Last Thursday afternoon I found Maine’s Version of the famous Basketball Movie, “Hoosiers” that starred Gene Hackman.
I walked into a very small gymnasium. The place was packed and there was standing room only.
It was class night for players/cheerleaders who were participating in their last home game of their careers.
After the roses were given out to the players who in return gave them to their parent(s) and the National Anthem was played, it was time to play ball.
As the game progressed there was no coaches up and yelling or screamming at the refs or their players. All you heard from the coaches was encouragement and positive feedback to the players on both teams.
There was no loud, louder, or loudest music. There was no high fives, no low fives, no chest bumping, no trash talking, no look at me after a good play. There were no attempted dunks, no hanging on the rim, no hot dogging, etc.
The teams had players who tried to make their teams and teamates better.
There was very little one on one action. Teams tried to pass the ball around, looked for their post players inside.
This was basketball as Dr. James Naismith must have imagined it should be played when he invented the game back at Springfield YMCA in Massachuasetts.
Played by the participants for the pure joy of it. A fun game, with action a plenty, as the players worked hard and gave 100 percent for every loose ball and every rebound.
Overall the players skill level was not great, but the effort certainly was.
The court was very small.
However, the size of the court did not matter to the players who were on the floor. They were playing a game that they really enjoyed. It was a rivalry game between to close towns.
The point guard for the home team and the point guard for the visiting team stood out as they looked to make crisp sharp passes to open teammates. They looked to pass first, shoot second and dribble third.
Both teams had good size for such small schools. Although the play was ragged at times, there were still some very outstanding plays.
The crowd cheered on their favorites. Parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents, relatives and friends cheered for good plays for both teams. They were really into the game for its pure enjoyment.
The game was close and until the final few minutes before the visiting team pulled ahead to win the game. It was nip and tuck back and forth until that final rush by the road team.
The players from both teams helped each up off the floor when there was action that resulted in players finding themselves on the floor.
Good sportsmanship was evident throughout the game by the players, coaches and the fans as they all enjoyed their chance to get away from the problems of the day for a few short hours.
This was small town basketball at it’s purest form.
Where was it, which small town, which high school game?
Why, it wasn’t a high school game, it was a middle school game in the small town of Greenbush just a few miles north of Old Town. However, to all involved it was basketball, to be played, to be coached, to be watched, to be enjoyed and to be reffed.
The only big differences between the gym from “Hoosiers” were the glass backboards that the baskets were attached to and the gym was a little smaller.
The schools involved were the middle schools from Greenbush and Htchborn Middle School of Howland which is separated by just a few miles.
I have reffed alot of games this year from 3-4 travel games to college games, but this one was one of the most enjoyable of all the games I have reffed so far this season.
It was a journey back in time as I remembered all the small gyms that I had played in during my elementary, junior high, high school, college and semi-pro days in the 50′s.
These players didn’t need a big gymnasium, a regulation size court, bands playing, etc. to enjoy the game of basketball. All they needed was a ball, a basket, a court and someone to ref the game.
Riding back home to Bangor, it gave me a chance to look back on all the great memories I had as a youngster playing basketball in the 50′s.
This was one of the best assignments I have had for the season. A chance to remember what the game is really all about. I played in the “Hoosiers” era of the 50′s and I want to thank my assigner, the coaches, athletic administrators, players, cheerleaders and fans for a fun filled afternoon watching basketball the way it was meant to be played.
I reffed two games that day. A Girls game first and then the Boys Game.
Each team had their version of “Hoosier’s Jimmy Chitwood.
Each game had an outstanding point guard for the boys Greenbush team and the Girls Howland Team.
These two players had excellent basketball IQ’s and good decision making skills which made their teammates and their team better. They could score, but they were also just as good as getting the ball to their open teammates at the right moments throughout the game.
If you are in a basketball funk right now of seeing the same old athletic game played over and over again at the NBA, College or even High School levels, take the time to visit your local middle school and watch a game, maybe you to will be drawn back to the “Hoosiers” of your basketball past.
After all, this is where those skills of the future high school players are developed and character is formed. We all should be thankful for the coaches who coach at this level who give of themselves to provide an opportunity for these middle schoolers to enjoy the game of basketball as it was played in this middle school game in Greenbush.
What a great day of basketball for all invovled.