December 13, 2012

College Connections: Maine players find their home with Bentley men's basketball

Tyler McFarland of Camden Hills joins players from Thornton Academy, Wells and South Portland on the team.

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

When Tyler McFarland describes his first nine games with the Bentley University men's basketball team, it sounds like the rugged 6-foot-5 freshman from Rockport (Camden Hills/Cushing Academy) is struggling mightily.

click image to enlarge

Tyler McFarland, who played for Camden Hills, believes he has to improve but statistics show he’s having a strong freshman year at Bentley.

Bentley College Photo

"There isn't one area where I'm real strong right now," McFarland said Tuesday. "It's been a challenge. I'm playing against older, experienced, strong forwards. They've all been in the league and know how to win games and be successful.

"Right now I'm working on attaining a certain assertiveness as well as decision-making skill on offense. I feel like at times I'm holding our offense back. I've turned the ball over too much this year and I need to work on cutting down those turnovers."

The truth is he's already become a go-to force for the young Falcons (5-4).

McFarland leads the team in scoring (14.3 ppg), rebounding (8.0), free-throw percentage (82.8 percent), minutes played and blocks. He has three double-doubles.

He has earned two of the past three conference Rookie of the Week honors, the second coming on the heels of a 22-point, 9-of-13 shooting effort Saturday against Stonehill that included his first dunk and his first collegiate 3-pointer.

"He's the real deal, on the court and off the court," Bentley Coach Jay Lawson said. "The kid's got a chance to have a real exceptional career at this level."

Bentley is one of the premier programs in New England regardless of division. Lawson, in his 22nd year, has 17 straight winning seasons. Prior to last year's 15-12 record, the Falcons had gone to the NCAA tournament seven straight seasons, winning or sharing the conference title six times. Included were consecutive 32-1 and 34-1 seasons.

Lawson said one reason for Bentley's success is that in most seasons he doesn't need to count on freshmen. Not so this year.

"This is the youngest team we've had in 30 years," Lawson said.

Former Maine high school stars have been the beneficiary of the youth movement.

McFarland has been joined in the starting lineup each night by freshman 6-foot-6 guard Alex Furness of Wells (7.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg). Sophomore forward Andrew Shaw of Saco (Thornton Academy) has become the team's top substitute, and is averaging 6.7 points and 3.6 rebounds. Former Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year Keegan Hyland, a sophomore guard from South Portland, is still recovering from a broken foot.

Shaw was one of the Northeast-10's top 3-point shooters as a freshman but was shooting below 25 percent through eight games. On Saturday he hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in a 17-point effort.

"Shaw, he's coming off the bench for us now but playing more minutes than some starters," Lawson said. "Furness and Shaw are very much big pieces for us. Shaw is a very targeted player based on his (all-rookie) freshman year."

This is not the first time the Maine players have played together. McFarland, Shaw and Furness spent two seasons with MB Nation AAU Basketball Club, coached by Mike Woodbury. McFarland said they would speculate what it might be like to play together in college, never thinking it would actually happen.

"It's pretty exciting to think we all ended up in the same spot," McFarland said.

MEN'S BASKETBALL

Husson University senior Eric Modica of Kittery (Traip Academy) scored 14 points in a recent win against Green Mountain College, adding three rebounds, three assists and a block. The 6-foot-3 guard is leading a balanced scoring effort with 12.3 points per game. Husson (3-3) is off until Dec. 29.

(Continued on page 2)

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