Sunday afternoon, in a ceremony at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center, the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame will induct its fifth class. The Class of 2018 is a talented group, with players like Brenda Beckwith, Sandi Carver and Paul Belanger. A handful of the best coaches Maine has seen are going in, too, including longtime Portland High boys coach Joe Russo and Camden Hills boys coach Jeff Hart, who just happened to play for another member of the Class of ’18, Jim Bessey, at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.

One name makes this class extra special. One of those athletes rare to Maine. One of those athletes anyone familiar with even basic knowledge of Maine basketball history should recognize on her first name alone.

Cindy.

Thanks to a glut of inductees whose last name begins with B, Cindy Blodgett just misses being first alphabetically in the latest Maine Basketball Hall of Fame’s class. That’s the only way in which Blodgett is not at the top of the list, or at the top of the Hall’s illustrious membership.

Blodgett is the single most important basketball player in Maine history. There is absolutely no arguing about this, so don’t even try. The leading scorer in Lawrence High and University of Maine basketball history, Blodgett was quick and uniquely driven and impossible to defend.

Now, the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame is finally the home to the state’s best. Until now, there had been an obvious hole in which Blodgett should have been. With all respect to the great men and women inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame over the last four years, but any forum honoring basketball in Maine that does not include Blodgett is incomplete.

That stems from the Hall’s waiting period for eligibility, 20 years after playing days are complete. Of course, every hall of fame wants the convenience of time in which to consider every candidates bona fides. That makes sense.

But 20 years? That’s too long.

Blodgett’s playing days at the University of Maine ended in 1998. What did we possibly learn about her game in the past few years that we didn’t know in 2014, when the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame inducted its inaugural class? Thankfully, the Hall didn’t put Blodgett’s four seasons playing in the WNBA against her.

Here’s how the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame describes Blodgett:

“Her name is synonymous with Maine basketball. Cindy is a Clinton native who carried Lawrence High School to four straight Gold Balls (sic). She went on to lead the University of Maine Women to unparalleled success. In the process, Cindy inspired thousands of young girls to dream bigger and reach higher. Her career took her to professional basketball and a successful coaching career. To a whole generation of Maine basketball enthusiasts, Cindy is the Gold Standard for excellence.”

That paragraph is concise, eloquent and 100 percent true.

When we think of Blodgett, we think of fans packed into gyms across central Maine to see this girl from Lawrence do things on a court nobody else was able to do. We think of Alfond Arena full to capacity and a little more, fans crammed to watch Blodgett lead the Black Bears to unprecedented success.

When Blodgett played — whether it be in Lawrence’s Folsom Gym, the Bangor Auditorium, or Alfond Arena — it was an event.

We’re not far from seeing the large group of players inspired by Blodgett start to claim its place in the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame. Sarah Marshall, Heather Ernest, Ashley Cimino, Katie Rollins, Bracey Barker. Those players and many others will be in the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame alongside Blodgett one day.

Make the waiting period 10 years from last high school season or five years from last college season. A lot of players would not get inducted in their first year of eligibility, but that’s OK. We wouldn’t have to wait so long to welcome the generation of players Blodgett inspired.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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