University of Maine freshman guard Sarah Talon handles the ball during a game against Northeastern University in Orono on Nov. 21, 2022. Credit: Seth Poplaski / UMaine Athletics

Sarah Talon was only 15 and in her sophomore year at Windham High School when she verbally committed to play basketball at the University of Maine.

The 5-foot-10 freshman guard did not play in the season opener, but she has quickly worked her way into the rotation for coach Amy Vachon’s Black Bears and had a team-high 13 points and four assists in a 62-43 loss to No. 23 Gonzaga of Washington last Monday night.

Entering Friday night’s game against Princeton, she was averaging 5 points and 2.2 assists per game while playing 16.8 minutes per game on average. She has had at least three assists per game in three out of six recent games, with 1.5 rebounds per game.

Talon has no fear when it comes to taking the ball to the rim even against much taller opponents, saying she takes chances because anything can happen.

“In the worst-case scenario, you miss the shot or get it blocked,” she said. “Then you get back on defense. There is always going to be another opportunity to shoot and get a layup.”

Talon had an outstanding career at Windham capped by being named a first team Bangor Daily News All-Maine Schoolgirl selection last season when she averaged 17.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.7 blocked shots.

It is a major jump from there to Division I. Talon knew people doubted whether or not she could play at UMaine but said the criticism “went in one ear and out the other.” She said she is learning how to play truly structured basketball for the first time and is happy with her progress.

“I knew I was meant to be here,” she said. “I worked my tail off to get here.”

It has required watching lots of video so she knows what to expect from the players she is guarding. That knowledge is important for Talon because her competitors are bigger, stronger and faster than those she has played against in the past.

“My athletic ability hasn’t overtaken my lack of experience,” she said. “I can’t cover it up so I need to do more when it comes to using my skill, knowledge and floor placement as well.”

Her teammates singled her out for praise, with sophomore forward Adrianna Smith praising her transition defense and potential. Senior forward Abbe Laurence said she is “not afraid” with athleticism that “a lot of people can’t match.”

Talon has the advantage of being left-handed on the court. But she is right-handed off the court and shot that way from kindergarten to fourth grade. After she switched to her left hand, she found her touch.

She evolved as a player between her sophomore and junior years of high school, when she grew and gained muscle. Also an outstanding soccer player at Windham who led the Eagles to the state Class A title a year ago, she never doubted herself and called UMaine home.

“It’s cool to be around girls who love basketball and love being on the court as much as I do,” It’s amazing to be able to travel around the country with my team like this and play teams like Gonzaga and Kansas,” she said.

UMaine head coach Amy Vachon said Talon has a “huge upside” and is as skilled as any player on the floor. For now, it is just a matter of her learning the intricacies of the college game like knowing how the team is guarding opponents and where the ball needs to go.

“She is slowly getting it and doing a great job in the minutes she is playing,” Vachon said.