If you’ve never heard of the Eastern Maine Summer Men’s College Basketball League, you’re not the only one, but if longtime basketball official and coach Bob Cimbollek gets his way, you will — as early as this summer.
After making an initial run at starting the league up last summer, Cimbollek feels like the timing, as well as the current format and organization of the league, make this the ideal year to tip things off.
“I just wanted to do something for the local college kids because I think sometimes they get left out,” Cimbollek said. “There’s no place around here for active college players to play organized ball in the summer. They just scrimmage at Husson or Maine, or play pickup games at a park.
“We look at this as a development program for college kids primarily.”
Cimbollek envisions the league involving six teams with games on Sunday afternoons and nights, Tuesday nights and Thursday nights. The 10-game regular season would start July 6 and single-elimination playoffs would be held the second week of August.
“We think by the time we’re playing [in July], Sundays are good for almost everyone, and we’re going to go late on weekdays, probably around 7 p.m.,” Cimbollek said. “If teams have trouble, we’ll customize the schedule and let them play later games, or even switch days if we find Tuesdays or Thursdays don’t work well.”
Teams will play two games a week and all games will follow regular NCAA college rules with a shot clock and two officials. Players must be high school graduates to be eligible to play.
“It’s a great opportunity if the numbers are good,” said Husson University men’s coach Warren Caruso. “I don’t really think there are any negatives. The opportunity to play more is always positive.”
Caruso said he’s not sure how many of his players want to play or even can play, given many of them live at least two hours away or out of state.
“It’s not something we can dictate. They have to decide that themselves,” Caruso said. “We can’t have any direct contact with them in the offseason as far as basketball goes, so it’s all up to them and that comes down to opportunity and availability.”
The league doesn’t need to be sanctioned by the NCAA because it’s not for Division I players.
Maine Maritime Academy men’s basketball coach Chris Murphy likes the idea.
“I would say go for it. Rules-wise, I can’t make them do anything in the summer, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them do it,” he said. “At this point, most don’t know about it yet and I don’t know how many of my kids will be able to participate because some are on training cruises, but to me, it’s nice if they get a chance to keep playing ball through the offseason.”
Cimbollek has enlisted the sponsorship and facilities of Penobscot Job Corps, Eastern Maine Community College and Bangor YMCA.
“We’re going to play at Job Corps Sundays, at the Bangor Y on Tuesdays and Thursdays in July, and then two weeks at EMCC in August,” he explained.
Teams entries are $600 apiece and there is no limit on roster spots. There is a limit on teams, however, as no more will be taken after the first 10.
“We’re going to take men’s league teams in too, so what we’ll try to do is have this at a really talented level with six teams,” Cimbollek said. “It’s up to the teams to find their own players, but we’ll find teams for players who sign up individually.”
The area has lacked a league like this for many years, if not forever.
“As long as I’ve been around, we’ve never had something like this,” Cimbollek said. “The only place you can really play organized ball is down in Saco in a men’s league they have there. Hopefully, this will be an outlet for kids from Husson, MMA, EMCC and such.”
Cimbollek tried to start the same kind of league up a year ago, but there wasn’t enough interest in it to make it worth starting up.
“I think we didn’t promote it enough and we tried to start too early in the summer,” he said.
This year, he’s received several inquiries from individual players and even a commitment for at least one team from Job Corps. As long as he has at least four teams sign up, the league will be a go.
“If they’re well organized and officiated properly, games like this can be beneficial,” Murphy said. “If things aren’t run well and play more like a pickup game, kids can pick up bad habits.
“The more professionally run it is, the better it is for the kids.”
Cimbollek sees it being particularly beneficial for recent high school graduates.
“This is especially good for the young kids who are going into college the next year. It’s a preview for them,” he said. “They’re going to be able to play two organized games a week and stay in pretty good game shape over the summer.
Anyone interested in playing in the league or starting a team should call Cimbollek at 356-6787 or 945-6787.