After a great first season at Spruce Mountain, Jace Bessey will spend his spring and summer teaming up with some of the best players in the state on the Maine United AAU basketball team.
Bessey said that shortly after Phoenix’s season ended, Aaron McClure, the father of former Maranacook star Cash McClure, wrote in a Facebook post that Bessey should get more attention.
The post caught the attention of Maine United assistant coach Kelly Flagg, Maine United assistant coach and two of the team’s players, freshmen Nokomis Ace and Cooper Flagg. Maine United’s Gabe Lash broke his leg recently, opening up a roster spot for a new player. Kelly Flagg invited Bessey to a practice last week to try out.
“I was so nervous, I’ll be honest,” said Bessey, the son of Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey. “Running around all these great players, I was really nervous. As soon as I walked in and saw Cooper and everyone else, I thought, ‘Wow, this is the real deal.’
Maine United head coach Andy Bedard says the team already have their eyes on Jace Bessey.
“We don’t have a deep formation, we have eight (players), but we were going to bring him in to watch him, anyway,” Bedard said. “Whether we were going to travel with nine or not, we weren’t sure. Gabe ends up breaking his leg, and so he’s out for three months. Going out and playing, especially with COVID and with the crazy travels, vaccinations, being seven years old is tough.
“We were really impressed with Jace’s ability to create space and get his shot. Just his overall IQ. He’s an older kid (for a freshman), a strong kid for his height , and he’s a coach’s son, so he’ll have that “thing.” We wanted to bring him in and see what he could do with our guys.
Bessey played well on tryout and when he got home he was sent forms to fill out to join the team. Freshman Spruce brings shooting to a team that has size and athleticism in the Flaggs, Landon Clark from Bangor High School and Bedard’s son Kaden from Montverde Academy in Florida.
“(Bédard) knew my skills were good, but my main focus was defense in that first practice,” Bessey said. “It will be very different over the next few months and my level of competition must be much higher than it is.”
Prior to playing at Boston College and the University of Maine, Bedard was a standout player at Mountain Valley High School., which, like Spruce Mountain, competes in the Mountain Valley Conference. So he has an idea of how Bessey’s game is perceived.
“I would say he’s playing against tougher competition today than he’s had all year,” Bedard said the day after Bessey tried. “Which one, I came out of MVC, it was one of those things where people were like, ‘Well, who is he playing against? He hears the same thing, and it’s either you can play or you can’t play. In my opinion, once he starts playing with us, his cap will keep going up, he will get better and better and the game will get easier for him.
Bedard did not promise Bessey playing time with Maine United, but said he would be a much better player after the Nike Elite Youth League circuit, which is played at venues across the country from early April until late April. end of July.
“Just having him included in training will make him a lot better, and we’re excited to see him improving quickly,” Bedard said. “I would say he is playing against tougher competition today than he has all year. Playing against Kaden every day is something that will make him tougher and make him realize how hard you have to work. Scoring and opening up while also being physical – when he goes back to high school it will be a lot easier.
Bedard said that like other Maine United players, Bessey likes to work hard and be coached.
“We’re excited about him, and he’s a good boy too,” Bedard said. “He’s a hard worker and that’s one of the things he had that we have, I’m going to tackle them pretty hard but it’s like they’re all my kids. Parents all get it , it’s not some kind of diary, it’s us trying to help them achieve their goals His makeup and the way he carries himself, he’s a faithful child and that’s what these are guys.
Maine United plays Hoop Group New England this weekend in Westford, Massachusetts. This is their second round of matches after facing XL Thunder last Friday in Saco.
“The first game, as soon as I walked in, I was a little nervous, but I tried to be aggressive,” Bessey said. “If I was open, I was going to shoot it. I think I only had two free throws in the first game, and the defense I still have to work on. I have to improve not to get me fighting and defense in general. I think I played well overall.
Bessey said the team wants him to shoot the ball if it’s open. He is excited to travel with the team and play basketball as this is the first time he has worked full-time with the AAU since fourth grade.
The team’s goal is to qualify for the Peach Jam, a tournament for the top 16 teams in the country, in July.
“The atmospheres are somewhat hostile, it gets loud, obnoxious, the pressure is to win or go home,” Bedard said. “There are a lot of situations that I cannot simulate in training. Miss a free throw? You go back home. It is reality. There’s a lot of pressure opportunities, and you’re playing kids who are mostly Division I kids. I think they’re playing at different levels this year in first grade. For freshmen coming in and contributing, it’s kind of a rare thing, and I think after this year, when they come back, the game will be a lot slower. You’ll see them take a huge leap forward this year – with all our training, our games, they all want it.
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