WATERVILLE — Until Katie McAllister was recruited to play basketball at Thomas College, she had no idea there even was a Thomas College. Now, she’s one of the program’s veterans.

McAllister, a Pittston native and Gardiner Area High School graduate, on her third coach in three years at the Waterville school — or four if you count this preseason, when Thomas athletic director David Roussel coached the Terriers during practices while the school searched for a new coach. Including Tuesday evening’s loss to Husson, Thomas is 11-45 in McAllister’s two-plus years. But there’s no questioning her commitment.

“It doesn’t matter about the coach,” she said, “as long as I’m on the court.”

McAllister was recruited by Ted Rioux, who had previously coached at Belfast and Waterville. After two seasons and a 12-38 record at Thomas, Rioux moved back to high school basketball, and currently coaches the Cony girls. Rioux’s last season was McAllister’s first.

Dan Leland took over the program, and Thomas went 4-22 last season. Shortly before this season, Leland resigned. The school hired Emily Cummins as its first full-time coach, and Cummins began coaching last month.

McAllister is candid that she and her teammates were led to believe that each coach she had was going to be there for a long time.

“That’s what we were told, and we had that thought in the back of our heads,” McAllister said. “But surprises happened.

“It’s been kind of a struggle, not having the stability or the commitment, per se. We’ve all had open promises, but I think we’ve finally found one as a coach that will be suitable for us.

McAllister, fellow junior Ashleigh Gagne of Waterville, and sophomore Tess McClenahan are the only players on the Thomas roster who were with the team last season. With that little experience on the floor, McAllister is more like a senior leader.

“We’re still growing,” she said. “Seventy percent of our team is freshmen. So that’s an adjustment. But even within the last two weeks, we’ve grown tremendously together, and we can see it on the court.”

“I talked to the three returners that we had coming back, and I think they were kind of deer in headlights at first,” Cummins said. “One of the things that I said was, ‘You guys are the only ones that played last year. Everybody else is new. You have so many eyes that are watching you, and they’re just waiting to see what to do.’

“What we’re trying to do is put Katie in a role: Katie, this is what we need to do. I need you to be a leader. Here’s what I expect from you. With a little bit of guidelines and some parameters, she’s stepping up and doing all the right things for us.”

McAllister stands 5 foot 9 and was a post player in high school. She plays some center for Thomas now, but is mainly a guard.

“I’m just getting into it now, I would say,” McAllister said. “The first couple of years, I still tried to play down low, but (I’d) get swatted every time. That was an adjustment in itself, but not a bad one.”

Entering Tuesday night’s game, McAllister led Thomas in scoring with 8.0 points per game, and was third with 5.0 rebounds per night. She’s also taken the most shots on the team.

“I’d like to think of myself as a go-to player,” McAllister said. “I trust myself with the ball, and I hope that my teammates do as well. I appreciate it. It’s a privilege. It’s an honor.”

Cummins sees what McAllister can bring to the offense, and has focused on maximizing her movements.

“Katie is one of those players that fits very well into our offense, because you have to attack right away,” Cummins said. “Only Katie’s attacking before she catches the basketball. So she’s a little bit ahead of herself. When she does slow down, she gets anywhere she wants to get, and the kid can just flat finish around the rim. It’s just a matter of getting her body to sync with her mind.”

There will be a time when Thomas isn’t struggling to find enough players to fill out its roster. McAllister thinks it could happen next winter, and she’ll be there if it does.

“This season, I still consider a growing season, until next season, when we actually, potentially, hopefully have 10 returners,” McAllister said. “Then hopefully, another six, seven more freshmen.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo


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