The shadow was imposing for Griffin Guerrette as he began his high school basketball career eight years ago.
He stood just 5-foot-2 entering his freshman season at Presque Isle High School, and he joined the boys varsity team just after old sister Chandler had led the Wildcats to back-to-back Class B state championships in 2012 and 2013 and earned first-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine accolades as a senior.
But as Chandler Guerrette went on to become one of the top NCAA Division III players in New England at Husson University in Bangor, Griffin soon began building his own basketball legacy.
First he amassed more than 1,000 career points while leading the Presque Isle boys back to contending status in Class B North.
Now he’s doing the same thing at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and on Monday joined his sister in exceeding 1,000 points both in high school and college during an 89-86 overtime victory at Northern Vermont-Johnson.
“It means a lot,” said Griffin, who now stands 6-foot-1. “It shows that there’s a lot of support around me and that not only do the coaches have trust in me but that my teammates have trust in me because you can’t do it without either one.”
The 22-year-old Guerrette now has 1,014 points in his first 81 college games despite a tendency to look for an open teammate almost to a fault.
“Even though he scores a lot he’s a very unselfish player,” fifth-year UMPI coach Dan Kane said. “He always tries to do the right thing by moving the ball around, but there are times we have to tell him, ‘Hey, you’re open, you’re our leading scorer. We need you to shoot the basketball.’”
Those point guard skills were honed in high school, for the first two years against much taller defenders until a growth spurt before his junior season helped him emerge as one of the better backcourt players in Aroostook County and throughout eastern Maine.
“When I was smaller I had to learn how to score from the perimeter at a high level,” he said. “Then when I got the growth and the strength I already had the perimeter scoring down from the first two years. The mid-range game and getting to the hole came once I got the strength and the height, and then it all came together at all three levels.”
Guerrette averaged 28.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game as a senior at Presque Isle, capping off his 2017-18 season with a career-high 44 points during a Senior Night clash with Caribou and then scoring 36 points in the second half of the Wildcats’ Class B North quarterfinal victory over Orono.
His subsequent selection to the 2018 BDN All-Maine second team helped provide affirmation that while he was proud of sharing his sister’s love of basketball, he had established his own identity within the sport.
“Honestly it was more of a rivalry between me trying to shut up the critics saying, ‘Oh, you’re Chandler’s brother,’” Guerrette said. “I’m my own person.”
Guerrette has continued to add to his basketball resume over four years at UMPI, averaging 28 minutes of playing time as a freshman and at least 30 minutes a game each season since then as a four-year starter and double-figure scorer.
This winter he has averaged 16.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per outing through UMPI’s 5-7 start.
Needing nine points Monday to reach 1,000 for his career, Guerrette shot 7 of 17 from the field, 5 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line to finish with 23 points along with seven rebounds and three assists.
Point No. 1,000 came from the line, where he is shooting 78 percent for the season.
Yet offense isn’t Guerrette’s biggest area of improvement as a collegian, according to his coach.
“His freshman year when he came in we joked around because he wasn’t a very strong defensive player,” Kane said, “but he’s turned into our most consistent, reliable defensive player and what I consider a very good college defender at the guard position.”
Kane attributes some of Guerrette’s defensive improvement to what he considers “sneaky” athleticism.
“People don’t realize how much bounce he has until he jumps up and grabs a rebound or gets out on a fast break and dunks it,” he said. “Last week in practice he had a putback dunk off a three where he came flying in and two-hand slammed it. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness.’”
While a senior academically at UMPI, this may not be Guerrette’s last year with the Owls after the NCAA last year granted student-athletes an extra year of athletic eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
No matter when Guerrette’s college playing career ends, his relationship with basketball likely will continue.
“I know he really wants to live in The County and coach high school in The County, and he’s going to bring a lot to whatever high school is fortunate enough to have him coach,” Kane said.
“Honestly, I’m trying to talk Griffin into instead of getting right into high school coaching having him help me out for a couple of years, but I’m hopeful he’s going to want to come back and play another year first because as much as we’d like him to help us coach it’s good to know when we have him on the court.”