BANGOR – Mt. Desert Island point guard Jon Phelps hit a 3-pointer with just over seven minutes left against John Bapst at the Bangor Auditorium. It gave the Trojans a lead they would not relinquish, and MDI won its first game of the young season.
A few seconds after that basket, a timeout was called, and Phelps did what he does every timeout — get face to face with Coach Justin Norwood in the MDI huddle.
Phelps is hearing impaired and must lip-read his coach.
“That’s the rule, in the game, in every practice,” says Norwood, “in the huddle he’s got to be in front of me.”
Norwood admits communication with his point guard is a constant work in progress. “We also have various hand signs for offensive and defensive sets, like X and red and blue. We keep adding new ways to communicate.”
Phelps can hear only loud noises. “I can hear the whistle, a horn, people yelling. But trying to hear someone from the side, it’s hard.”
The rules of communication with coaches are nothing new for Phelps, a junior. He’s a shortstop, outfielder and pitcher for the baseball team that won 11 games in the spring. This fall, he quarterbacked the football team to a 4-4 record in the regular season before losing a playoff thriller against eventual state champ Mt. Blue, 14-13.
“The communication in football is not as hard as basketball,” says Phelps. “We use numbers on a wristband in the huddle. Baseball is no problem. Basketball communication is harder because of the noise.”
“If the other team decides to go from zone to man-to-man, it’s hard because he can’t stop and look at me,” says Norwood. “But he makes up for it because he so much understands sports. He really does know where he’s supposed to be, most of the time.”
His stats against John Bapst show just that: Seven points, four assists, two steals and two rebounds while playing all 32 minutes of the 43-37 victory..
Phelps doesn’t think the hearing impairment is much of an issue because he’s dealt with it all his life. Plus, he comes from a basketball-playing family. His sister Megan is the leading scorer for Bowdoin College as a sophomore after scoring 1,000 points at MDI. Another sister, Sarah, plays for MDI’s girls team, and a younger brother plays basketball, too.
For Norwood, who played for MDI and came back six years ago to coach the Trojans, what a difference a year makes. Phelps was a valuable guy coming off the bench last year while seniors Nick Shaw and Caleb MacDonald ran the show. The Trojans went undefeated in the regular season and finished as Eastern Class B runner-up.
Now Phelps is the floor leader. Norwood is excited about what he can do over the next two years.
“As a phys-ed teacher, I know all about the transfer of understanding of spacing and movements that some kids have. It’s a special thing. Jon has that.”
STILL ROLLING: Fresh off last year’s undefeated run to a Class B state title, the Presque Isle girls have outscored their opponents 235-85 in the first three games.
FIRST TIMER: Houlton’s Jimmy Fitzpatrick became the first Shiretowner to be named an all-New England player at the Maine Soccer Coaches banquet. He scored 39 goals, and Houlton won its first state title.