Ryan Martin was looking for a shot at playing professional basketball in England when the head coach of a professional team much, much closer to home offered him a chance to not only continue his passion for playing basketball, but keep his regular job while doing so.

Martin’s regular job is teaching physical education to K-8 students at Acton Elementary School in southern Maine. The basketball offer came from Kyle Ivey Jones, the head coach of the Providence Sky Chiefs, over two hours away in Rhode Island.

Martin, who led Maranacook Community High School to Class B state championships in 2006 and 2008 and was named Mr. Maine Basketball before playing collegiately at the University of Maine and Keene State College, had already done a stint two years ago in the Canadian Basketball League. He knew an invitation to try out for the Sky Chiefs of the Premier Basketball League in August didn’t guarantee him the basketball job. He still had to impress team officials during a September tryout with about 30 other prospects and during their early November training camp to make the final 12-man roster.

With half of the players returning from last season, the Sky Chiefs’ first in the 18-team league, Martin essentially had a one in five shot of making the roster. But the opportunity was too good to pass up.

“People say it must be living the dream going overseas to play pro basketball and ask why I don’t do that,” Martin said. “To me, doing what I am doing now is really living the dream.”

After training camp, Martin jumped at the chance to sign a contract with the Sky Chiefs on Nov. 9.

“I am a family guy, and I love that this allows me to stay close to home and that I am able to see my family and friends on holidays and weekends and at my games,” he said.

Martin could probably teach a course on time management now. The Sky Chiefs play most of their games on weekends. Martin usually gets Mondays off from basketball, then practices with the team Tuesday through Friday. That often means getting back to his home in Sanford well after midnight and setting his alarm clock for 5:30 a.m. to get ready for school.

His parents, Ken and Nancy, help by driving about once per week from their home in Wayne and picking up Ryan in Sanford to chauffeur him to practice and back. Both the Sky Chiefs and the school have been very accommodating on the rare occasion the two conflict, too, Martin said. And it helps that the team owns a house in Providence where some of the players stay during the season and where Martin can spend a night or two on weekends.

“It’s definitely a grind doing this and teaching,” Martin said. “I’m enjoying it.”

The PBL features 18 teams spread out over three divisions — the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest. The Sky Chiefs are in the Northeast division and play a 25-game season from early January to early April against teams from Boston, Buffalo, Rochester and other locations in northwest New York state. The teams with the top eight records overall advance to the playoffs culminating in a best-of-three championship series. Providence is currently 5-5.

Martin, a 5-foot-9 guard, 165-pound guard, began the season coming off the bench but has moved into the starting lineup recently. A point guard throughout his high school and college career, he’s seen some time at the shooting guard spot and is averaging 19.5 minutes per game. He’s averaging 10.5 points and 2.1 assists per game while shooting with impressive accuracy (68 percent from the field, 55 percent from beyond the 3-point arc). At Keene State, he twice led the nation in free throw percentage and he continues to be virtually automatic from the charity stripe, shooting 94 percent.

Imagine what he could do when he’s feeling completely comfortable?

“I’m starting to get a feel for the team and a feel for my role on the team,” he said. “Coach Kyle is a players coach. He was not only an elite player at a very high level — playing professional basketball for 10 years — but he’s also a teacher of the game, and works hard at it. He puts the players’ needs first.”

Several of Martin’s teammates are from the Providence area or played at the University of Rhode Island, and the Sky Chiefs are one of the more popular teams in the league.

They practice and play their home games at the Wildcat Center on the campus of Johnson and Wales University, where crowds have swelled to as much as 1,500 for some games in this, the team’s second year in the league, Martin said. The Sky Chiefs were part of the American Basketball Association prior to 2014.

Games are also occasionally streamed on ESPN 3. One of the highlights of the season for Martin was a game against the two-time defending champion Rochester RazorSharks that was not only streamed by the network but pitted him against another former University of Maine player, Raheem Singleton, who is a guard with Rochester. Former Maine Red Claws player Corey Allmond also plays for the RazorSharks and is the leading scorer in the Northeast Division.

Martin said the PBL is considered one step away from the NBA Development League in terms of professional basketball competition in North America. Some players have spent time in the D-League and even had brief stints in the NBA.

“About half of the guys in the league have other jobs and for some of the others this is their only source of income,” said Martin, who said he is paid a little over $900 every two weeks by the team.

Playing at such a high level, staying in prime physical condition is critical.

“It’s important for me to stay on top of my strength and do my weightlifting,” he said.

That can be tough with his schedule. But Martin, who has been teaching in Acton for two years and would like to continue for years to come, relishes every moment,

“I have a passion for basketball and for kids and am able to do both my passions, and get paid for it,” he said. “Obviously, I’m extremely thankful for all of these things.”

The Sky Chiefs play at home 3 p.m. Saturday against the Jamestown Jackals, then travel to Dorchester, Massachusetts a week from Saturday to face the New England Shamrocks.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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