BIDDEFORD —Claire Ramonas sat on the Regis College bench, a frustrated and angry look smoldering on her face as she stared straight ahead. Assistant coach Alyssa Whitney sat to Ramonas’ right, talking, gesturing, trying to get Ramonas back in a good frame of mind.
Ramonas, the former Deering High standout, is a freshman for the Pride. Last Thursday she returned to Maine to play against the University of New England and had a fabulous first half. Playing all but 25 seconds, she scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds, made one steal and forced another.
Those would be her only points and rebounds of the game. Ramonas struggled in the second half, rushing things, turning the ball over. She finished with eight turnovers, three on traveling calls, two others on offensive charges.
All in all, a typical freshman night, right?
Not really. “That’s not like Claire,” said Julie Plant, the Regis coach and former USM star, while looking at the stat sheet.
The 5-foot-10 Ramonas, who helped Deering to two Class A state championships, has been one of the top players for the Pride (10-9).
She’s second on the team in points per game (10.4), rebounds (6.6), steals (33) and blocked shots (12). She leads Regis in field-goal percentage (47.1) and, yes, turnovers (70).
“I knew she would be an immediate impact player,” said Plant. “She’s so strong, she can drive, she can handle the ball, she can finish with either her right (hand) or left.
“And she’s still figuring it out, which is kind of scary. I don’t think she’s played her best yet. She’s still learning to play at the college level. I think she’ll get better as she continues to work hard. And I know she’ll continue to work hard.”
After meeting with family members and friends in the hallway behind the court, Ramonas talked about the game, her season and college basketball in general.
“I got frustrated,” Ramonas said of her second-half performance.
“My shots weren’t falling, I was getting fouls called and I was turning the ball over, making poor decisions. I think I let that get the best of me and it affected me and how I played.”
Plant recognized this, and that’s why she sat Ramonas for about four minutes in the second half of a tight game that UNE won, 57-48. She wanted Whitney to get Ramonas to re-focus.
“She’s been struggling with her footwork, getting some traveling calls,” said Plant. “She’s been working on it, but sometimes she’s almost too hard on herself. She gets in her own head.
“We’re coaching her. She’s going to make mistakes, but she’s such a great kid and has a good work ethic that she’s going to continue to improve throughout her career. She’s going to be a dominant player.”
Ramonas is not only adjusting to college basketball, but to a new position. At Deering, she was primarily the center, though she often received the ball in the high post. At Regis, she plays mainly on the wing, though there are times when she does play in the middle when Sarah McNult needs a breather.
She’s learning to face the basket more, meaning she has to be able to make good decisions. She has to know when to pass, when to drive and when to shoot. She also needs to improve her outside shot, which would open the driving lanes even more for her. And she is defending guards, such as UNE’s Kelley Paradis, who scored 14 points on Ramonas in the second half.
But her college education is about more than just the game strategies.
“The mental aspect and the quickness, the strength, everything,” she said. “Jumping from high school to college is a completely different game. It’s just so much more pressure on you, so much more on your body, so much more mentally, and you just have to focus and get off a three-hour bus ride and play.”
She loves Regis, the campus in Weston, Mass., its academics — she is studying elementary education and hopes one day to be a teacher/coach — and her teammates, and credits them with much of her success.
“I think the captains and the rest of the upperclassmen on the team, as well as the whole coaching staff, have taken me under their wings and told me where to go, what to do,” said Ramonas.
“They’ve helped me on and off the court and helped me learn all the plays and told me what the whole college basketball experience is about. I think that’s why I’ve been successful.”
Ramonas didn’t decide on Regis until last May – very late in the recruiting process. She wanted to make sure she was making the right decision.
Plant, who had been recruiting Ramonas since her junior season at Deering, called it a very long process.
“She made me work,” said Plant. “But it was worth it.”
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: email@example.com