It didn’t take much for Dustin Cole to realize where he wanted to play college basketball: All he needed to do was visit Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H.
Cole did that last weekend. As he was leaving, he knew his search was over.
“Right when I left, I felt that I wanted to go there,” said Cole. “I just liked everything about it.”
So Monday night, Cole, a 5-foot-9 guard and one of the most dynamic players to come out of Maine in a long time, verbally committed to play for the Ravens, one of the top NCAA Division II programs in New England. Coached by David Chadbourne, the former Wells High and St. Joseph’s College star, Franklin Pierce advanced to the Division II Elite Eight last year.
Cole will enter his senior season at Bonny Eagle High with 1,280 career points and much less pressure. “Definitely,” he said. “My goal now is to win a Gold Ball.”
The Scots have lost in the Western Class A final each of Cole’s first three seasons. Last winter he averaged 28.2 points, and is a three-time all-SMAA first-team selection.
“As far as Maine basketball goes, he is as tough a guard as I’ve ever seen or coached,” said Phil Bourassa, his coach at Bonny Eagle. “I think in a sense he’s almost unguardable. When he’s on, that’s especially true. You double-team him and he has great vision to see the whole court. You play zone against him and he can shoot over it.
“He’s an incredible free-throw shooter. He may be just a 5-9 little guy but it’s pretty remarkable some of the stuff he does.”
Cole has improved every year. He averaged 15 points as a freshman, 17 as a sophomore. Bourassa also cited improvement in Cole’s defense, rebounding and knowledge of the game.
He had been recruited by several Division I schools, including Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Columbia and Wagner. According to Mike Woodbury, Cole’s AAU coach, “it came down to Vermont, Bentley and Franklin Pierce.”
Woodbury, who has coached Cole since the fourth grade, said Franklin Pierce offers everything Cole was looking for: good academics, a small rural setting and a strong basketball program. The Ravens won 24 games last year and were the top seed in the NCAA Division II East Regional each of the last two years.
“It’s really perfect for him,” said Woodbury. “He’s coming from Maine and he’s going to a similar setting. We believe he can play right away there and make a name for himself. There are no negatives.”
Cole said he never expected basketball to carry him so far. “I just kept working at it,” he said.
And he knows he has more to do.
“I need to work on being a more consistent scorer,” he said. “And I need to get my strength up.”
Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at [email protected]