AUGUSTA — The rosters taped to the gym wall at the Kennebec Valley YMCA read like Maine basketball all-star teams from the past decade.

There is Troy Barnies, the former University of Maine standout who is signed on to play with BK Ventspils of the Latvian Basketball League for the 2014-15 season, as well as fellow UMaine alumnus Sean McNally — both on the same team no less.

Nick Pelotte, the new boys basketball coach at Waterville High School, finished his high school career at Valley in 2001 a perfect 84-0 and went on to have a stellar four years at Plymouth State — even getting elected to the university’s Hall of Fame in 2010.

“It’s tough,” said Levi Barnes, a rising junior on the Thomas men’s basketball team. “Every team here is good so you have to come out here everyday and bring your ‘A’ game.”

“(In) Central Maine, this is the spot,” Ben Johnson, a 6-foot, 8-inch Maranacook grad who led the University of Maine-Farmington in points (17.0) and rebounds (10.8) per game as a senior last season, said.

Don’t expect central Maine to be mistaken for the Bronx or any other basketball mecca any time soon, but you are not going to find much better summer hoops anywhere in the state than you are in the Kennebec Valley YMCA Men’s Summer Basketball League.

The level of competition is thanks in large part to Cony grad Craig Cameron, who upon taking over as program director of the KV YMCA four years ago set his mind to improving the quality of the league.

“Four years ago when I got there there were two teams,” Cameron said. “I reached out to all the guys I knew everywhere and the league has turned into being pretty competitive.”

“… My vision of the league was to make sure that everybody in the league had something to look forward to. (I wanted) to make it elite and make sure it wasn’t something like, ‘hey, just come out and play.'”

Consider that mission accomplished.

The Wednesday-night league features eight teams and 78 players, the vast majority of which have played — or still play — college ball at some level. The league may not be completely filled with professional athletes such as Troy Barnies, but there are plenty of mighty good players that have represented the likes of Central Maine Community College, Husson, St. Joseph’s (ME), Thomas, University of Southern Maine and UMaine-Augusta, to name a few.

“Against some (collegiate) teams at Thomas you don’t see as good of competition as you do here,” said Barnes, a native of Skowhegan. “Playing against Troy Barnies and Ben Johnson on our team is (6-8), you don’t see that competition around here that often.”

Like any summer league it lacks the same structure of a high school or college game but, according to Johnson, that comes with both advantages and disadvantages.

“It’s less organized but you don’t have a coach barking in your ear,” Johnson said. “That’s a plus, or a minus depending on how you look at it.”

One of the interesting aspects of the league is the dynamic it creates between players from the same and different generations. How would a player like Pelotte match up against someone like 2014 Morning Sentinel Boys Basketball Player of the Year Trevor Lovely, of Winslow? Barnes and Cony graduate Josiah Hayward — who are now teammates at Thomas — had their battles in high school, but how does that match up play out two years later?

“Just seeing these guys from when we had our duels in high school and coming back here and kind of reliving the moment is a great feeling,” Barnes said.

It’s also something Cameron — who plays in the league as well — is hoping to keep going for the foreseeable future.

“You have all these guys that just want to keep going,” Cameron said, “and that makes me want to put even more effort into the league.”

Evan Crawley—621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: Evan_Crawley

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