Kelley Paradis has been the leading scorer on the University of New England’s women’s basketball team since her sophomore year. She’s been a starter since she was a freshman. The part that took some doing, however, was transforming Paradis into a leader.

“It was difficult,” Paradis said. “I was definitely not very vocal when I first came here.”

But during her junior year, Paradis became the kind of leader coach Anthony Ewing was looking for. Now, the Newport native and Nokomis graduate is the complete package.

“It was really a realization on her part,” Ewing said. “She realized she had to do it — it wasn’t just something Coach wanted. You can’t shut her up now.”

Paradis is averaging 16.3 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals per game for the Nor’easters (8-3) this season. She also leads the team in blocked shots. She is the school’s all-time leader in that category.

Paradis, a 5-foot-10 guard, does this while occasionally guarding the opposition’s top scorer. Ewing said her defensive presence isn’t fully reflected in all those blocks and steals.

“There’s a ton of deflections that she does,” Ewing said. “She’s very disruptive.”

Asking so much of Paradis at both ends of the floor was also a process, Ewing says. In her early years at UNE, Paradis would signal for a break and Ewing would make a point to ignore her — the message being that she could catch her breath during a free throw or some other stoppage in play. In an overtime win over Colby this season, Paradis played 39 minutes and scored a game-high 26 points.

“It’s one of those cases where your best player works the hardest, and it trickles down.” Ewing said.

While that win over the Mules opened some eyes, Ewing described it as more of just a non-conference game. UNE went 24-7 last season, losing the conference championship game by two points to Salve Regina before winning the Eastern College Athletic Conference New England Championship by defeating Southern Maine in the final.

“We really are of the mindset around here that the conference games are the most important ones,” Ewing said. “Our goal is to get back to the NCAA tournament and do something, not just get there.”

Paradis will leave UNE in the top 20 at the school in seven different statistical categories. She’s an Applied Exercise Science major, and said she already has a full-time job offer after graduation, but is looking at graduate schools in Florida and Pennsylvania.

At some point in the last five years, Paradis surely could have decided to test her talents at a higher level. She was recruited by Division II schools while she was at Nokomis, but UNE offered what Paradis wanted — close to home, the right major — and she saw no reason to change just for basketball.

“I didn’t really plan on playing basketball forever,” Paradis said, “so I was more focused on what I wanted to do for my career and have fun playing basketball.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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