BANGOR — Legends packed a tiny media room at the Cross Insurance Center about an hour before Thursday’s induction of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame’s inaugural class. But even amidst an unprecedented collection of basketball talent, prestige and knowledge, Rachel Bouchard thought something was missing.

“If we could put a blackboard in here…” said Bouchard, the former Hall-Dale and University of Maine star.

The first class to enter the newly-opened Hall of Fame assembled for a class photo and swapped congratulatory handshakes and hugs before they joined 500 family, friends and fans for a gala dinner and two-hour induction ceremony that also recognized 10 others as “contributors” or “legends of the game.”

Bouchard is one of 16 players in the class, voted in by a selection committee late last winter along with four coaches and one official.

Players are eligible for enshrinement 20 years after the end of their playing careers.

Many of the inductees were connected long before the Hall of Fame brought them together. Former Brunswick star and University of Maine coach Joanne Palombo-McCallie counted former teammates, assistant coaches and mentors among her fellow honorees.

“I learned to shoot at Bob Brown’s ‘Swish’ camp. I remember girls getting an opportunity to shine at those camps. I remember seeing Dick Whitmore at camps,” said Palombo-McCallie, in her eighth year as Duke women’s basketball head coach. “We’ve all benefited from each other. Rachel Bouchard was on my staff at Maine. Lisa (Blais-Manning) and I were on a team that toured Taiwan. We’re all so interconnected.”

“It’s a great honor (being inducted), but what I’m really happy about is going in with a lot of my mentors,” added Paul Vachon, who led the Cony girls team to 11 Eastern Maine championships and seven state titles. “I learned so much from them, and the committee did such an outstanding job putting this class together, in less than one year, that I can’t thank them enough.”

Brown, who coached for 50 years and won more than 600 games in high school and college, is one-half of the hall’s first father-son duo. Brown is joined by his son Brett, the current coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, who was inducted as a player.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling of pride,” Bob Brown said, “because this doesn’t usually happen, a father and son being in the same class.”

“Any time you’re inducted into a Hall of Fame, you feel old,” said Brett Brown, who led South Portland to two Western A championships and a state title in 1979. “Both of us being here tonight is definitely a reflection of our age and our past. I’m very grateful people thought enough of us to put us both in this position.”

Matt Hancock, a three-time All-American and all-time scoring leader at Colby, is one of four inductees who played or coached at the Waterville college, along with former Hall-Dale star Brad Moore, head coach Dick Whitmore and his long-time assistant, John “Swisher” Mitchell.

“I became so much better when I got to Colby,” said Hancock, who led Lake Region to a Class B state title in 1985. “I came into a place where creativity was encouraged, so to be here with (Whitmore) and ‘Swisher,’ it’s emotional, because these things don’t happen without people allowing them to happen.”

Now in his late 80s, Mitchell recalled working as Whitmore’s assistant for 44 years and his time as point guard for the 1944 New England champions from Waterville High School, the first team to be enshrined in the Hall.

“I wish some of my teammates could be here,” said Mitchell, a player inductee. “When we won New Englands, it was during a time when the war (World War II) had just started turning in our favor, and I think it brought a lot of good feeling to the state. We met so many GIs who came back from overseas telling us ‘Way to go. Us farm boys showed them.'”

Other player inductees were Lisa Blais-Manning (Westbrook, Old Dominion), Skip Chapelle (Old Town, University of Maine), Danny Coombs (Brewer, Seton Hall), Don Crosby (Cony, Boston College), Matt Donahue (Westbrook, University of Southern Maine), Steve Pound (Stearns, Acadia), Doug Roberts (Rumford, Acadia), Jack Scott (Ellsworth, Husson), Joe Harrington (Morse, Maryland) and Jon MacDonald (Stearns, Maryland).

Stearns coach George Wentworth and referee Jim DiFrederico were inducted posthumously. Bob Butler of York was honored as a contributor. Wally Donovan, Durward Heal, Charlie Wotten, Tony Tammaro, Bill Mansfield, William Hanscom, Estella McLean, Anita Belanger and Clara Swan were recognized as “Legends of the Game.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

rwhitehouse@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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