BIDDEFORD — Seldom has Meghan Gribbin found a basketball stage too big for her game.
When she needed 21 points to reach 1,000 in her high school career, she gave an adoring Windham High crowd a 36-point effort.
One year later, the 2012 Maine Gatorade Player of the Year was on the NCAA stage as the freshman point guard for the University of New England women’s basketball team. Gribbin was a picture of calm, knocking down all eight of her free throws en route to an 11-point, nine-assist effort in a 67-58 win.
This year the pass-first 5-foot-5 point guard with an easy smile and quick hands is a sophomore.
The stage isn’t getting any bigger. The difference is this year she’s being asked to command it more.
“Coach (Anthony Ewing) has from day one told me he wants me to be the floor general and I don’t really have a choice being the point guard,” said Gribbin before Wednesday night’s practice. “Not just the talking but he wants me to step up more with the scoring. Even though I love passing he wants me to shoot more.”
The Nor’easters went 25-5 last season with Gribbin starting every game at the point, averaging 7.2 points and 4.0 assists.
“She had the best assist-to-turnover ratio of any freshman I’ve ever had,” Ewing said, pointing to her 2-to-1 margin.
But the 2012-13 team was unquestionably Beth Suggs’ team. The three-year starter from Morse High was the leading scorer, leading rebounder, best post defender and loudest voice on a team that routinely started three freshmen and a sophomore around her.
“She was basically everything,” Gribbin said of Suggs.
No one, however, is expecting Suggs’ departure to signal a drop-off in team performance.
“The goals are to do better than last year,” Ewing said. “They want to go back to the NCAA tournament and to go further. It’s their identity and their culture now.”
Gribbin, 19, said in high school she always felt a little uncomfortable trying to tell teammates what to do and a bit self-conscious when she was scoring 20.4 points per game as a senior.
“I never wanted to hurt people’s feelings but Coach (Ewing) is like, ‘that’s what they want you to do. They want you to tell them where to go. They want you to be the leader and set people up.’ It’s coming more natural than it did in high school, I feel,” Gribbin said.
“I used to be so shy on the court and I didn’t like taking over but ever since last year, I know I have to now.”
UNE sophomore Lauren Hayden, a forward who loves to drive to the basket, said a more forceful Gribbin will help the team.
“Hopefully she will look at the basket a little more. Once her shots start falling it will open up her passing,” Hayden said. “Then she can go back to what she likes to do, which is pass.”
Now it’s up to young players like Gribbin, Hayden, and leading returning scorer and junior forward Kelly Coleman.
“They just have a good culture of winning here. You have to win. You have to be successful and everybody buys into it here,” Gribbin said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: