PITTSFIELD, Maine — A prep school program that has helped to develop such NBA talent as Caron Butler, Brad Miller, Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley and sent 135 players on to NCAA Division I college teams may be in jeopardy.
A decision on the future of the Maine Central Institute postgraduate basketball program is expected next week amid recent speculation that it is being eliminated.
No reason is being given publicly for the possible dissolution of the program, which has a national reputation for developing Division I players while also improving their academic standing.
But one possible explanation relates to the tough economic times faced by many schools across the country and the need for MCI to redirect resources it now dedicates to postgraduate basketball to other priorities.
The independent school has an enrollment of 438, including 139 residential students.
Earl Anderson, MCI’s director of athletics and activities, said Friday the school’s board of trustees is scheduled to meet Tuesday but he would not confirm that the fate of the postgraduate basketball program would be part of the agenda.
Dave Campbell, the team’s sixth-year head coach, also declined to comment on the situation when reached Friday.
A high point for the MCI postgraduate program came during Max Good’s 10 years as head coach from 1989 to 1999.
A Gardiner native who was a student at MCI in 1960-61, Good guided the team to a 275-30 record and five NEPSAC championships, a run that included a 35-0 season in 1998 with a team led by future Portland Trail Blazer Erick Barkley and a 34-4 finish the next year with a roster featuring the 2009 Parade National Player of the Year, future Atlanta Hawks first-round draft pick DerMarr Johnson.
From 1989 to 1992, the team also won 79 consecutive games under Good, who has coached in the collegiate ranks since leaving MCI. He recently completed his fourth season as head coach at Division I Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he guided the Lions to a 19-11 record last winter and was named the 2012 West Coast Conference Coach of the Year.
Good said Friday that he learned of the possible demise of the MCI postgraduate basketball program “a couple of weeks ago, and I was shocked.”
“I’m sure it’s a financial or economic situation,” he added.
Good said one of his points of pride during his tenure at MCI centered on the academic achievements of his players. Of the 128 players he coached in 10 years, 60 arrived on the MCI campus having not yet achieved their qualifying SAT score to enroll in college. Of those 60, 54 achieved their qualifying score while members of the MCI postgraduate basketball program, he said.
That success was highlighted in a lengthy 1992 Sports Illustrated article about the program, “Blackboards and Backboards.”
Now Good finds it difficult to believe a program once deemed worthy of a seven-page spread in the nation’s foremost sports magazine may be on the chopping block
“I’m extremely disappointed and disconsolate about the situation,” he said.
According to the school’s website, “MCI enjoys a coveted reputation in preparatory basketball circles. A traditional powerhouse boasting ten players who went on to the NBA, the program integrates athletic and academic goals. Emphasizing the skills needed to achieve academically and athletically in future college endeavors, the program also provides guidance in college placement.
“With this emphasis comes recognizable success on the academic front as the average athlete improves his SAT score between 150-200 points. 100% of the student athletes have enrolled in a variety of post secondary programs after their MCI experience.”
The team also has been successful on the court, with Campbell most recently guiding MCI to the 2011 New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class AAA championship.
MCI earned the No. 7 seed for this year’s NEPSAC tournament but lost in the quarterfinals to St. Thomas More of Oakdale, Conn., 85-68 to end its season with a 10-17 record.
Three players from this year’s team signed National Letters of Intent last November to accept athletic scholarships from Division I colleges: James Farr (Xavier), Jared Brandon (Cal State-Fullerton) and Tobe Okafor (Loyola Marymount), though the 6-foot-11-inch Okafor subsequently was granted his release from that commitment by LMU.
Among players signing NLIs this spring was former Bangor High School standout Tristan Thomas, a 6-3 guard who accepted a Division II scholarship offer from Barton College of Wilson, N.C.