John Shea of Edward Little High School in Auburn has been named Maine's 2022 Mr. Basketball. Credit: Ernie Clark / BDN

When John Shea accepted the state’s Mr. Basketball award during a break in the Maine McDonald’s All-Star Basketball Games in Bangor on Saturday, he anticipated announcing a decision on his collegiate future in a couple of weeks.

But a short trip up Interstate 95 to the University of Maine before the Edward Little High School standout returned home to Auburn that night changed everything. He was offered a roster spot by interim basketball coach Jai Steadman.

“He said once he gets this job, if he’s fortunate to get it, that I’ll be one of the first guys to get one of his scholarships, and in my head that’s a no-brainer,” Shea said.

Shea hopes to pursue a college basketball career similar to 2007 Edward Little alumnus Troy Barnies, a former Mr. Basketball who became a four-year player at UMaine before embarking on what is now an 11-year pro basketball career overseas since his graduation from the Orono campus in 2011. Barnies currently is playing in Estonia after recently leaving his team in Ukraine when Russia invaded that country.

“It’s honestly been a dream of mine to wear ‘Maine’ across my chest since I saw Troy go there,” Shea said. “I’m trying to follow in Troy’s footsteps – Mr. Basketball, going to Maine, scoring 1,000 points – and I wouldn’t want to follow the path of anyone else.”

Shea, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound center-forward, helped the Red Eddies win the 2020 Class AA state championship and return to the Class AA North final to cap off an 18-3 season this winter,

Shea averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds during the regular season and was named the Class AA North player of the year as well as a first-team Class AA North all-star.

“I’m thrilled for John, he’s worked hard,” Edward Little head coach Mike Adams said. ”He had a great season, and to have a second player from our program have the opportunity to attend the University of Maine and play Division I basketball is a testament to what all of our kids do year-round to make themselves better athletes and good people and do things the right way,”

Shea originally thought he would continue his studies and basketball career next year at UMass-Dartmouth – which went 26-5 this winter and reached the NCAA Division III Sweet 16 – before talks with UMaine intensified.

“I was in contact with Coach Steadman all week, and it all fell together going up to UMaine to check in and meet people there since it was only a few minutes from Husson,” he said. “Then it all happened so it was pretty cool.”

Shea said he currently is considered a preferred walk-on because there are no basketball scholarships available, but at least two scholarships may become open within the UMaine program with the expected entry into the NCAA transfer portal of redshirt junior forward Stephane Ingo and junior guard Ja’Shonte Wright-McLeish. Both will earn their degrees from UMaine in May and are likely to use their remaining athletic eligibility elsewhere.

Shea’s decision is not without some uncertainty, as UMaine athletic director Ken Ralph said Monday that candidates will be interviewed this week for the men’s basketball head coaching vacancy created when Richard Barron left the post last month.

A permanent successor could be hired by Monday. It may not be Steadman.

“That’s something that’s been on my mind,” Shea said. “I’m hoping that with the honors I’ve received such as Mr. Basketball and Class AA North player of the year, things like that, that the coach coming in would honor my commitment.”

“But if things don’t work out then we’ll go from there.”

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...