Zack Mittelstadt has already experienced a long, winding road in his basketball career.

And it just hit another bump.

The Wilton native is in his junior season at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. A guard on the men’s basketball team, Mittelstadt had already missed his freshman season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee.

Now he — and the rest of his teammates — will be missing out on the 2020-2021 season due to COVID-19. The New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference — of which Clark is a member — suspended conference games for the winter season on Nov. 2.

“In talks with the team during the summer, we all knew there would be a chance of the season being canceled,” Mittelstadt said. “When the season was canceled, we were all put out and shocked. We had been working, we had been practicing in the hopes of something. But when it fully got canceled, we were all kind of upset, sad about it. Especially for the seniors, I felt really bad for them, because their basketball careers were over and it was a terrible way for it to end.

“I’m a junior that’s only played one year,” Mittelstadt said. “So, it’s tough to sit out another whole year to wait to play. But I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I was upset about it, because like I said, we all work hard to prepare for the season and do as good as we can, help the team out. It takes the wind out of your sail in a way when it’s all taken away like that.”


Though Clark struggled in the win column last year — finishing with an 8-17 record — Mittelstadt had a successful return from his injury. He started 15 out of the Cougars’ 25 games, averaging 7.2 points per game. Mittelstadt had an especially impressive game in a 97-87 win over Salem State, leading the Cougars with 22 points, nailing seven of the team’s 18 3-pointers in the victory.

“When I first got back, the first couple of games and half the season, my knee was hurting around where the surgery was,” Mittelstadt said. “That was just working through the injury and getting my body comfortable with how my new knee would be. Towards the second half of the season, I finally started to feel better and I finally started to compete at a level of which I was happy with. Team-wise, we had some big wins. It was a great thing to be a part of, I was glad I could be a part of that group. It was a great year, a lot of good memories that year.”

Mittelstadt is used to adapting. After a successful start to his high school career at Mt. Blue, Mittelstadt transferred to Gould Academy in Bethel for his final two seasons.

“I look back and go ‘Wow, that’s some kind of journey,'” Mittelstadt said. “I had a great time at Mt. Blue, and ultimately ended up going to Gould, which turned out to be a great life decision as well as a great athletic decision. I had a great two years there. On the court and off the court, it was a great experience for me… That was a great experience, made some great friends. Ultimately, that led me to Clark. I love where I’m at right now, I love Clark. Off the court has been great, and even though I’ve only played one year, I can’t wait to be back on the court for my senior year.”

Mittelstadt, who had online classes throughout the fall — majoring in business management and minoring in economics — said while the conference schedule is canceled, the team is still hoping to have some exhibition games in the spring with neighboring schools (depending on COVID-19 numbers). Mittelstadt will also get to follow the career of his younger sister, former Mt. Blue standout Lexi Mittelstadt, who just started her freshman season as a member of the University of Maine women’s basketball team.

“She went to school in August, and I haven’t seen her since then, because she can’t really come home, because of COVID and all of that,” Mittelstadt said. “Throwing it way back to middle school and elementary, we were always going at it (on the court), whether it’s one-on-one or HORSE. Competitiveness is always something that is between her and I. That’s kind of what makes our relationship pretty good.”



* * *


Though the fate of the winter sports season for schools in the North Atlantic Conference has not yet been decided, multiple state schools within the conference have plans in place to return to practice after the holiday break.

On Dec. 16, the University of Maine at Farmington announced they will plan to have all winter sports teams return to campus on Jan. 11 (following all campus safety and testing protocols).

Former Brunswick standout Rosalie White is entering her sophomore season playing for the UMF women’s basketball team. The news of even having the possibility of a season was an early holiday gift for White.
“I’m really excited to be able to get on the court and be able to play,” White said. “I’ve been grateful to been able to practice with my teammates during the fall, but now I’m looking forward to competing in games with them.”

The Beavers are not alone. Two days later, rival Thomas College also announced that it will also return all winter sports teams to its Waterville campus over Jan. 16, 17 and 18.


“I am very proud of the success we had this fall in providing the opportunity for our student-athletes to practice and compete safely,” said Thomas athletic director Christopher Parsons in a statement. “It will take the same vigilance that our entire community has shown so far this year to continue providing those same opportunities in the winter and spring.”

The University of Maine at Presque Isle also announced on Dec. 16 that plans are in place for its winter sports teams to return to campus Jan. 16. Husson University in Bangor announced that both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will return to campus Jan. 11, while all other winter sports programs will start on the first day of classes for the spring semester, Jan. 25. Maine Maritime Academy of Castine, which suspended all athletic activities for the fall semester in July, has not shown an update on where it stands heading into January, per its website.

The NAC announced in November that the Presidents’ Council has offered support for winter sports to be played during the spring semester, but held off on making any final decisions on winter sports until January. As of press time, conference basketball games — which were set to begin Jan. 29 — are on hold. In the same November statement, the council still held out the possibility of some fall sports being played during the spring semester.


Times Record sports writer Eli Canfield contributed to this report.


Dave Dyer — 621-5640

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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