ORONO — After 16 months, Taylor Schildroth finally back on his favorite basketball court.
As a high school basketball standout at George Stevens Academy, Schildroth, a 2018 graduate, spent many late-winter mornings, afternoons and evenings dominating tournament opponents at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Now, he’ll get the chance to play on the same floor and represent his home state as a Division I player.
Schildroth was announced Tuesday as an addition University of Maine men’s basketball team’s 2019-20 roster. The Blue Hill native will be a preferred walk-on for the Black Bears after playing at two prep schools this past year and leading the Eagles to their third consecutive state championship as a season ago.
“This is where I want to be,” Schildroth said. “I’ve known for a few years that UMaine is where I’ve wanted to end up, so to be here now is really exciting.”
In high school, Schildroth was a premier player for a GSA dynasty that went 79-6 during his four years as a starter. He averaged 25.9 points, 6.2 rebounds 6.1 assists and 5.9 steals per game as a senior last year and 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists overall. His 61-point effort against Lee Academy on Jan. 6, 2017, is a modern state record.
After graduating as GSA’s all-time leading scorer with 1,761 career points, Schildroth took a postgraduate year to play basketball at Nation Christian Academy in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He left the program Oct. 31 in the wake of an abuse scandal involving Nation Christian CEO Mike Woodbury and attended Woodstock Academy in Connecticut for the remainder of the fall semester.
Schildroth then returned to his home state, enrolling in classes at UMaine for the spring semester. He wasn’t sure at first if he would be trying to make the team or focusing solely on his studies, but after a month or two of just taking courses, he knew he wanted to work toward representing his new school on the court.
“There were times when I thought I might just be going to class here, but in the end, I just had that drive to get on the court and play,” Schildroth said. “I would talk with the coaches, play pick-up games with the other guys on the team and do workouts with the other recruits, and all of that went really well.”
On Wednesday, six days before the program officially announced it would be adding Schildroth to the team, Maine head coach Richard Barron brought the 6-foot guard into his office for a meeting. It didn’t take long for Schildroth to learn he would be playing for the Black Bears in 2019-20.
“I thought all my workouts had gone well and that I was doing well in general, but I didn’t think they’d be telling me they were adding me right then,” Schildroth said. “We had a good talk, and five minutes in, [Barron] said he wanted to have me. It was a great feeling.”
Schildroth and senior Andrew Fleming of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris are the only native Mainers currently on the team’s roster. Portland’s Terion Moss, the 2017-18 Mr. Maine Basketball winner, left the program last month.
Maine announced the addition of Schildroth along with that of another New England high school standout, Precious Okoh of Bradford Christian Academy (Brockton, Mass.). Like Schildroth, Okoh was an explosive guard and an elite scorer in high school.
“We are very excited to welcome Precious and Taylor to our program,” Barron said in a statement. “Both players have shown great scoring ability at the high school level. They are tough competitors with deep shooting range.”
Schildroth was originally informed he would have to try out for the team this fall, but after Barron’s decision to make him a preferred walk-on, his spot on the team is now secure. As he did not play for an NCAA team last season, he will be a freshman this year with all four years of eligibility still remaining.
At the moment, Schildroth and his teammates are going through morning practices and taking a few summer courses as they prepare for fall practices. Although Maine’s first game of the season is still four months away, no one will be happier to take to the Cross Center floor when that moment comes.
“I have some good memories there,” said Schildroth, who went 10-1 in tourney play with three regional title wins and one Gold Ball win at the Cross Center with GSA. “It’s a dream to think I’ll be there in a UMaine jersey. … It’s been up and down getting here, but I’ve gotten better and learned a lot.”