While much of the focus during the early days of Richard Barron’s tenure as University of Maine men’s basketball coach has involved the program’s six new recruits, the Black Bears may get an additional boost next winter from a player already familiar with the Orono campus.

Vincent Eze, a 6-foot-8 center who started 24 games for UMaine two years ago but missed all of the 2017-2018 campaign while recovering from offseason surgery on both of his hips, is rounding back into form during informal workouts.

“I’ve been scrimmaging and running with the guys, doing conditioning and everything else the other guys are doing,” Eze, a native of Nigeria who attended prep school in Connecticut, said.

“I feel a little more explosive than I did in the past. I don’t feel the pain anymore when I’m running. I used to feel like something was holding me back, but now I have more range of motion and am a little quicker with my feet so I feel like the surgery really helped a lot.”

Eze played in all 32 games for UMaine during 2016-2017, averaging 6.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

But early that season Eze began experiencing pain in both hips that slowly increased as the winter continued.

“At first I thought it was a strain or nothing serious and did what I was supposed to do, I saw the trainer and got treated,” he said. “But it kept progressing so I got an X-ray done and that’s when we figured out something was wrong.

“It was basically because of me growing excessively over the years.”

Eze had his first hip surgery in May 2017 and the second procedure last August.

“After the surgeries if I just did rehab I’d be back even better than I was last year,” he said.

That rehabilitation effort has Eze and his teammates smiling these days.

“Vince is good,” said rising junior forward Andrew Fleming, who earned America East all-rookie team honors after working in tandem with Eze two seasons ago. “Vince has been able to practice with us and is pretty much 100 percent back. He looks good, he’s running good, he’s jumping. He’s out there working hard and that’s something that will help us next year.”

A healthy Eze should add strength and depth to a UMaine frontcourt that also will include 6-7 senior Ilija Stojikljkovic, 6-8 sophomore Miks Antoms and recruits Solomon Iluyomade (6-7) and Vilgot Larsson (6-8).

Evans bound for Saint Anselm

Danny Evans, a 6-4 sophomore guard who played in 63 of UMaine’s 64 games the last two seasons, will continue his basketball career at the Division II level.

Evans on Friday afternoon announced via Twitter that he will transfer to Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, this fall.

“I want to start off by thanking everyone at the University of Maine, the lessons learned and great experiences here over the last two years will stick with me for the rest of my life,” he wrote. “This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but after a lot of consideration I have decided that it’s in my best interest to leave the program.

“I have goals and aspirations that are bigger than ever and I can’t wait to get this new chapter in my life under way,” Evans added.

The native of Leeds, England, came to UMaine after prepping at Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts.

He played in all 32 games for the Black Bears with 22 starts as a freshman during 2016-2017 season, averaging 4.0 points and 2.7 rebounds.

Evans played in 31 games with eight starts last winter, averaging 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per game.

He also played for the bronze medal-winning Great Britain in the 2017 FIBA U20 Division B championships last summer, averaging 5.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals in seven games.

Saint Anselm went 22-9 last season and qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament after finishing as the Northeast-10 tournament runner-up. The Hawks lost to the College of Saint Rose in the first round.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...