PRESQUE ISLE, Me. (WAGM) - Gavin Kane is in his second year as UMPI's women's head basketball coach. Kane is in the New England and Maine basketball hall of fames for his high school coaching career where he amassed a total record of 522 wins to just 117 loses. After a two win season in his first year at UMPI, he's sharpening the talons of the Owls and pushing the team to the next level.
"Love him as a man, one of the best coaches I've had," Junior Rhylee Wright said.
"He's the type of coach you don't want to let down, so when you step on the court you just work hard for them," Junior Emmy Churchill said.
Churchill and Wright are in their second year playing for coach Kane and they're off to a 2-2 start. Only one win shy of tying their win total for all of last year and Wright certainly noticed the impact Coach Kane has on her and the team.
"He knows how to make people work hard, he knows the drills, he knows a lot to help us work together," Wright said. "He's pushed me a lot to work to my best potential and grow as a person and a player."
The growth for the Frenchville native Wright is apparent on the scoresheet. Through four games she is averaging 21 points,11 rebounds and 2 blocks. Stats that could put her in rare territory according to her coach.
"Offensively, Rhylee has put up some big numbers for us early," Head coach Gavin Kane said. "I certainly feel that she could potentially be a player of the year candidate in the NAC."
And for Washburn native, Churchill, she's thrilled to have her as a teammate, and not as an opponent.
"I love playing with Rhylee, it's kind of cool because in high school we played against each other, so didn't like that," Churchill said smiling. "She's very passionate, she wants to win, so when someone's like that kind of picks up on that and everyone has the same energy."
The Owls play its home and NAC conference opener on Friday against U-Maine Farmington. A match-up which will feature a battle of the bigs down low. UMPI has Wright, Farmington has sophomore McKenna Brodeur from Messaolonskee.
"She's about six one very physically strong player, she really is the key to the team," Kane said. "She's tough, she can handle the ball for them, she can bring the ball up against pressure, she's strong in the post."
Despite the high praise from Coach Kane, Wright isn't phased by Brodeur.
"I'm ready for the battle because I know I can take her," Wright said. "I know we can beat this team and I want to get our first win on the home court."
Both the men and women Owls play two games against U-Maine Farmington, one on Friday night, one on Saturday. The men kick off the two game set at 5:30 on Friday and the women play the prime time slot at 7:30.