University of Maine men's basketball head coach Chris Markwood yells out during the game against UMaine Augusta in Orono on Dec. 8, 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

One year ago, Chris Markwood was named the University of Maine men’s basketball coach. As a player, he transferred from Notre Dame to join the Black Bears for the final two years of his playing career.

The South Portland product is now on the other end, with players leaving UMaine and possible additions the Black Bears could make this offseason. Under new NCAA rules, players are able to enter the transfer portal and can change teams once without having to sit out a season.

After UMaine finished seventh out of 10 teams in the America East Conference despite being picked last in the preseason coaches poll, finishing with its best record since 2011, four players have entered the transfer portal. The team has signed two guards, but 3-point shooting and rebounding stand out as big needs.

The Black Bears ranked 275th in the country in 3-pointers per game with 6.6 per game, while also ranking 348th in total rebounds at 30.8. Markwood is excited about the players on the roster now, including big men who will “get a lot better over the summer,” he said.

“We will look for some frontcourt help and if we can find the right guy, great,” he said. “We have all the trust in the world in the guys we have in the locker room.”

The four players in the transfer portal are Ata Turgut, a four-year forward at UMaine who didn’t play his first year, Adefolarin Adetogun, a three-year guard off the bench, as well as sophomore Byron Ireland and freshman Antonio Lisenbee, though all four are still working out with the team this spring.

“It’s hard because they’re great kids, we love them and they love it here,” Markwood said. “It’s just the nature of it. I had to do it as a player, too, looking for a certain type of role.”

Turgut started in 12 games this year while playing in 27. Adetogun played in 27 games, as well, starting the final regular season game. Turgut split time with Kristians Feierbergs and in the front court, leaving an opening for Markwood and his staff to fill. Adetogun averaged 8.5 minutes per game.

Gedi Juozapaitis, UMaine’s leading scorer at 15.4 points per game, also is graduating, leaving a need for a shooter on the roster. Juozapaitis shot 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Markwood now needs to fill in nearly a third of UMaine’s points next season.

UMaine has gotten commitments from two high-school seniors, Isaac Bonilla out of Bradford Christian Academy and Logan Carey from St. Paul’s School. Bonilla is “a big-time shooter,” while Carey reminds Markwood of both members of the Black Bears’ starting backcourt this season, Kellen Tynes and Jaden Clayton.

The coaching staff is still searching the high-school ranks for more recruits, and will continue to do so, but the staff uses connections they have built over the years to get transfer leads. Portal players have until May 11 to decide where they will be playing.

All players have to enter the portal and with each player comes contact information. Markwood, as well as coaches around the country in the college and professional game, use Synergy Sports to watch film on every player. The database helps coaches determine the fit of a player, while allowing players to see how teams perform.

“Every kid is on Synergy, so you can go in there and get a good sense of what kind of player you’re looking at, how he would fit and all that stuff,” Markwood said.

UMaine had success relative to low expectations this season, notching the most wins (13) by the program since the 2010-11 season (15), as well as individual success on the court, will hopefully help potential transfer targets make their decision.

Markwood and UMaine point to players like Kellen Tynes and his improvement as evidence the Black Bears’ program is successful. Last season with Montana State, Tynes averaged 5.7 points per 40 minutes. This year, the sophomore guard averaged 16.3 points.

Defensively, Tynes went from 20 to 98 steals, breaking UMaine’s single-season record. Kristians Feierbergs and Juozapaitis also had big per-40 minute jumps in points. Markwood plans to sell potential recruits on those kinds of gains.

“It gives them a library to look back on and a reference to what we’re building,” he said. “Last spring when you’re going through this, you’re selling a vision. You don’t really have anything of substance to go off of.”

Adam Robinson is a native of Auburn, Maine, and graduate of Husson University and Edward Little High School. He enjoys sports, going on runs and video games.