As Skip Chappelle was growing up in Old Town during the 1950s, the Old Town Redskins were a popular town basketball team.
And Chappelle, a fledgling basketball star at the time, took the opportunity to watch them play as often as he could.
“I used to sneak into the games at the Helen Hunt School, I can remember it like it was yesterday,” said Chappelle, who went on to become the only player in state history to earn All-New England first-team honors in the high school, prep school and college ranks before serving as men’s basketball coach at the University of Maine for 17 years.
“It was a big part of my basketball development, and basketball has been a big part of my life.”
Maine basketball commissioner Peter Webb similarly remembers town teams from throughout Aroostook County accepting the challenge of barnstorming professional teams of the day while growing up in Houlton.
“There were a lot of great names that played up there,” he said.
Webb and Chappelle now are spearheading an effort to preserve not only those memories, but to recognize people who have contributed to basketball’s popularity throughout the state through the establishment of a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.
“It’s hard to believe there is no state basketball hall of fame in our state, of all places,” said Webb. “You can make a long list of halls of fame that are out there. There’s a hall of fame for everything, but not one for basketball.”
Plans for the development of a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame grew out of a series of informal meetings among basketball aficionados on Mount Desert Island during the past year, and through that geographic connection a formal presentation of a vision statement for the hall will be held in conjunction with a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame Golf Scramble to be held at the Kebo Valley Golf Club in Bar Harbor on Friday, July 23.
Boston Celtics great K.C. Jones, a longtime friend of Chappelle, will be there, and Gov. John E. Baldacci also is expected to participate, Chappelle said.
“The golf tournament is basically a way to initially and formally announce plans for the hall and share with those who are present the interest in having a hall of fame and the basic vision for it,” Webb said.
Momentum for the hall gained strength this spring with the passage of a joint resolution by the Legislature in support of the endeavor, which not only would focus on recognizing contributors to the sport but also serve as a central point for collecting the history of basketball in Maine.
“It’s a no-brainer, but we’ve got to get going on it,” said Chappelle. “When you come from the angle of Maine being an aging state, we need to capture all the history we can as soon as we can.”
Organizers envision an “all-inclusive” hall of fame featuring numerous categories and modeled after the New England Basketball of Fame. Webb suggested the inaugural class of inductees could number well more than a hundred.
“We see this Maine Basketball Hall of Fame as not just about the elite, but all kinds of people who have contributed to all aspects of the game, from teams and players and coaches to officials and media and others who have made significant contributions to basketball in the state,” he said.
“It might be someone who was a longtime sponsor of one of the old town teams that used to be around, or someone active in promoting basketball in the local recreation department for years and years and years.
“It won’t be just about high schools, though that will be part of it, but also the colleges, the town teams and semi-pro teams, all levels of basketball in the state.”
Webb said plans call for the establishment of 16 county-based committees to serve as primary resources for identifying potential inductees and gathering information on candidates.
“Hopefully by late October or early November these will be pretty much in place,” Webb said.
Also to be established is a selection committee to consider those recommended for induction, as well as a board of directors to oversee all aspects of the hall of fame.
Webb hopes the inaugural class of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame will be inducted in 2011, and he anticipates that induction ceremonies will not be an annual event but likely held every other year.
There eventually will be a fundraising element to the hall’s development, Webb said, perhaps in part to advance another goal shared by project organizers, that of an actual building or series of rooms dedicated to the hall.
“Hopefully we’ll have a physical site eventually,” said Webb. “We want to have a place where we can gather hands-on things and display the history of basketball in the state.”
But even without a physical plant at the outset, Webb and Chappelle are convinced the time is now for a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.
“There are so many extensions to basketball in Maine that it touches nearly everybody in the state,” Webb said.
“And Maine has so much basketball history, it needs to be recorded and remembered.”