On the University of Maine at Augusta women’s basketball roster, Arreonte Lee is listed as hailing from San Antonio. Lee says she’s actually from Mississippi. No matter, neither is a place UMA coach Jen Laney usually expects to pick up players.
“One of our men’s players, Aaron Cochrane, had gone to the same high school as her,” Laney said. “He had mentioned that one of his coaches that he knew, knew a girl, and we just kind of worked from there.”
This season, Lee is averaging 20.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game as the Moose advanced to the first national tournament in the program’s history. That’s the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II women’s basketball tournament, and it begins Thursday in Uniontown, Pa., with UMA taking on the University of Cincinnati-Clermont in the quarterfinals.
Laney learned what she could about Lee, but had never seen her play — in person or on film — until Lee was in Augusta.
“First, I was very excited,” Laney said. “Just a very talented athlete. She’s quick. She’s able to see the floor. She has great anticipation. High basketball IQ. Really just able to handle anything I throw at her.”
One of the things Laney had Lee do was play point guard, a completely new position. She developed well enough that she shares that position with Courtney Jicks this season.
“I really didn’t want to take on that position, because I never played it before,” said Lee, a 5-foot-10 sophomore. “In the beginning, it was hard. I really didn’t have faith in myself. Laney really encouraged me, and helped me with confidence. Once I started to adapt to it and take on that role, it became a lot easier for me.”
Lee has put up four triple-doubles this season, and at least 12 times, she has played all 40 minutes. The Moose don’t have minutes played statistics for every game, but in the 23 games available this season, Lee averaged 38.1 minutes per game.
“The only time that she comes out of the game is if she’s in foul trouble,” Laney said. “You never see her tired. You never see her out of breath. Not only that, but her and Jamie (Plummer) run the court, so she’s running the floor all 40 minutes.”
Lee’s version is that she does get tired, but she catches her breath during the game’s down time. She’ll also work out on a treadmill at varying speeds to simulate her pace on the court.
“I get tired — probably more mentally than physically — but I train myself to push, then slow down, then push,” Lee said.
The Moose probably wouldn’t have made the USCAA tournament without beating Southern Maine Community College in the Yankee Small College Conference semifinals. Lee led all scorers with 30 points in that game, and made 10 of her 12 free throws as the Moose played one of their best games of the season.
“I’m hoping we can just bring how we played against SM,” Lee said. “We’ve just got to keep staying positive and playing together.”
If you’d like to check out Lee’s game in Augusta next season, you can’t. She was clear with Laney about her plan all along, which was to stay at UMA for two seasons and hopefully move on to a higher level of basketball.
“I’m hoping to go to a bigger division,” Lee said. “Hopefully D-I.”
“I don’t like to set restrictions on anyone,” Laney said. “She’s the type of person, if she sets her mind to it, she can play at any level she wants to. She’s got the work ethic and the determination to really go far.”
Lee said she has a couple ideas about where she may try to play, but the national tournament is more important at the moment.
“I’ve been thinking about it, but I can’t really look forward,” she said, “because I want to look in the now.”