John Shea had a bone in his hip tearing into the labrum, and needed two surgeries to correct it. Now he's ready to hit the court in the fall.
John Shea (middle) stands before a UMaine basketball game against the University of Maine at Fort Kent. Credit: Courtesy of Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

John Shea was fresh off winning the Mr. Maine Basketball award after a huge season with Edward Little High School when he committed to the University of Maine to continue his hoops career.

When he got on campus, Shea was practicing with the team when what he thought was a groin problem began to hinder his performance. It progressively got worse, and eventually prevented him from playing.

Shea had surgery on one side of his hip on Dec. 14 because a bone in his hip was tearing into the labrum. Afterward, Shea learned he had to get the same surgery on the other side.

Last Wednesday, Shea finally had his second surgery. Doctors told the former high school basketball star that he will be ready to return to practice in September.

It’s been a long road for Shea, who went from being named the best senior basketball player in Maine in 2022 to having his collegiate career playing for his state in question before it even started. Now, after having a new head coach join the program and recovering from two surgeries, Shea is ready to return to the game and help his team in any way he can.

Shea was initially offered a spot on the UMaine squad by interim head coach Jai Steadman, who took over the team after former head coach Richard Barron parted ways with UMaine on Feb. 17, 2022.

When the university hired Chris Markwood as head coach more than a month later, Markwood honored the walk-on spots offered to both Shea and another Maine product, South Portland’s Owen Maloney.

“Being a Maine guy and having been here before, I know how important it is to have some Maine flavor on the roster,” Markwood said. “It’s just good for everybody. It’s good for the guys in the locker room, obviously the public wants it, too. They’re great kids, too.”

Maloney appeared in three games this season for a total of eight minutes.

The last thing Shea did on a basketball court was play a pickup game with his UMaine teammates, and he said he had a great game and it helped his confidence. Still, he was relegated to the bench this season and was granted a medical redshirt season that let him keep all four years of his eligibility.

Shea has been doing what he can to help the team while he’s been on the sidelines during games and practices.

“Whether it’s helping out with rebounding in practice or before games, hopping on the shot clock in practice, whatever it may be and anything I’m asked to do,” Shea said. “I’m willing to help to my best capability just so I can still feel that sense of being part of the team, and I just can’t wait to get back on the court after all this is over with.”

When Markwood came on as head coach, he spoke with Shea and Maloney about what their roles as walk-ons would be. Since then, they’ve flourished.

“They’ve been tremendous,” Markwood said. “We love having them. They’ve been every bit of the role I just explained and they’re a big part of our locker room. Our guys love them.”

UMaine men’s basketball went 13-17 last year, its best season in more than a decade, and Shea had a front-row seat to the team in its big turnaround season. He made great relationships with coaches and players and said that after his second surgery every player reached out to check in on his recovery.

“My teammates have been great just trying to keep me positive, and they’ve been awesome through the process so far,” Shea said. “Just checking on me and making sure I’m doing all right. It’s just been a great atmosphere for me so far and Maine’s my home and my teammates and coaches definitely make it feel like home more than it already is.”

Markwood said that the coaches and players all love Shea and respect his dedication to the team despite the adversity he’s endured.

“That was the initial conversation I had with him and Owen, it’s all gotta be about the program first in this role and you’ve got to do kind of whatever is asked of you and then see where things go in terms of basketball,” Markwood said. “He’s embodied all that in his first year through adversity. It’s why I think we, as a staff, have a lot of respect for him. To carry yourself with the character and class that he did throughout the adversity that he’s faced, that’s usually the definition of a man right there.”

The fact that Markwood kept Shea on the team when he did not have to has not gone unnoticed by the freshman.

“I’m just hoping I can make an impact, whether it’s in practice or whether it’s in the game,” Shea said. “Nothing is handed to you when you get to this level. I’m honestly just grateful for the opportunity. That’s the biggest thing for me, is knowing that they didn’t have to keep me around and knowing that they did, it’s just very reassuring and I’m gonna do everything I can to help the team.”


At Edward Little, Shea averaged 26 points per game, along with 12 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward was hoping to contribute to the Black Bears this past winter, but instead watched from the sideline as UMaine had a breakout season on the court.

From his perspective, the team’s turnaround season was thanks to the play and leadership of guards Kellen Tynes and Jaden Clayton. Shea thinks good things are on the horizon for the Black Bears.

“It was a good year and I think that we’re gonna be even better next year just because we already have that team chemistry and it’s like a family,” Shea said.

Shea said he’s grateful for the opportunity to have a second season at UMaine and knows people from his home state are cheering him on.

“That’s one of the best things too, is being a Maine guy, everybody’s pulling for you and rooting for you and just having the state behind your back,” Shea said. “It’s a very welcoming feeling as well. I can’t wait.”

Markwood doesn’t know what Shea’s role will be with the team when he comes back from his most recent hip surgery. He’s hoping Shea focuses on getting healthy, first.

“Right now, just given him and what he’s gone through, you just wanna get him healthy and you want the kid to be able to get back to doing what he loves,” Markwood said. “Whatever role that is, I have no idea what that’s gonna be, but at least he’ll feel more like he’s a part of it once he can get back out there.”

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.