MANCHESTER — Kyle Wilbur has a picture of former Dirigo High School and Notre Dame big man Tom Knight lifting a 6-year-old Wilbur to the basket for his first dunk.

Ever since then, putting the ball in the basket usually came pretty easy for the Maranacook junior guard. Like his older brother, Taylor, who in 2014 spurred Maranacook’s record-setting three-point shooting performance at the Augusta Civic Center while the Black Bears were in the Class C tournament, Kyle can shoot in his sleep.

Wilbur has emerged as one of the top scorers in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B this year, joining teammate Kent Mohlar to form one of the most formidable duos in the state. He’s done it in spite of going through a shooting slump that continues to perplex.

“I think that his head is spinning when he shoots the ball, and he’s trying so hard to do it the right way that it’s too much going on up here,” Maranacook coach Rob Schmidt said, pointing to his head.

“I’ve just got to let it shoot. I think I’m worried about it,” Wilbur said. “Last year, I just let if fly.”

Wilbur’s scoring hasn’t suffered that much despite the slump, and neither have the Black Bears, who have the best record in Class B South at 8-1. That’s because Wilbur hasn’t allowed it to affect the other aspects of his game. If anything, he’s become a more complete player.

“He’s doing a really good job of playing within the team concept offensively,” Schmidt said. “His role is to shoot when he’s open.”

All of the Black Bears have the same role in their run-and-gun offense, Schmidt noted, but Wilbur “has done a better job as the season’s progressed of not forcing shots, of playing within the flow of the offense.”

At Maranacook, the offense flows fast and furious. The Black Bears thrive off of tempo, and what better way to create tempo than to force turnovers? Wilbur is becoming just as adept at it as scoring. The key has been using his feet.

“I always had the speed and everything. I just always went for the reach, so I’d pick up three fouls in one minute,” Wilbur said. “This year, I’m just trying to play with my legs.”

“He’s made a very concentrated effort to not reach and to focus on defense and make that a huge part of his game,” Schmidt said. “That’s a big transition for somebody who’s always been a scorer first.”

Getting Maranacook’s running game going can translate into a lot of layups and easy hoops, which has helped Wilbur become the scoring complement to Mohlar that Schmidt was hoping for with the graduation of their lone senior from last year, Cam Brochu.

“I know that if my outside game not falling, I can take it to the hoop,” he said. “I’m trying to balance it.”

Schmidt is glad to see Wilbur become more well-rounded, and believes his versatility will ultimately help him get his jump shot back.

“A lot of great shooters go through slumps and they buckle down on ‘D,’ they focus on their passing and other aspects of their game so their mind isn’t on their shooting as much, and then it comes back to them,” Schmidt said.

Wilbur admitted part of the motivation to find his shot is so he can beat his older brother one-on-one a little more often. There’s still a bit of a sibling rivalry and a lot of trash talking between Kyle and Taylor, who is a sophomore studying to become an athletic trainer at the University of Southern Maine.

Kyle jokes that he isn’t sure whether to take any brotherly advice to heart because Taylor might be trying to gain the upper hand.

“He’s been in my head the whole time,” Wilbur said. “He’s been huge. He and my dad (Darren) every day have been pushing me to get to the gym. He’s always been so much quicker than me, and I’ve always wanted to beat him one-on-one.”

While the older Wilbur led the Black Bears to great success in 2014 — shooting them to the regional final while helping them set team records for 3-pointers in a game (12) and tournament (23) — Schmidt wants the younger Wilbur to be his own player.

“I think it would be very difficult (following in Taylor’s footsteps). Taylor was a great shooter, an excellent basketball player, and Kyle is very aware of it. It’s got to be tough to compete with that and every now and then get a little ribbing from your brother,” Schmidt said. “But I think Kyle puts the pressure on himself in that regard and I hope he’s able to realize that Kyle is Kyle and Taylor is Taylor and they are different players, and that’s not a bad thing.”

“I was watching films of him (in 2014). It was crazy,” Wilbur said. “Every day, I want to be him. Every day. And he tells me every day how much …oh, it just fires me up before a game… how much better he is. Oh, it gets me going.”

If he really gets going, the Black Bears will have more than a shot in Class B.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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