“I was lucky enough to be part of a (semi-pro) team straight out of high school, so I played for the Auckland Tuataras,” he said. “I learned from a lot of veterans, all the professional guys and top American players.”

Caldwell, 19, said America’s brand of basketball is different from New Zealand’s style of play.

CMCC’s Boston Caldwell drives to the basket past Albany’s Nathan Lynes during Friday’s game at Kirk Hall in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“(It is) definitely a lot faster and definitely a lot more physical,” he said. “I am still trying to adjust to the physicality.”

Caldwell describes himself as a player who is lucky to be tall and possess high basketball I.Q.

For Thomson (two points, 2.8 rebounds per game), playing for the Mustangs is like tying up a loose end. 


“So this is a funny story,” Thompson said. “I actually played here in 2019 before COVID-19. Then COVID actually hit. We did really well, we only lost one game. COVID hit and I went back home. I actually found a contract to play (basketball) in Australia for a year, which was really neat because they didn’t have COVID where I was playing so I could play without restrictions and all that.

“But then coach (Gonyea) gave me a call last year and asked me if I wanted to play, so I said, ‘Yeah, of course. I love it here.’ I had already been here and I know the system. Me and Dave Gonyea really got along and he does a really great job here.”

Thomson said that his return also weighed in Caldwell’s decision to attend CMCC.

Sophomore Josh Thomson is one of two New Zealand natives on the CMCC men’s basketball team. RAM Sports Photography

“He saw that I was already playing here — a fellow New Zealander — so he thought he (would send) coach an email,” Thomson said. “I heard of (Caldwell) from back home, but I didn’t know much about him, but him and me got talking pretty quick and he realized this was the place he wanted to go.”

Thomson’s brother, Kane, also made the trip to CMCC, but decided to leave for personal matters and returned to New Zealand.

Josh sees his role as an opportunity to mentor the younger players on the team. 


“I am 21, which is little bit older than a lot of the other guys coming out of high school,” Thomson said, “so just for me to be able to (have) a leadership role (is an opportunity help) show these guys what they should be doing …”

Thomson said he has watched Boston learn to deal with a more physical game of basketball.

“I am a bit of bigger fellow than he is, so physicality is not something I have to worry about too much, but I guess the pace of the game is a little bit different, too,” Thomson said. “We play a very European style of basketball — very fundamental, very slow, very structured. Over here, there is a lot of getting up an down.” 


Gonyea is not surprised that CMCC’s pipeline to the land down under — or the rest of the planet for that matter — exists. The Mustangs have had many Australian players over the past several years.

CMCC’s Boston Caldwell, right, defends against Albany’s Abrahan Pogue during a game at Kirk Hall in Auburn on Friday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I probably get each season three to five calls a day from kids who want to play basketball here — a lot of internationals,” the longtime men’s basketball coach and athletic director said. “I want the kids to have fun. I want them to have a good time. I want to enjoy practice and all that. I am not a tyrant, but let’s get business done.”


Gonyea said Caldwell has potential to be a great player.

“(Boston) is gym rat; that helps a lot,” Gonyea said. “Great family, great support. They don’t play defense in Australia or New Zealand like we play here. That has been his toughest adjustment. You know (American) sports transcend the world.”

Gonyea added: “(Caldwell and Thomson) are good team players. Both (Boston and Josh) play well with other kids. Boston shoots it very well. Josh is very smart. He knows what to do and he is very savvy when he gets the ball. Both are easy to coach. We have nobody on this team who is hard to coach. Our kids get along really well.” 

Gonyea remains impressed with athletes who come other countries to study and participate in sport at CMCC.

“How much respect do you have to have for kids whose families trust you enough to send their children around the world to play basketball,” Gonyea said. “I think it is a sign of respect that our program has. I think parents feel comfortable leaving their kids in our hands.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: