December 10, 2013

COLLEGE CONNECTIONS: Reynolds stepping it up at Thomas

Former Nokomis star now a co-captain

By Matt DiFilippo mdifilippo@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

This season, as a sophomore at Thomas College, Emilee Reynolds was named as one of two captains of the women’s basketball team. Certainly, it’s unusual for a sophomore to get that kind of recognition and responsibility as a team leader. But few players represent what a team is all about more than Emilee Reynolds represents Thomas.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Emily Reynolds is announced in pre-game against Johnson State at Thomas College in Waterville on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013.

The Terriers have no superstars. They have no one who chose Thomas after being vigorously recruited by 10 or 12 schools. They’re scrappy, and Reynolds, who was perhaps the third or fourth scoring option as a high school player at Nokomis and has taken the most shots on the Terriers this season, is the best example of that.

“She’s not a basketball player — she’s an athlete who works her tail off,” first-year Thomas coach Dan Leland said. “That’s who we are. She’s a pile of guts with a big heart jammed in the middle of it.”

Reynolds was recruited late in the process by former Thomas coach Ted Rioux, who pursued Reynolds after watching her play.

“I was dead-set on going to SMCC,” Reynolds said. “But I came here and toured the campus, and I loved it.”

As a freshman, Reynolds started every game she played and averaged 8.3 points per game. Fellow freshman Megan Pelletier led Thomas in just about every statistical category, but transferred to the University of Southern Maine, where she is now a starter this season.

The Terriers had been built around Pelletier, so they needed new scoring options. Reynolds, freshman Lexi Merrifield, and senior Elizabeth Goodall have filled that role this season. Reynolds is second on the team in scoring at 10.6 points per game, and is averaging a team-high 8.5 rebounds per night. She’s also making 73 percent of her foul shots, and Leland has her shoot free throws on technical fouls.

“You wouldn’t see her warming up and say, ‘We’ve got to guard her,’” Leland said. “But she knocks the three down on certain nights. I think she’s a tough matchup. She’s wiry strong, and a little bit sneaky-quick, and a threat enough that you just can’t leave her alone.”

Reynolds isn’t a vocal leader — she leaves that to senior Kate Thibodeau, her co-captain — but she’s shown why she deserves to be a captain.

“At practice, she’s got her sneakers on, ready to go, when I walk into the gym,” Leland said. “I could be 15 minutes early, and she’s still there. When I’m walking out, she’s always, ‘Who’s going to the gym? I’m going to go lift.’”

“In high school, we were always in the weight room,” Reynolds said. “We lifted three times a week.”

While Reynolds was at Nokomis, the Warriors played in three Eastern B championship games and made two state finals. This season, Thomas started out 0-6, including losses by 29, 30 and 34 points.

“I came from a team who won every single game,” Reynolds said. “It gets frustrating sometimes. We’re sophomores, so as the year comes, we’re going to get better. I don’t like bringing people down. If a player’s not doing well, I like being able to get her confidence up.”

Thomas improved to 2-6 with wins over Lyndon State and Johnson State this weekend. On Friday, Reynolds played 39 minutes in the win over Lyndon. The next afternoon, she went 38 minutes.

“If we keep working like we did (against Lyndon) we should be in good shape,” Reynolds said before the Johnson State game. “We were just all working together and talking.”

Those are the kinds of wins that will help the Terriers grow in the future. Leland said it’s a season of baby steps for the whole team, and that includes his sophomore captain.

“As far as getting more out of her, I don’t think that’s possible,” Leland said. “It’s just improving as a leader and a basketball player.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243mdifilippo@centralmaine.comTwitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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