When Dustin Cole went to youth basketball games in the school district, the kids would surround him asking for autographs. The star player had an effect on others as well. Adults who hadn’t been to a Bonny Eagle game in years were regulars. Former players showed up.

In four seasons, Cole’s overall skill and exciting style made Scots games must-see events.

“He certainly brought a lot of pride to the school,” said Mike Morong, a teacher at Bonny Eagle Middle School and the team’s scorekeeper.

“He’s become the person all our young kids who love basketball strive to become. Dustin has had an effect on basketball in general and he’s done it with class.”

In four seasons, the 5-foot-9 guard became the all-time leading scorer in the Class A Southern Maine Activities Association, arguably the top league in the state, with 1,812 points.

With Cole, the Scots played in four straight Western Maine Class A finals. They came up short in each one as Bonny Eagle lost to taller opponents in close games. Cole averaged 24.5 points to win his second straight SMAA scoring title. With Cole, the Scots were 70-14 over four seasons.

“It was tough,” said Cole of losing in the finals. “At least we can say we got there four years in a row.”

Cole is the Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald player of the year. Last month he was named the state’s Mr. Basketball by the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches.

During the youth games, Cole and his teammates helped coach and officiate on Saturdays. It was clear who the star attraction was.

“He’s the perfect role model and I mean it in every sense of the word perfect,” said Coach Phil Bourassa. “He’s the best kind of kid and he’s so coachable. He’s been such a pleasure to be around. Dustin never lost control and was a cool-headed kid. I could learn from that.”

Cole is still doing his early-morning workouts. On a recent school day, Cole arrived at 6 a.m. and spent an hour shooting and dribbling at the high school gym. He also lifted weights.

“Before the season I went three days a week before school, mostly at the middle school, and worked out for 45 minutes,” said Cole. “I would get there around 6 a.m. and worked out with one of my teammates, Will Myrick.”

Since grammar school, Cole also developed his game playing AAU basketball for Coach Mike Woodbury.

Cole will play basketball on scholarship at Division II Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H. At 155 pounds he knows he’s going to have to put on a few more pounds of muscle. This spring, Cole is playing on a men’s league team in Rumford.

What stood out for him playing for Bonny Eagle?

“I’m definitely going to remember the community, Coach Bourassa and all the things he did for me,” said Cole.

“My teammates and the teams, it’s been a great experience. Everything about it – really, it was a great time. This year the crowds home and away just kept growing. It was a great atmosphere to play in.”

Being the center of attention and a marked man, so to speak, didn’t bother him.

“That was fun, for sure. I just did what I had to do,” he said.

His role changed slightly over four seasons.

As a freshman, Cole played with Steve Simonds, a senior.

“I was more of an assist man that season and also my sophomore year,” said Cole. “I had to score more my junior and senior years.”

Cole became the leader of the team, not just because he scored the most points but in the way he conducted himself.

“My first year it really wasn’t my team, but I followed the lead of others and eventually it became my team,” he said.

Cole played with Simonds one year, Cole Libby two years, and three years with C.J. Autry, Jon Thomas and Ben Malloy.

“Steve Simonds was good at bringing Dustin into the team and making him feel comfortable,” said Bourassa.

“He knew Dustin was important. Dustin scored more points his junior year. This season we asked him to cut it down a little because we had a couple of guys who could shoot and were coming into their own. Kids loved playing with him because he distributed the ball. It was remarkable watching him score. When he caught fire, he caught fire. His teammates did a good job of not standing around and watching him. That’s why we were successful.”

Late in close games, Cole was skilled at getting to the basket and drawing fouls.

Cole shot 81.5 percent from the line, which ranked fourth in the league. But no player was close to Cole in the number of free throws taken (157) and made (128). He was able to drive and challenge the big men his last two years because he had become stronger. He led the SMAA in assists (7.8 per game) and was fifth in steals (3.3 per game).

And Cole has accomplished all he has with a blurry right eye, a condition he has had since birth.

“The doctor said my eye wasn’t correctable,” said Cole.

“I wore glasses in the second and third grades. Then I switched to contacts. I was supposed to wear an eye patch but I was stubborn. I don’t wear contacts anymore. My vision in my left eye is perfect. I’ve taken enough shots that I’ve compensated. The basketball hoop doesn’t move. I knew I loved basketball in the sixth grade and wanted to keep playing it.”

Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter:TomChardPPH