WALTHAM, Mass. — George Andrew Shaw of Saco, Maine, thinks about how unlikely it is that he and his fellow Mainers – Alex Furness of Wells, Tyler McFarland of Rockport and Keegan Hyland of South Portland – are all playing basketball together at Bentley University.
“Going back to our freshman year in high school, and Keegan was a sophomore, if anybody had said we were all going to be on the same Division II team you would have said they were crazy,” said Shaw, a 6-foot-5 junior forward who played at Thornton Academy.
“Keegan was going high D-I and I might not have gone anywhere. I wasn’t even that highly touted yet, and Alex wasn’t either and Tyler was supposed to go (Division I).”
Their paths to Bentley, a top-tier program in the highly competitive Northeast-10 Conference, were varied but now each is a major contributor for the Falcons, who are 14-7 overall and 8-7 in the NE-10 entering Thursday night’s game at Assumption.
“It’s not necessarily that we all made it to this level, it’s that all four of us are on the same team. That’s the interesting part,” said Furness, a 6-5 guard.
“We like that we’re from Maine. I think Mainers are pretty proud in general,” Hyland said.
“A big part of it is, it’s just fun to play with guys you’ve been friends with,” said McFarland, a 6-5 forward, and the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. “I’ve known Alex and George since I was in eighth grade and I met Keegan a few summers ago.”
THE ROADS CONVERGED
Bentley Coach Jay Lawson is asked if 10 or 15 years ago his team could have been competitive with four key players hailing from Maine.
He’s quick to point to previous Mainers who have thrived at Bentley. Sam Leclerc of Winthrop led the Falcons in scoring his senior season of 2011-12. Jeff Holmes of Cheverus started every game for the 32-1 team in 2006-07.
“It’s not about Maine. It’s about where are guys good enough to play low-Division I, high Division II, and academically can get into a school like this,” Lawson said. “Now, I will say this. The ugliness of AAU hasn’t caught up to Maine: the repeating of grades, and reclassifying, and switching to private schools. These four kids are much more grounded. Their families have their acts together and all four of them are really good students.”
They also are getting it done on the court, averaging a combined 50.4 points.
Shaw came first and his route to Bentley was the most direct. After four years at Thornton Academy, Shaw was offered a scholarship. His father, Jeff, is a graduate of Bentley. There was no equivocating.
Shaw, McFarland and Furness played together on the Portland-based MB Nation AAU team as members of the class of 2011.
McFarland was the prize Lawson courted hardest. A rugged scorer from Rockport, McFarland led Camden Hills to state Class B championships in 2009 and 2011.
McFarland opted to do a postgraduate year at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., hoping a Division I offer would follow.
But he and Bentley continued to have a relationship and finally the well-respected business school won out.
Furness also did a postgrad year, teaming with McFarland at Cushing Academy after helping Cheverus win the 2010 Class A title as a junior and returning to his hometown Wells High for his senior season.
McFarland already had committed to Bentley when Lawson offered Furness a scholarship.
“It was nice that we had Tyler and Andrew already (when recruiting Furness), and certainly it helped having all three of them when Keegan decided to switch schools,” Lawson said.
Hyland’s cross-country basketball sojourn reads like a Greek tragedy. South Portland High’s all-time leading scorer was legendary for making 1,000 practice shots and was the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior. He missed most of his senior season due to injury but still earned a scholarship to join Gonzaga’s high-profile Division I program.
Hyland went to Gonzaga but never played due to injuries. He returned to New England, went briefly to Vermont, then transferred to Fairfield, where he sat a year due to NCAA rules.
Hyland transferred to Bentley prior to the 2012-13 season only to break his foot and miss the entire season.
Three years out of high school and he was still waiting to play his first college game.
“Numerous times these guys helped me out. They knew me in high school, what I’d been through, so they kind of knew my story more than other guys. They were real supportive all last year,” Hyland said.
Shaw also was dealing with an injury, breaking his collarbone a third of the way through the season.
“I think Keegan and I helped each other,” Shaw said.
EACH IS A CONTRIBUTOR
In a recent 95-87 win against Saint Rose, the Maine Four figured prominently and in typical fashion.
McFarland (team-best 19.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game) led with 25 points, scoring from all over the court. He started the game showing off his 46 percent shooting from 3-point range. Later he returned to the inside game, using a quick first step and smooth ball skills to set up his shots.
“He’s clearly one of the best forwards in our league right now,” Lawson said. “He never took a 3 at Camden Hills and for a while he was leading our league in 3-point percentage.”
Shaw, one of the team’s 3-point shooters, made 4 of 8 from behind the line in scoring 16 points while keeping the ball moving both in transition and in the half court.
“He’s a real special shooter for a front-court player,” Lawson said.
Furness essentially hits his averages with 11 points (10.5 per game) and four rebounds (4.6). His eight assists to three turnovers, comparable to his season assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.2-to-1, belies the fact that it is the slender 6-5 guard’s first season as a point guard.
“His development is critical for us the rest of this year and next year,” Lawson said.
Hyland (9.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), who missed nine games this year due to mononucleosis, came off the bench for nine points and a team-high nine rebounds in 24 minutes of action with two assists and two steals. His fourth offensive rebound of the game led to his own game-clinching basket with an assist from Furness.
“He still is (a Division I talent). He’s just rusty right now,” Lawson said. “He has great maturity as a young man but (on the court) he’s still a freshman.”
Four separate paths led four talented Mainers to the same place.
They are having fun and winning games.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: