Maranacook graduate Mike Poulin is once again thriving at point guard for the University of Southern Maine basketball team.

Now in his fifth year at the school, Poulin is pursuing a second degree, but basketball is never far from his mind. That’s why he came back after missing two years with injuries. The decision wasn’t that difficult.

“It was a pretty easy one,” he said. “I knew I wanted to play at least one more year.”

Poulin actually has another year of eligibility left after this one, but doubts he’ll be back. He took medical redshirts after missing his sophomore season with a broken arm and last year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in one of his knees in the third game of the season. He began doing drills in September, but was still rehabbing by the first practice in early November.

“I have to keep constant maintenance on my knees,” said Poulin, who wears a compression sleeve on each of them. “They’re trying to manage my minutes.”

Managing Poulin’s minutes may be USM coach Karl Henrikson’s most difficult job since Poulin is so valuable on the floor.

“He’s an established commodity,” Henrikson said. “The thing that Michael does, he’s got a real good feel for the game.”

Poulin admits he was a little nervous about his knees the first couple of games — he tore his ACL last year coming to a jump stop — but he’s confident now. He’s a polished offensive player who can get into the lane and find teammates for open jumpers or finish his own shot.

“He’s a very strong finisher,” Henrikson said of the 6-foot, 175-pound guard.

Poulin’s an even stronger defensive player, who usually draws the other team’s top gun. He did the same at Maranacook when he helped the Black Bears to Class B state championships his sophomore and senior seasons.

“Defensively, he’s a rock, Henrikson said. “He’s a great on-the-ball defender. He’s never off balance defensively.”

The Huskies are off to a strong start. They were 5-2 overall before Tuesday’s game against the University of Maine at Farmington, 2-0 in the Little East Conference. Poulin is averaging 8.4 points and 2.4 assists per game while shooting just over 51 percent from the floor.

“I think we have a good chance to win a few games,” Poulin said. “We have a long way to go but we have a good group of guys.”

One of those guys is Sean Bergeron, who is Poulin’s roommate. The former Kennebunk star has had three ACL injuries and like Poulin has missed two full seasons as well as the second half of last year.

“We definitely did a lot of rehab together,” Poulin said. “It’s helped me mentally, just being able to overcome certain injuries.”

Poulin is in his fourth season as team captain and has grown into the role.

“He says things that need to be said and people go to him,” Henrikson said. “He really understands leadership. He just finds a way to make the team better.”

After earning a degree in criminology, Poulin has returned to earn a second degree in business administration with a focus on sports management. He’s unsure what he’d like to do after graduation but said he’s sure he’ll stay involved in basketball, maybe someday as a coach.

He has a good role model in his father Dave, a former Winthrop High School coach, who is an assistant with the Huskies this season.

“It’s a good situation for everybody,” Henrikson said. “Dave’s a veteran coach, well respected around the state. It’s great for those two.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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