June 21, 2018
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Maine Elite Showcase gives HS basketball players a chance to audition for college coaches

Stephen M. Katz | BDN
Stephen M. Katz | BDN
The Maine Elite Showcase has drawn some top instate players such as Heather Ernest (center), who went on to a standout career at the University of Maine.
By Dave Barber, BDN Staff

WATERVILLE, Maine — Maine high school girls basketball players who plan on playing in college, or are considering it, have a chance to put their abilities on display at the Maine Elite Showcase on Nov. 4.

The event, in its 15th year, will be held at Colby College in Waterville, and it’s limited to the first 80 girls in grades 9-12 who register in advance.

“We’ve sold out for five years now,” Bill Libby, the Elite Showcase founder said. He expects it will fill up again, but he wants to make sure as many girls as possible know it’s coming up.

“We’ve got about 22 spots left. We’ll have a batch come in, then it’ll slow down for a few days, and then we’ll get another batch. I expect there’ll be a lot to come in the last week.”

The registration fee is $35 per player, and players or their parents can contact Libby at bill.libby33@yahoo.com or 866-4124.

In addition to the players, Libby expects more than 20 college coaches to attend, mostly from Maine, New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts.

Since the showcase is outside the contact period for coaches of college programs that offer scholarships, NCAA Division I University of Maine and Div. II programs will not be represented. But Libby expects that all of Maine’s Div. III colleges, which cannot offer athletic scholarships, will be represented.

“For most [Div. III Maine] college coaches, they have a hard time seeing that many kids,” said Libby. “When they can see 80 all in one place, in-state schools get a bargain.”

The lack of athletic scholarships available from some schools shouldn’t deter players.

“Many of them may not get athletic scholarships, but we want to show there are opportunities out there for them,” said Libby.

Wherever they go, said Libby, “They’re trying to set themselves up for the rest of their lives.”

And that’s why Libby requires registration in advance, because each coach is given a packet containing pertinent information on the girls so the coaches can contact them afterward.

After the 80 girls are signed up — and they don’t have to be all-stars, as it’s open to all girls — Libby divides them into eight 10-player teams that are as evenly matched as he can make them.

Games, which are about 35 minutes long, will start at 12:30 p.m. and continue through 5 p.m., with two games played at a time and new games scheduled every 45 minutes.

“They’re guaranteed to play at least half a game, and each team will have four games over that five hours,” said Libby.

He said the pace of the games is pretty good, especially the early ones.

“They’re thinking that with 35-minute games [and running time], that should be easy,” Libby said. Then reality strikes.

“Some are excited to be there and are all amped up,” he said. “As the day goes on, play gets better and slower.”

Libby said girls attend for more than playing in front of coaches, such as enjoying a good day of basketball.

“Everybody can get what they want out of it,” he said.

Past participants have included Heather Ernest of Mt. Blue in Farmington and Julie Veilleux of Cony of Augusta, who starred at UMaine, and Danielle Clark, who played for Nokomis of Newport before starring at New Hampshire.

Some of them, such as Clark, are now returning as college coaches.

“A lot through the years have got into coaching,” he said. That includes his daughter, Jessica (Libby) Witham, who took part in the first showcase. She is now the girls basketball coach at Orono High School.

Libby said they also offer help in how to look for financial aid and other information.

While most of the fans who attend are family, the public is invited, also. The charge is $3 per adult, $1 for seniors, and that covers the whole day.

“Last year, I think we had over 400 people,” said Libby.

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