FARMINGTON — If you meet UMaine-Farmington point guard Yusuf Iman, it’s pronounced YOU-sif ih-MOHN. Neither is a common name in Farmington, Maine, so he’s good-natured about it.
“My name gets butchered all the time,” Iman said with a smile. “Nobody has a mental spellcheck, so I don’t blame anybody.”
Iman’s name is worth knowing because this season, the UMF men’s basketball team will put the ball in his hands. Point guard Dan Kane has graduated, leaving Iman, who averaged 6.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game last season, with the starting job.
“A lot of responsibility comes in to being the point guard, and I’m willing to take on that responsibility and get everybody into their spots, and try to be the vocal leader on the team,” Iman said. “That’s what I’m trying to bring in as being the point guard, just be the leader on the court, be the general and try to organize our team and get us into what we need to do to win games.”
Iman, a junior business economics major and an Edward Little graduate, was steered toward UMF by his high school coach Mike Adams, a Mt. Blue High School grad.
“It’s been a good fit for him,” UMF coach Dick Meader said. “He’s done well academically, likes his classes. It’s gone well for him.”
Meader says Iman brings the kind of quickness UMF usually doesn’t have. Both offensively and defensively, Meader wants that quickness to be used in UMF’s relatively conservative style.
Iman is the opposite. It’s not that he doesn’t respect Meader’s coaching acumen — when running down the reasons he came to UMF, Iman said, “Coach Meader’s a very intelligent coach. I wanted to be a student of the game, so what better than to be coached by the master?” — he just wants to run. All game.
“I like to push the ball a lot,” Iman said. “I pushed the ball a lot when I was in high school. I try to bring it in here and try to get us moving up and down the court as fast as we can, trying to get as many points on the board as possible.”
Meader is the pull to Iman’s push. The coach doesn’t want to give up possessions through recklessness.
“I try to find the medium every day in practice, every day in games,” Iman said. “I know he likes to kind of get the ball slowed down a little bit, get us into our offense, get a good shot.
“But if I see an opportunity, he wants me to go after that opportunity. He wants me to get players shots, be a playmaker out there and just play basketball. I think he’s now trusted my instincts enough to let me go. Hopefully, I’ve learned to do the right things as a point guard, so that’s helped me a lot.”
Iman started 10 games last season while Kane was injured. UMF went 5-5, but only two of the losses were by more than eight points. In his first start, Iman had one assist and 10 turnovers in a 13-point loss. In his next start, Iman had 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals in 23 minutes and the Beavers won by 20.
“He’s done well,” Meader said. “It’s been a little bit up and down at times. But when things are going well for him, he really is very critical to us scoring points. He bounces back very well. He might have a tough game, but the next day, he’s ready to go mentally and does a good job.”
This season, Iman has a talented big man in Ben Johnson, a Maranacook grad who averaged 16.0 points and 10.6 rebounds per game last winter.
“We’ve got a lot of pick-and-roll schemes we’ll be working on,” Iman said. “In games, it’s all about timing. We’re trying to get our timing down, trying to get our reads down and to be able just to play off each other — so whatever I do, he’d be able to play right off of it and know exactly what I’m thinking. That’s just going to take time. I think right now, me and Ben are clicking, but we’ve got a long ways to go.”
Johnson, Iman and Andrew Dickey (7.7 ppg) are the only returning players who averaged more than five points per game last season. Meader still thinks UMF can challenge to be one of the top teams in the North Atlantic Conference and Iman is a big key to that.
“He just needs to garner that experience that he’s had, and put it all to work,” Meader said. “Just keep things simple. That’s all he needs to do. He’s doing well and I think will have a great year for us.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243