BATH NATIVE Alex Kee is a senior point guard for the University of Southern Maine men’s basketball squad. He is shown here at the Portland campus.

BATH NATIVE Alex Kee is a senior point guard for the University of Southern Maine men’s basketball squad. He is shown here at the Portland campus.

PORTLAND

The University of Southern Maine men’s basketball team has lofty aspirations for the 2012-13 season and a main “Kee” to that equation is a point guard named Alex.

Alex Wesley Kee is a senior captain for the Huskies, who are sporting a 3-1 record after 70-56 loss at home to St. Joseph’s on Sunday.

George Almasi

George Almasi

In that game, Kee had 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

The Bath native and his mates are now headed to Bowdoin College’s Morrell Gymnasium tonight (5:30 p.m.). The game, by all accounts, should be a raucous affair.

Last winter the Huskies, who were picked eighth (out of eight schools) in the Little East Conference, beat Bowdoin 80-79 (Kee had 15 points) to highlight an 11-14 campaign.

Just last week, the 5-10 guard, a former Morse High School standout under head coach Todd Flaherty, made four free throws in the final 21 seconds of regulation to help USM hold off Bates 71-66.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE point guard Alex Kee of Bath in action.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE point guard Alex Kee of Bath in action.

Last year Kee played in 24 of 25 games with 20 starts, averaging 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 28 minutes played per night.

With the ability to knock down a 3-pointer, Kee was 36.1 percent (30- for-83) from long range for the Huskies. A solid defender, he had a team-leading 46 steals.

Going into this season, Kee had 367 points, 156 rebounds, 93 assists, 62 steals and 41 3-pointers. The 21- year-old also earned USM’s William B. Wise Scholar-Athlete recognition for the 2011-12 academic year.

As a senior at Morse, Kee helped guide the Shipbuilders to a 14-4 record in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and a postseason berth in Eastern Maine Class A.

He had originally set out to play for Thomas College, but after just two games transferred to USM.

“Thomas was just too small for me and I wanted something bigger. I just love it here. I have a lot of friends here and really like the Portland location.”

Going into the season, Kee had some lofty goals.

“I’d like to make an All-Conference team, First Team, Second Team. And, there are All-Defensive teams. I’d like to lead my team in scoring as I am now.”

Head coach Karl Henrikson has let Kee know what is expected. Through four games he is averaging 34 minutes, 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

“He just wants me, when on offense, to keep moving, stay aggressive throughout the entire game because sometimes I have a tendency to be passive a little bit and let the other guys keep scoring. And, I’m playing 30-plus minutes.”

Gaining confidence

“Throughout his career he has gained confidence on the court,” lauded Henrikson, at the helm since 2003. “His ability to concentrate and focus at high speed is what has propelled him to the high level at which he plays. As a junior, Alex played the point guard spot and was both a stabilizing catalyst and a positive influence on the game.”

Kee said he and his teammates never really sat down and discussed team goals, but know what needs to be done.

“We all have an idea of what we want to do. And based on last year, and the other teams losing some of their best players, coming into this season we knew we wanted a home playoff game. They changed the rules so that all the teams (eight) make the playoffs instead of six.

“Which is good because we are a really, really good conference. We were eighth in our conference last year and we still beat Colby, Bates and Bowdoin. We’re a good team. You have to get top four to host a game and that’s our goal.”

The Huskies’ strength?

“Guard play. We have four returning starters, including Mikey Poulin who is coming back from an ACL surgery. Our guards are also the captains with me, Mike and Brandon Tomah. We also have a guy from Detroit (James Odneal) who is 6-6 and can help us out a lot down low.”

Playing the in-state rivals is something that appeals to Kee.

“I look forward to the Maine games the most. I look forward to the St. Joe’s, Bowdoin, Bates, Colby. When you’re growing up, especially in Bath, you’re always hearing, like, Colby is so prestigious. Bowdoin is a nice school and they’re really good at basketball.

“It was nice when they (Polar Bears) came to USM last year and they had their preseason All-American in (Will) Hanley. He’s a great player and they were supposed to kill us, but we ended up beating them. I was the point guard and I hit some big shots down the stretch. It was team win, but I felt like I was a big part of that.”

When facing a team like Bowdoin or Bates, Kee says he has to keep his composure.

“But, you also have to let that natural instinct take over. Let it help you get those loose balls, play a little better defense. Really run on that adrenaline.”

Life of a student/athlete

Kee has also adjusted to the life of a Division III athlete.

“It’s hard, especially for USM students in that we have a split campus. I live here in Portland, but I have to travel to Gorham every day for practice.

“I have to create my schedule around a 3:30 practice which is right in the middle of the day. We travel a lot … by bus. In Division I they may travel by plane, but Division III we don’t always go that far, but like last week we went to Presque Isle, which is a five and a halfhour bus trip … one way. We have to go to Western Conn., which is a six-hour bus trip, one way. We have some trips that suck. I sleep and talk a lot because that’s a great time to get to know your teammates … you make a lot of friends. And playing basketball I made a lot of friends and it’s opened a lot of doors.”

Keeping up with the books also presents problems.

“It’s hard because the other night we got home at 11 o’clock. I’m supposed to be studying on the bus, but it’s hard. There’s a lot of time invested in this sport, a lot of time.”

And, the rewards?

“Personal satisfaction in that I’m representing all the students that go to school here. When I’m walking around the halls and see those students that I’m representing on the court. I like that and USM has been awesome.”

“This year Alex has returned to the off guard where he has distinguished himself as a scorer in our early season games,” added Henrikson.

“He wants to take the big shot and finds a way to get the ball in his hands when it counts and is ready to take any challenge presented.

“A team leader in steals and rebounds over the last two seasons, Alex’s versatility and competitiveness is illustrated on every possession at both ends of the floor. Not only is he an achiever on the court, he has distinguished himself as a student being named a William Wise scholar/athlete for his work in the classroom. He was named a 2012-13 team captain for his leadership and he truly deserves that honor.”

Another plus for being a student/ athlete was a road trip to New Orleans last year on New Year’s Eve.

“That was awesome. We saw some sights, a live band, watched the ball drop. We checked out places and took the tour down Bourbon Street … ate a lot of Louisiana food. Great food! Didn’t like the flights, but…”

Growing up, this college thing was never on his mind and he thanks one Bobby Billington, his former Bath Bucs grade-school coach.

“He wrote me a letter after my sixth-grade season and told me that I could develop and possibly go on to play college basketball. And, I had not really thought of it until I got a little older. I still didn’t think I was going to go on and play college basketball until college coaches started recruiting me. Then it was like ‘all right, I could do this.’ And, I started applying and more and more coaches wanted me to play for them. That’s when I really knew.”

Henrikson has also been a positive for the political science major, who plans on graduating this spring.

“Karl’s been really good. He’s helped me grow as a player and as a person. He’s coached a lot of good players and he’s really smart basketball wise. He pushes us on and off the court and he has some really great quick-hitters. He watches a lot of basketball and he has some great, absolutely great, quick-hitters. He’s the best coach at stealing plays from everybody. And, he does.”

And the future?

“Right now I’m trying to find a job and I’ve also thought of coaching, because what I know is basketball. After all these years of playing basketball it’s going to be tough next winter when basketball comes around and it’s like ‘where the hell am I supposed to be?’”

GEORGE ALMASI is the Times Record sports editor. He can be reached at [email protected]timesrecord.com


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