TOWNSEND — He bleeds red, white and blue.
If there is a North Middlesex game going on in the area, make no mistake, senior basketball captain Drew Patno will be there with an ear-to-ear grin on his face.
The six-foot-three Patno, who resides in nearby Lunenburg, was an integral part of the Patriots’ 12-9 finish under first-year head coach Justin Maly. One year ago, Patno helped lead North Middlesex to the Western Mass. semifinals, where it ultimately fell to Longmeadow.
Two things are certain about Patno, both on and off the floor — he’ll always give it his all, and he will have fun doing it.
But, more importantly, he does it all with humility.
“Drew is at everything,” Maly said emphatically. “He is in the crowds at all the games, and he always enjoys himself. He lights up the room when he is around. He has a special energy about him.”
Patno played much of the year at the shooting guard spot, where he averaged a little over 15 points-per-game. But, don’t let the hard stats fool you. The senior typically pours in 19 points, in addition to 10 rebounds and six assists per night.
One of the best all-around games in his career came in an early season win at St. Bernard’s, where he scored 17 points and ripped down 18 boards.
When he is not scoring, he is distributing. The senior comes from a basketball family. The Patno clan does not miss a game — home or away. Some might say, it’s their life.
“I think the Patno family leads the Mid-Wach league in games attended,” Maly joked. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s freshmen, junior varsity or varsity — girls or boys — they’re always in the stands. It’s nice to see Drew have that strong support system at home.”
Patno will continue his basketball career next season at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine.
At first, the Nor’Easters were not on his radar — even though the actual weather system was on all of ours this winter — but, he and his father toured the campus and the North Middlesex senior fell in love.
“I had seven or eight schools recording, but UNE was not on my list at first,” Patno said. “One night, the head coach called my dad because the guy who I train with, Rick Gorman, helps with recruiting. The UNE coach asked about me and decided to bring me up for a visit in August.”
The Nor’Easters have a relatively new basketball facility, which Patno had a chance to tour on his overnight there.
“It’s very nice,” he said. “They have a huge training room, and it is just a beautiful campus. They have a young team that actually beat the No. 1 team in the conference, Nichols, on a buzzer-beater three. I was there for that, so it was awesome to see.”
Patno joins a recruiting class of four that stretches all the way to the West Coast.
“It makes for a fun experience,” Patno said of the UNE recruiting class. “There are kids from as far as Turkey on this team. It’s going to be cool to see and pick up some of the different styles of play, such as that of the kid from Turkey, who plays a more European-style game.”
Athletic scholarships are not offered at the Division 3 level, but Patno hopes to earn some money for school on his academic merit. The North Middlesex senior is in the Top 25 of his class — which has also landed him the Presidential Scholarship at UNE.
“As far as UNE goes, it was where I could be happy and get a good education,” Patno said. “I plan to study elementary education with a minor in business administration, too, because right now I want to be a special-education teacher.”
With basketball so close to his heart, Patno hopes to one day become a coach.
“That’s the thing with teaching, it kind of opens the door to coaching,” the NM senior said. “Coaching will, hopefully, become part of my life.”
Maly and the North Middlesex athletic community will lose a dedicated student-supporter once Patno crosses the graduation stage in June, but, hopefully, someone else will be there to fill his shoes.
“Someone else will step-up,” Maly said. “Drew has meant so much to this school. Not many people come around like Drew, and again, he is a kind soul.
“When everything finally broke down and I got the job this summer — the summer league started,” said Maly. “I didn’t know what to do. I called up Drew and he told me not to worry — he’ll take care of it. Drew didn’t just want to make himself better, he wanted to make it a great year for the other seniors and the rest of his team.”
Follow Ed Niser on Twitter: @EdNiser.