Hampden Academy senior Christian McCue was named Mr. Maine Basketball recently at the Maine McDonald’s all-star banquet. The 6-foot-2 McCue moved the point guard this season and led the Broncos to a 20-2 record and a berth in the Class A state championship game.
He recently answered some questions about his season and career:
Q: Who got you started playing basketball and when?
A: "My dad is the one who got me started. He put the ball in my hands when I was 5 years old. I remember it was my birthday and he told me I finally was old enough to start practicing, and he began taking me to the local middle school gym to shoot and do drills with my older brothers."
Q: Who have been your most important influences in the game?
A: "My most important influences have definitely been my two older brothers, Jesse and Daniel McCue. My oldest brother Jesse is the best shooter I have ever seen, and honestly I have been working my entire life to shoot like him. My middle brother Daniel is an amazing point guard with the highest basketball IQ you can imagine. The two of them have spent countless hours with me over the last 10-plus years teaching me everything I know about the game. Jesse played at Palm Beach Atlantic University where he still holds the all-time school record for 3’s made in a game, season, and career.
"Daniel is graduating from MIT this year where he helped lead the team to its first D III Final Four appearance ever, and best school record in history. I think I got the best of both worlds and became a combination of two of them after receiving both their expertise. I also think my father has been a huge influence on me. He has always pushed me extremely hard, sometimes harder than I would have liked. But he never hesitated to rebound for me no matter how late at night, or how many times a week."
Q: What do you most enjoy about basketball?
A: The thing I enjoy most about basketball is that it’s the perfect combination of team and individual moments. There are times when it is completely mano a mano, like when you are guarding someone man to man, or trying to score, and there is a lot of individual pride on the line. But there is also a beautiful team aspect, whether it is a fastbreak with a couple quick passes, or you taking a charge on help-side when your teammate gets beat. The camaraderie of the game of basketball, on the court and in the locker room, is amazing, but it also gives you an opportunity to showcase your individual talent.
Q: What parts of your game have you worked on the most in the past couple of years and where do you need to improve?
A: "Over the last two years I have really tried to develop my ability to take it to the basket. I have stood on the three point line and shot threes my whole life, but one-dimensional players are easy to guard, and that became apparent to me early in my varsity career after a couple games of being face guarded. So over the last two years I have made a very conscious effort to try and attack when I am playing pickup basketball, or with my friends, and have spent a lot of time playing by myself taking it to the basket.
"I still need to improve on this ability, and also the ability of knowing when to pass and when to shoot it myself. I stepped into the roll of point guard this year for Hampden Academy, and sometimes I would get into the paint and be in between dishing it to a teammate and taking it all the way myself. I just need to keep working on the feel for that part of my game."
Q: Were you surprised you were named Mr. Maine Basketball? What are your thoughts on winning?
A: "I wouldn’t say I was surprised as much as relieved. I thought if they called my name at the McDonald’s banquet I would have earned it, but I was also worried because the other finalists, Cam Sennick and Cole Libby, are great players, with impressive résumés. Winning the award has always been a secret dream of mine, and is something I will always be profoundly proud of.
"It means a lot to me because I feel like I have brought honor to my family, the ones who have always supported me. Winning the award was also a moment of vindication for me, because there have always been a lot of coaches and people who have doubted my ability. Sometimes this made me doubt myself too, but winning an award like this makes it feel like it has all been worth it."
Q: What teams have you played for outside of school and how did this impact your development?
A: "I have played for various AAU teams and various coaches. Throughout high school I played for both MBR and ME Hoops, two great programs. AAU has been really great because it gives you a chance to not only keep playing in the off-season and to keep getting better, but also to see what else is out there. Being from Maine especially, going to the bigger tournaments in Boston, New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, etc. was always an eye-opening experience. Seeing the best of the best always motivates you to improve your game, and expand it past what you previously knew."
Q: Which of your skills on the court do you take the most pride in?
A: "The skill I take most pride in is definitely my shooting ability. I have always regarded shooting as an art, and taken in extremely serious. I know I have racked up 100’s of thousands of repetitions, all in attempt to perfect that art. One of my worst fears is to have somebody see me shoot an ugly jump shot. I am well aware that I can’t take it to the hoop and dunk on someone, so I have always felt shooting a deep jumper is my chance to wow someone on the court."
Q: What other sports and activities do you enjoy?
A: "I enjoy pretty much all sports; I used to play soccer and baseball but stopped after middle school. When not playing basketball I enjoy spending time with my friends, and we usually kill time playing ping pong and video games. I also like music, and can play the saxophone."
Q: Do you think Hampden overachieved this season? If so, why?
A: "I think we had a spectacular run this year, but I wouldn’t say we overachieved. I am very close friends with the guys on the team, and have played with them for a really long time. Ever since we were in middle school we envisioned playing in a state championship. The core group of guys on the team played and practiced a lot together in the off season, and would have settled for nothing less than what we achieved this year."
Q: What lessons away from the court or field have you learned from playing sports?
A: "I think I have learned a few critical lessons from basketball. First, is how to deal with pressure. I remember this year when we played at Mt. Blue during the regular season, the gym was absolutely packed. Mt. Blue was the other top team in the conference, and it was probably the biggest game of the season to that point. It had been a hard fought battle, but we were down by two with no time left when a kid on the other team got a technical foul.
"I was sent to the line, and remember a tremendous roar coming from the stands, as I was forced to just take a deep breath and knock them down. I ended up hitting both to send it in to OT, and we ended up winning. Pressure like that will be hard to replicate in my regular life, and I think experiences like that have prepared me to handle tough situations when they arise."
Q: Where do you plan to attend college and do you hope to play basketball?
A: "I am not positive where I will end up next year, but I will definitely be playing basketball. If everything works out right, I will most likely end up in Cambridge playing for the MIT Engineers."
BEAL WINS GATORADE AWARD
Garet Beal of Jonesport-Beals High School is the Maine Gatorade boys' basketball Player of the Year.
The junior forward led the Royals (19-2) to the Class D state championship this past winter. The 6-foot-5 Beal averaged 22.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 3.6 assists per game. He shot 61.5 percent from the field and 81.2 percent from the line.
Beal is the first player from Jonesport-Beals High to win the Gatorade Player of the Year.
HOCKEY TITLES DECIDED
Thornton Academy won its second straight Class A championship while Greely won in Class B in games played recently at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Thornton defeated St. Dominic 5-1 behind three goals and an assist from senior captain C.J. Maksut. Adam Carrigan added a goal and two assist for the Trojans who finished three season at 20-1-1. Included in their wins were three victories over St. Dom’s.Greely downed Messalonskee 6-2 to win its first Class B title since 2009. The Rangers scored three goals in a 62-second span in the first period. Peter Stauber and Ted Hart each scored twice for Greely which finished at 15-4-2. Ben Hackett added a goal and two assists while Pete Hurley scored a goal.
Travis St. Pierre and Sam Dexter scored for Messalonskee which finished at 18-4 and made its first trip to a state title game.
MAKSUT WINS TRAVIS ROY
Thornton Academy senior C.J. Maksut won the 17th annual Travis Roy Award given annually to the top Class A hockey player in the state. The award is named for the former Yarmouth and North Yarmouth Academy star who was paralyzed 11 seconds into his first collegiate shift at Boston University.
Maksut scored 32 goals and 27 assists this season to lead the Trojans to their second straight Class A championship. For his career he finished with 90 goals and 64 assists, setting a school record of 154 points.