For University of Maine at Farmington men’s basketball coach Dick Meader, there’s hope after a hopeless season.

It starts with the freshman class — one that has a few names that ring a bell around the area.

The Beavers have reason for optimism after struggling through the woes of a 3-22 season, and their newcomers are a significant part of it. UMF has six freshmen, and most of them will either start or log heavy minutes. And Meader’s confident they’ll make an impact while they’re at it.

“Some years you’re fortunate, and other years you’re not quite as fortunate. Last year was a very good group that said ‘yes.’ We’re very pleased with it,” Meader said. “I really like this team. It’s young, it works very hard.”

And it’s talented. Among the players in that freshman contingent are Amir Moss, the point guard who led Portland High School to the Class A championship last year, and Riley Robinson, a sweet-passing forward from Dirigo who’s already looking like one of the team’s best all-around players.

And then there’s a pair of local standouts looking to make a similar mark at the college level. Skowhegan native and guard Isaac Witham may be playing his way into a starting spot, having wowed his coaches with his shooting touch on the offensive end and his intensity on the defensive side.

“(He) may be our best shooter. He’s in the top three, that’s for sure,” Meader said. “The best part of his game, I think, is defensively. He’s very good on the ball and even better off the ball.”

He’s also impressed with his maturity, showing a flair for leadership that belies his freshman status.

“Right off, he’s become a leader of the team on the court,” Meader said. “He does a great deal of talking, positive, always getting people in the right places.

“We’ve always liked him. He’s been under the radar around the state during his high school years, and that helped us. He’s a nice player, simple as that. He’s a good player. We expected him to do well.”

Winthrop’s Anthony Owens is making a similar impression. The 6-foot-5 center lacks bulk at only 200 pounds, but with his offensive and defensive abilities, Meader sees that the future is bright.

“He has a nice jump shot (from the) foul line in that will increase in time. Once he gets physically stronger, he’s going to be one of the top players,” he said. “Once he puts on that (weight), he’s not only going to be a good player, I think he’s going to be a dominant player inside.”

They’ll all play major roles, perhaps even start, for the Beavers this year, while Madison’s Chase Malloy is a talented but raw forward who will contribute.

“We were fortunate because recruiting is such a difficult thing,” he said. “A couple of guys believed in us and then you get … those guys and two or three will follow their lead. That’s really what happened, so as a result, it’s a nice class and they’ve mixed well with the upper class.”

UMF has a few established players for the freshmen to mesh with, particularly in seniors and co-captains Ryan Rice and Ryan Camire and junior co-captain Eric Berry, while Waterville native and junior center Owen Brown, the team’s tallest and heaviest player at 6-6 and 215 pounds, is a key addition as a post presence after transferring from Thomas College.

“(He’s) got a chance to be a good player,” Meader said. “He’s got a chance to get good minutes with us. He’s strong and athletic, so if we can get consistent play from him it’s going to be very good for us.”

As for whether the mix will result in wins, Meader is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“It’s 18-year-old bodies going against 22-, 23- and 24-year-old bodies,” he said. “That’s going to be a challenge, and how we hold up against that will determine that.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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