Wednesday, March 12, 2014
PORTLAND - Courtney Anderson's lips formed the words to the University of Maine fight song, sung by players at center court after every women's basketball game. Saturday, there was a lack of gusto.
Courtney Anderson, the only player from Maine playing for the state university, is doing whatever it takes to help the team.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
"It's much easier to sing when we win," said Anderson, the sophomore point guard with the oh-so-visible emotions. Maine didn't win, losing for the eighth time in nine games this season. Rhode Island added to the misery with its 51-38 victory at the Portland Expo.
Understand that Anderson bleeds Maine blue-and-white. She's the 5-foot-6 point guard who always leads her team onto the court. Always the first at the ball rack, usually to distribute basketballs to her teammates before taking one for herself.
She's the lone Mainer on the state university's basketball team. She grew up in Greene and helped Leavitt High beat York in the 2011 Class B state title game. She listened politely to the host of small-college basketball coaches asking her to come play for their programs.
She thanked them and let them down easy. She wanted to play for Maine and if it meant proving herself as an invited walk-on, so be it. If it meant working harder to get minutes of playing time with a strong, international recruiting class this year, she would do that.
Courtney Anderson wasn't going to walk away because people outside the program believed she wasn't good enough. "I love playing for Maine," she said Saturday. "I love seeing the name across my chest. It doesn't matter what my role is or how much playing time I get. Whatever I can do, I'll do."
Saturday she couldn't do much of anything, statistically. Not only is it easier to sing after a win, it's easier to talk, too. In a game where Maine needed scoring from someone, anyone, she was 0-for. From the floor and 3-point range. In 22 minutes she never went to the foul line.
As a team, Maine was 4 of 27 for 14.8 percent from the floor in the first half. No amount of verbal encouragement coming from Anderson could jump-start her teammates. She couldn't jump-start herself.
"We're better than this," said Anderson. Maine is playing better than last year's 8-23 record, say opponents. But the 1-8 record isn't anything to sing about. Maine hasn't had a winning season since it went 20-10 in 2004-05.
New teammates from Germany, Sweden, Finland and Israel can't have perspective between then and now. New teammates from Virginia and Kentucky don't, either. Anderson is the one who understands the Cindy Blodgett-as-player era. The Amy Vachon years. The Heather Ernst years. She wants to be a link to the winning of the past and the program needs that link.
After Anderson's freshman season as an invited walk-on, Coach Richard Barron offered her a basketball scholarship. She called her parents, telling them it was the happiest day of her life. They knew and she knew the scholarship would make her work harder. Relax? Not part of her mindset.
Her mom is Tammy Anair Anderson, the former Winthrop High and University of Southern Maine star point guard, and now the Leavitt High basketball coach. Her father is Mark Anderson, a former football player who served in the Marine Corps. Courtney Anderson is the oldest of three children. Younger sister Kristen will play basketball at the University of New Hampshire next year. Younger brother Austin is a sophomore on the Leavitt boys' team. All three are can-do kids.
"I expect to work harder because (my teammates) are more talented than me. I understand that."
She took a weighted vest on the road this summer when she helped her mother coach a basketball club. Mother and daughter found places to work out. For Courtney, pull-ups were always part of the regimen.
If you still don't understand what makes Anderson go, consider this: Mom and dad wanted to buy her a used BMW to get her from Greene to Orono and back again safely. Anderson quashed that quickly.
BMW? No way. Too pretentious. After negotiations, she agreed to a used Subaru.
Anderson was in Barron's starting lineup Saturday. Not as window-dressing. Barron wasn't playing to the small-ish crowd of about 450.
"She's still trying to figure out what her role is, how she can best help the team," said Barron.
"Should she score more or get her teammates more involved? She's not the only variable on this team. We're so young, so new to each other. It's still hard for the players to measure themselves.
"We're playing better. It's coming."
So will the words to the fight song. With gusto.
Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: