The game has changed since Amy Vachon led the Cony High School girls basketball team to a pair of Class A state championships and went on to star for the University of Maine. But it’s hardly passed her by.

Vachon coached the McAuley girls team to a Class A state championship in 2011 and has since taken a position as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Maine women’s team. She’ll be inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday for her high school accomplishments, but she also could have gained entrance based on her college resume.

“I’m really humbled by it,” Vachon said. “I’m really excited about the weekend. A lot of great Maine basketball figures are going to be there.”

Vachon’s former coach at Maine, Joanne P. McCallie, will be among the inductees as will former Colby College men’s coach Dick Whitmore, former Lawrence High School coach Mike McGee and many others who have impacted the game around the state.

The 1995 Cony team, of which Vachon was a part, was inducted into the New England Hall of Fame in 2004, while her father Paul, who coached those teams, was in the Hall’s inaugural class of 2002. Amy also played on the unbeaten 1996 team that won a Class A state championship.

Vachon, who played point guard, built a reputation as an outstanding passer, both at Cony and Maine. It was more an extension of her personality than anything else, she said.

“People love playing with Amy,” Paul Vachon said. “Even when we have alumni games, because they know they’re going to get the ball.”

Vachon’s passing and ballhandling ability fit in well at Cony and Maine. The 1995 team ran, pressed and shot 3-pointers, averaging 74 points a game while allowing 41. Vachon also scored over 1,000 points at Cony.

“She understood the game better than anybody I ever coached,” Paul Vachon said. “And when we needed the big shot she wasn’t afraid to take it.”

At Maine, Vachon still holds the single-season record for assists (234) and is the America East Conference career leader (759) in that category. She ranks 22nd all-time in NCAA history in career assists. Vachon was a two-time captain for the Black Bears, who reached the NCAA tournament all four years she played and compiled a record of 87-35. She also played for the UMaine tournament team that upset Stanford in 1997.

These days, Vachon canvasses the country and beyond for recruits for head coach Richard Baron. Getting top Maine talent is a tougher sell than it was when McCallie recruited her as well as Lawrence star Cindy Blodgett, among others.

“It’s hard when you’re not winning,” she said. “When I played a lot of Maine talent was in central and northern Maine. That’s changed.” Vachon pointed out that Portland is closer to Boston than it is to Orono and many players in southern Maine opt to go south.

“It was always hard to recruit southern Maine kids even when we were winning,” she said.

There are other changes, too. High school loyalties in many instances have given way to AAU teams. Vachon pointed out, AAU got started when she was a freshman in high school.

“Sometimes kids are more excited for their AAU team” she said. “I just feel like kids play too many games growing up. There’s not any skill development or fundamental development. I think that hurts the game.”

Social media has also had a big impact on recruiting. Vachon recalled it was often a phone call or even a hand-written letter that she received when she was considering colleges. Today, coaches and recruits can communicate on an hourly basis.

“It’s not even close to what it was,” she said. “Interacting with the kids is so different. Back then you could find a kid nobody knew about.”

Recruiting top Maine players remains a priority for the Black Bears, Vachon said, but not at the expense of winning games.

“Mainers love Mainers,” she said. “At the end of the day we also love winners. I want to keep the best kids in Maine. I know we’re going to get this thing turned around.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

 

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