Maples’ Tianna Sugars seizes opportunities as she pursues her coaching dream

Tianna Sugars, a 2016 graduate of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, recently returned from Scotland to Maine, where she spent the winter season playing competitive basketball and coaching youth with the Falkirk Fury. She now plays for the LA Maples, a startup team in the Women’s American Basketball Association. Photo submitted

AUBURN — Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School alumnus Tianna Sugars was a latecomer to basketball.

As a child, she would often shoot hoop with her father Dwaine, but her shyness kept her from participating in the sport outside of her home. That changed in fifth grade when her mother Christina signed Tianna to play on an Oxford Hills basketball travel team coached by Troy Eastman.

Sugars quickly became addicted to the sport and hasn’t stopped playing since, dribbling and working her way through college to the Oxford Hills women’s varsity team and then to Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire, where she majored in sports management. .

Now she is chasing her NBA dream.

Since graduating from college, Sugars has been open to every opportunity available to continue making her mark on basketball. This took her all the way to Scotland, where she played professionally for the Falkirk Fury, a basketball club with teams ranging from development to national play, and also worked as a coach for young players.

After returning from his season in Scotland, Sugars heard of a new basketball team – the Lewiston-Auburn Maples – from his friend and former summer league teammate Allie Goodman, a semi-professional team from first year in the Women’s American Basketball Association.

“When I got back from Scotland Allie called me to say she had joined the team, they needed more post players and she would like to play with me again,” said Sugars told the Democratic announcer. “Then she called the coach (Jim Seavey) and I went to practice. And all of a sudden I was in the squad.

The Maples played their inaugural game on July 10, an 83-39 win over the New England Trailblazers of Massachusetts. The Sugars contributed six points to the win. The Maples will face other Northeast teams in their first season; playoff games may expand to other regions.

Tianna Sugars coached 14-year-old girls at a Scottish basketball club last season. She said her team was delighted to know that she had told a US newspaper about it. “They mean a lot to me and were my favorite part of my experience in Scotland,” she said. “They made it worth it.” Photo submitted


Because the level of play across the Atlantic Ocean isn’t as sophisticated as Sugars was used to, she had to quickly adapt to her old form with the Maples.

She said the Scottish national teams weren’t as disciplined and played a different style than Sugars was used to. Also, the referees weren’t as rigid in their decisions. She said basic moves that would be penalized in the United States, such as travel, are not called.

Playing against less developed players hasn’t helped Sugars improve his game on the court. Still, she says, her time in Falkirk helped her further develop her basketball IQ in other ways.

“I coached 14-year-olds in Falkirk,” Sugars said. “It taught me patience and made me a better coach. I had to explain things in different ways. Some of the lingo was different. learned in college, explaining a drill step by step, or a form of shooting and mechanics.

“I was nervous about it, but they loved me. The organisation, the team, the parents – they really loved having me as a coach and they wanted me back this year. I intended to go, but I found opportunities here in America. They really liked me and needed that toughness for them. I taught them discipline. They weren’t running for a missed shot during practices.


Playing for the semi-pro Maples is an opportunity that prompted Sugars to stay in Maine this summer. Another is the Saco Sports Zone, where she joins her coach at Oxford Hills, Nate Pelletier, to help develop players for travel teams.

Pelletier expects his former player to go far as a basketball player and coach.

“Tianna has the ability to make everyone feel welcome on her team. She understood that it took the collective abilities of her teammates to be successful,” Pelletier told the Democratic announcer in an email. “She has always wanted to pursue a career in basketball whether it be playing or coaching. She has an amazing basketball spirit and is a calming influence on her teammates during games. I am super proud that she is continuing her basketball dreams.

Sugars pursues this dream knowing that achieving their goals may require different avenues.

“It’s been a summer of change for me and my career,” she said. “I had planned to go to Scotland for two years to play and coach. But I’ll be staying here between Old Orchard Beach and Lewiston. I’m meeting more people and honestly developing my social skills because I’m still shy. As a coach, especially a high-level coach at a Division I school or at the NBA level, I’m going to have to learn how to talk to others better. I’m developing my skills in one way or another.

Along with building her coaching resume as she eyes the big leagues, Sugars considers working with younger players to be just as important to becoming an NBA coach.

“It can be scary to train, especially for young female athletes. I want the gym to be a safe place for them, so women know it’s okay to be strong,” she said. “The opportunities for me in basketball are endless. I want to be a change maker and a leader. To make an impact for kids in basketball.

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