WATERVILLE — Karin Bird sees a bright future for Thomas College women’s basketball. It won’t happen until after she’s gone, but she can say she was part of the building process.

Bird is in her third year at Thomas and has averaged 19.3 points per game. Thomas has gone 14-36 since Bird returned to Maine for her sophomore season.

Bird grew up in Lee and played at Emmanuel College in Boston as a freshman. There, she shot 51 percent and was the third-leading scorer on a team that finished 22-8 and made the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

But Bird had made a last-minute decision to go to Emmanuel, and she needed a place that was a better fit for her academically.

“After the first year of taking general requirements, I needed to find somewhere that had a major for me,” she said. “I decided like two weeks before school started that I was going to go there to play basketball.

“After the first year, I was looking at places closer to home because of my family. I have huge family support. My grandmother, who is 90, has come to pretty much all of my games. When I was in Boston, it was hard for her to do that. My sister had just had two kids, so I wanted to be close to my nieces.”

At Thomas, Bird continued to play well, averaging 18.2 points per game as a sophomore and 20.3 as a junior. She has 887 points for the Terriers in a little more than two seasons. Including her season at Emmanuel, she has scored more than 1,000 points in her college career.

“She’s fantastic,” Thomas coach Ted Rioux said. “She has all the skills. She can handle the ball. She has post moves. She shoots the 3 tremendously. She’s just a well-rounded player. When she gets the ball, and you give her any type of breathing space, she can shoot the ball very consistently.”

Bird played in Thomas’ first two games this season and averaged 22.5 points per game — nearly half of the Terriers’ offense. She didn’t play Monday night against Colby because of a rib injury. She hopes to play tonight against St. Joseph’s.

“She’s our lifeline in our offense,” Rioux said. “Without her, we struggle to score points. She just causes so much defensive attention that she’s going to get people open.

“We’re going to have to play on that a little bit and use that. Our girls are good enough to hit open shots, and Karin causes so much defensive attention that they get open shots. They’ve got to be ready for those shots. That’s what we’ve struggled with lately, is our girls haven’t been ready to shoot the ball.”

Bird always goes to the foul line a lot, a result of her getting knocked around during games.

Thomas lost its first game this season by 45 points and its second by 39. Bird was high school teammates with Aarika Ritchie, who is now the co-captain of a Colby team that is ranked in the top 25 nationally.

“Individually, I’ve had a lot of success,” Bird said. “But at the end of the day, I’d rather win championships. I’d rather win more games. When I came to Thomas, I knew nothing about the basketball program. I saw that it was a work in progress, and after I had already been here a year, I didn’t want to transfer out again, because I felt like I had made a commitment to the team to stay here.”

At Thomas, Bird is able to major in forensic psychology, although she hasn’t decided what she will do with that after graduation. This season, she just would like to see the team have more success.

“I would like to make it past the first round of the conference tournament,” Bird said. “If we don’t, I would like to at least be close. Right now, we’re picked to finish eighth in the conference, which should make everybody want to work harder to not be that.”

Leading the way with hard work, Rioux said, is Bird herself.

“She leads by example,” Rioux said. “She’s not a rah-rah girl. She’ll get up and talk to you during a game and tell you what to do, but she’s not going to get in your face. The girls respect her. If Karin’s working hard, you better work hard, because there’s no excuse not to. Karin works hard in practice. Very hard.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

 


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