STANDISH — The Bonny Eagle High parking lot is filling up fast on this Tuesday night. It can mean only one thing: The boys’ basketball team and its standout guard, Dustin Cole, are in action.
An hour and 45 minutes before thte opening tip, one side of the parking lot is nearly full.
“This is typical,” said Kyle Hodsdon, the athletic director. “It doesn’t matter what night, who the opponent is or the weather, people have followed this group of players for the last few years.”
And Cole is the star attraction.
Undersized at 5-foot-9, Cole is not afraid to take the ball inside. He gets to the basket with his assortment of moves, quickness and jumping ability. He can score in a variety of ways with his ballhandling creating openings. But best of all, he’s unselfish and looks to set up teammates for baskets. Cole has improved his range and shot selection each season. He can dunk.
Against Windham that night, Cole, 17, made a couple of 3-pointers from well behind the arc. One time he looked trapped in the corner with two defenders on him. One spin move off the dribble and Cole had a clear path to the basket. Bonny Eagle fans have come to love his dynamic play.
Packed gyms in small towns throughout the state have long been part of the lore of Maine high school basketball. The chance to watch the high-scoring guard or gunner have filled gyms in such places as Bath, Rumford, Westbrook, Millinocket, Van Buren, Waldoboro and other places through the years.
The fans of Buxton, Standish, Hollis and Limington, the towns Bonny Eagle draws from, now flock to watch this unassuming player put on a show.
His AAU coach, Mike Woodbury of MB Nation, said if you lined up Cole with other high school students against a wall and were asked to pick out the 28.5-point per game scorer, you would be hard-pressed.
“He looks like your typical high school student,” said Woodbury.
That is, until he has a basketball in his hands.
SMAA opponents must wonder how this baby-faced junior can do some of the things he does. He’s been doing it for the past three seasons, so well that Cole blew past 1,000 career points Friday night with 50 against Kennebunk. He scored a then career-high 42 points earlier in the season. On Monday, Cole scored 28 points in an 82-77 loss to South Portland in double overtime.
Cole has a strong supporting cast with seniors C.J. Autry and Jon Thomas, and sophomore Ben Malloy. With the now-graduated Cole Libby, the Scots lost to Deering, the eventual state champion, on a last-second shot for the Western Class A championship last season.
Mike Morong, who has taught social studies at Bonny Eagle Middle School for 37 years, keeps the scorebook at home games. He has the unofficial title of “Mr. Bonny Eagle.” Morong attends every basketball and football game, home and away.
He still gets a chuckle, remembering Cole’s first game at Deering.
“They were wondering who this little kid was,” said Morong. “Deering had this vaunted backcourt. Dustin looked like the water boy. He still looks like a kid. He scored seven points and we upset Deering. I think it was the last time Dustin was in single digits.”
Morong said the community always has supported the high school basketball team but admits there’s a little more buzz with this team.
“They’re fun to watch,” said Morong. “They don’t have any big guys (Autry is the tallest starter at 6-foot-2). They shoot the 3-pointer and all the players get along. I’ve seen a lot of players and Dustin’s the most exciting of any.
“Every game, Dustin is guarded by the other team’s best defensive player, sometimes two. And he’s scored 1,000 points in three seasons in the SMAA. Everyone talks about what a good kid he is. I want to talk about what he isn’t. He isn’t cocky, he isn’t conceited and he isn’t arrogant. Dustin is the complete package because he’s a good kid, a good athlete and a good student.”
And the Scots (10-3), ranked fourth in Western Class A, are winning.
Before the South Portland game, their only losses were both by three points: Portland 55-52 on Dec. 18, and Westbrook 53-50 on Jan. 8.
Bonny Eagle gained a measure of revenge against Deering with a 45-44 victory Dec. 29.
The Scots have five games remaining in the regular season.
Cole attracts fans of all ages, including retirees with no connection to the school.
“The younger kids love him because not only is he fun to watch, he spends a lot of time with them,” said Coach Phil Bourassa.
“Dustin is one of our youth league coaches. It’s like when you were younger and you went to the high school games dreaming of the day you would be playing for the varsity. Dustin has that affect on them.”
Cole shows up at youth games because players ask him.
Recently, he and Ben Malloy were at the Portland Boys’ Club at 9:30 on a Saturday morning to watch an MB Nation third- and fourth-grade game after Bonny Eagle had played the night before.
“He’s an icon with the kids,” said Woodbury.
Hodsdon said a sixth-grade teacher told him that one of her students had written a term paper comparing Cole to an NBA standout, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“That’s the impression he’s making with the kids in this district,” said Hodsdon. “Dustin is a great role model. His demeanor and attitude around school are phenomenal.”
Cole started the Windham game 40 points away from 1,000. Since he had scored 42 points earlier, there were some in the crowd who thought he might have a chance. He scored 28 points.
“Dustin was probaby the only one in the gym not thinking about scoring 40 points for his 1,000th,” said Hodsdon.
Cole started playing basketball in the second grade.
By the fifth grade, he had joined Woodbury’s AAU program. From a modest beginning, MB Nation has grown to a combined 300 kids in all age groups.
With high school and AAU, Cole plays year-round.
“He takes a break from basketball the last three weeks in August and that’s it,” said Dan Cole, his father.
Cole coached his son until he reached high school.
“I could tell he was a little better athlete than the other kids his age when he started,” said his father.
“He obviously didn’t have the basketball skills yet. He developed them in AAU. His basketball has made him well-known in the community, but the comments I get mostly about him are the type of kid he is.”
The Bonny Eagle gym has bleachers on one side. The capacity is 1,200 and they quickly fill up.
“If we had bleachers on both sides, we could fill them,” said Bourassa.
“You talk Bonny Eagle basketball and he’s the name that comes up,” said Mike Delcourt, 67, of Standish. “He’s fun to watch. My wife isn’t interested in basketball but she always asks how Dustin does.”
Don Marean of Hollis and Mike Waterman of Buxton are in the 60-plus age group, like Delcourt. They rarely miss a game.
“Just the effort it takes to come to a game makes it worth it,” said Marean, who serves in the state legislature.
“Dustin Cole is very well-mannered,” added Waterman. “He makes sure his teammates get their shots. If you go to the store after a game, people are talking about what Dustin and the team did last night.”
With every star player, there’s always the question whether they’ll stick around for four seasons or choose to play their senior year at a prep school. Cole may play a postgraduate year at a prep school to get ready for college basketball, but as for leaving Bonny Eagle early, his father said there’s no chance.
That’s a season and a half remaining of Cole highlights.
“They’ve had Dustin leaving since his freshman year,” said Morong. “He loves playing for Phil Bourassa too much to leave.”
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: