When Mark Socoby begins his fall semester at the University of Maine, something will be different.
For the first time since he took up the sport as a toddler in Houlton, he won’t be looking full-steam ahead to the coming basketball season.
The two-time All-Maine star from Houlton and Bangor high schools, who went on to be an All-America East guard as a sophomore at Maine, is taking a break from competitive basketball after leaving the Black Bears’ program last spring.
It will be a brief respite. The 6-foot-5 guard recently decided to remain a student at Maine this year, then transfer to The Master’s College, an NAIA Division I school 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles in Santa Clarita, Calif., where he will complete his final year of college basketball eligibility in 2010-11.
“It will be different,” he said. “I sat out my senior year of high school when I hurt my knee, but it still will be a little weird being away from the whole competitive aspect.”
Socoby first considered leaving the struggling Maine program after his sophomore year but, after talking with his family, opted to return for the 2008-09 season.
Last spring, after similar family discussions, he decided to make a change.
“It wasn’t like anything bad happened, it was just something I thought would be best for me,” Socoby said. “I didn’t have any plan, it was more a leap of faith that I would have the chance to play at another school.
“If I had stayed I probably would have been happy, but it was just something that deep down inside I wanted to do.”
Socoby subsequently considered various NCAA Division I and Division II possibilities, though he admits having just one year of eligibility left likely decreased those options.
Ultimately he chose The Master’s College, a Christian school whose coaches had expressed considerable interest once Socoby decided his playing days at Maine had reached their end.
“I knew I wanted to play and play at a good level,” he said. “I talked to a lot of schools and I had a lot of good opportunities to play at different places. At the end of the day I could see myself at a number of schools where I could play basketball and get a good education, but I think having the chance to do that at a Christian school was the biggest part of it for me, it was the deciding factor.”
Socoby opted to study at Maine this year in part because of the nonathletic financial aid available to him during these challenging economic times.
“It was a situation where I could have played without sitting out, but sitting out was something I had in my mind even if I had decided to go out to California this year just to get comfortable and so I wouldn’t step on anyone’s toes,” said Socoby. “And if I was going to sit out, it made sense to stay at Maine rather than paying my own way out there this year.”
Socoby plans to work out vigorously during the coming months with the goal of making the most of his final year of college basketball in California — and setting up the possibility of then playing professionally, either in the United States or abroad.
“I still think that despite transferring down a division there will be an opportunity to play afterward,” he said, “if that’s what I’m called to do.”