AUGUSTA — Keith Chesley received his basketball indoctrination manning the paint for Mike McGee at Lawrence, which is no place for the meek or deferential.

The 6-foot-1 Chesley still likes to mix it up down low for the University of Maine at Augusta men’s basketball team, often times against players six or seven inches taller. But he’s taken his game outside for the Moose and developed into one of the top scorers in the state.

Just a quarter of the way through his junior year, Chesley has put forth some prolific performances. He scored a career high 41 points (and pulled down 24 rebounds) in a 112-65 win over Northern Maine Community College. The effort surpassed the scoring output of a number of UMA standouts from the past, including his father, Greg, whose career-high was 36 points.

UMA coach Jim Ford said Chesley’s start to the 2014-15 season is the culmination of the his dedication to becoming a well-rounded player for the Moose.

“He’s got all of the intangibles. He’s just a blue-collar, hard-working, never-say-die athlete,” Ford said. “Right now, he is at maximum efficiency and maximum level every time he steps on the court. It’s beautiful to watch.”

Chesley, of Clinton, also poured in 31 points against Mass Bay Community College, and 35 against Central Maine Community College. He’s posted double-doubles in scoring and rebounds in five of seven games this year and is averaging 25.9 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, both tops in the YSCC.

Chesley arrived at UMA carrying the defense-and-rebounding calling card most players possess after graduating from Lawrence. He immediately showed he’d brought his lunch pail south with him by leading the Yankee Small College Conference in rebounding as a freshman.

“Coach Ford made me feel pretty comfortable early on,” he said. “He treated me like I knew what I was doing and like just another member of the team. My sophomore year, I got a little more opportunity to show my talents when I was given a little more freedom.”

Already in possession of one of modern basketball’s rarest skills, a short-range jumper, Chesley expanded his range and made himself a threat to put the ball on the floor after his freshman year. His scoring average ballooned to 15.4 ppg last year.

“My jump shot has gotten a lot better than it was in high school,” Chesley said. “I have a lot more confidence going off the dribble and off a screen. My game has really developed a lot more than being just a back-to-the-basket type of player.”

Ford brought another back-to-basket player — 6-foot-5 Californian Brandon Rogers — on board last year, and he and Chesley bonded immediately.

“We play off each other. Working the pick-and-roll and just developing things to the rim, I think we have a better feel for each other,” Rogers said. “That opens up a lot and helps the entire offense.”

“We spend enough time with each other off the court, too,” said Chesley, who lives off campus with Rogers. “We’ve played a lot of pickup, working out, practice and playing games, so everything’s clicked.”

Rogers seized the conference rebounding title from Chesley last year. If the first quarter of the season is any indication, the pair will be in a dogfight for it this year.

Rebounding aficionados can even choose sides on who they’d like to see win. In terms of size and athleticism, Chesley is certainly the underdog.

“He’s more scrappy. I’m more of a jumper,” said Rogers, who is pulling down 11 rebounds per game this year, second to Chesley in the YSCC.

“It’s just amazing how at 6-foot, 6-1 he battles these 6-7, 6-8 kids inside,” Ford said.

The Moose are in the midst of rebuilding around Chesley and Rogers, who is a junior. The hope is to improve as this season unfolds and become a team to watch next year.

Chesley thinks it can happen sooner than that.

“The team chemistry this year is a lot better. We all get along. We all hang out,” Chesley said. “I think we’re building towards playing our best basketball where it really counts, the playoffs.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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