Brady Saunders and Madden White are two of the best high school basketball players in their class from northern Maine.
Brewer's Brady Saunders (13) leaps for a layup against Nokomis defender Madden White (35) in a Class A North boys basketball game at Brewer High School on Jan. 12, 2023. Credit: Seth Poplaski / BDN

The University of Southern Maine’s men’s basketball team just snagged two important pieces for next season.

Brady Saunders, a Mr. Maine Basketball finalist from Class A state champion Brewer High School, and Nokomis’ semifinalist Madden White are joining forces and bringing their talents to the Huskies next year.

The pair, two of the best high school basketball players in their class from northern Maine, is sure to be a boost for USM, which went 16-10 last season and lost to UMass Dartmouth in the opening round of the Little East Conference playoffs. The Huskies won six of their last eight games.

The two players were important for head coach Rob Sanicola to get as the USM basketball program builds on Maine high school talent.

“They add pedigree to build on our vision here and that is really important to us,” Sanicola said. “We want to get the best young men to come here and play here and rep the state. It’s great when you can do it with Brady and Madden.”

Over the years, Saunders and White have become close friends. They compete on the same AAU team in the summer, the Gym Rats, while playing head-to-head in Class A North. Nokomis won the Class A state title in 2022, followed by Brewer this season.

During the summer and into basketball season the two talked about playing together. Both were being recruited by USM and Husson.

“Me and Madden have been talking since this summer about where we’re going to college and stuff,” Saunders said. “Madden came to me midway through the season and said, ‘Yo, I kind of want to play together, that would be super cool.’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll play with you.’ We’ve sort of been talking to each other throughout this whole process and we’ve now made our decision. It’s amazing.”

While both Saunders and White ultimately made this decision on their own, USM worked out as a team they could both join and be happy doing so.

“I kind of only consulted with myself,” Saunders said. “I wanted this to just be my decision and didn’t want anyone to sway my decision. I talked to my parents though and they agreed with my decision.”

Both players felt USM was the right choice because Sanicola made them feel welcomed.

“I chose USM because I really liked coach Sanicola and he was really welcoming towards me,” Saunders said. “He made me feel like part of the team.”

White echoed his future teammate’s sentiments.

“Coach Sanicola was always checking in with me, and it wasn’t even always about basketball, just to see how I was doing,” White said. “It’s exciting because now I can get ready for college, meet people and get ready to play.”

Sanicola thinks USM’s style of play is what attracted the duo to the Huskies, as well as the family atmosphere and academics.

Cody Hawes, a Hermon High School graduate, is returning for his added fifth season because of COVID-19. Hawes was named first team all-conference this season and was an important reason why Saunders and White wanted to join the team.

“Cody Hawes is coming back next year and I think he can be a good mentor for me and Madden,” Saunders said.

Hawes averaged 11.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

Saunders and White don’t know what kind of roles they will fill on the team or how many minutes they will play, but are excited to join the program regardless. That enthusiasm was important for Sanicola and the coaching staff as they recruited the two standout northern Maine athletes.

“The fun part is while recruiting them, nothing was promised to them and I think that meant a lot to them,” Sanicola said. “They are competitive and they have something to prove, and we love that about them.”

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Adam Robinson

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.