Penquis basketball star Bess exploring transfer to Hampden Academy

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff
Posted March 18, 2013, at 8:05 p.m.

LAGRANGE, Maine — Isaiah Bess had a busy basketball weekend.

He spent Saturday on Mount Desert Island playing four games at the Great Harbor House Shoot-Out undergraduate tournament.

Then it was off to South Portland for two games with his MBNation AAU team early Sunday, followed by a return trip to Southwest Harbor to play in the Harbor House championship game that evening.

Bess, a 6-foot-3-inch junior who two weeks earlier had led the Penquis Valley High School of Milo boys basketball team to the Class C state championship, helped a group of Hampden Academy players defeat Houlton in the Harbor House final.

It may not be the last time Bess represents Hampden on the hardwood.

A Division I basketball prospect who reported on Twitter last week that he already has received an offer from the University of New Hampshire, Bess has indicated an interest in transferring to Hampden Academy for his senior year of high school.

“If everything goes as planned I’d like to do that,” said Bess, who has had additional early communications about his college future with Ivy League schools Brown and Columbia and also is considering spending a year at prep school after he graduates from high school.

Both Bess and Hampden Academy are currently high-profile elements of the state’s schoolboy basketball world.

Hampden Academy is the newly crowned Class A champion in boys basketball, having defeated South Portland 45-41 in its state final at the Augusta Civic Center on March 2 just a few hours before Penquis won its state title by defeating Boothbay 61-54 in the final tournament played at the Bangor Auditorium.

But while Bess has known many of the Hampden players for several years and been teammates with some of the Broncos during his AAU basketball career, he said his consideration of switching schools is more complex.

Among other factors, Hampden Academy moved into a brand new $51 million facility last fall and is a larger school than Penquis. Hampden has a current enrollment of approximately 740 students, more than double the 285 at Penquis.

“A lot of people just assume it’s because of basketball, and that’s kind of unfair,” said the 17-year-old Bess. “The main reason for me is academics. It’s a Class A school so there should be more [academic] options, and I think going to a bigger school would help me get ready for college and would be a whole new challenge for me.”

Bess and his parents, David and Mary Bess, are scheduled to visit Hampden Academy later this week to meet school officials.

“It’s something we’d like to see happen,” said David Bess of his son’s potential transfer. “Whether we can make it happen remains to be seen.”

According to the Maine Principals’ Association’s transfer rule, “a student who transfers to another school without a corresponding change of residence by a parent or legal guardian may become eligible to participate in interscholastic activities if a Transfer Waiver Approval Form is

properly filed with the MPA office, with the sending and receiving principals certifying that the transfer was not primarily for athletic purposes.”

The Bess family has dual residences in Lagrange and neighboring Alton, which may provide additional options in pursuing a transfer. The family currently resides in Lagrange, where David Bess serves as a selectman.

“I’m definitely hoping to go to Hampden,” Isaiah Bess said. “But a lot has to be done before that happens.”

Bess nearly transferred to Hermon High School last summer but ultimately decided to remain at Penquis for his junior year.

The Penquis boys basketball team, led by Bess and classmate Trevor Lyford, went on to compile a 21-1 record this winter and win the program’s first state title since 2000, with Bess contributing per game averages of 26.5 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Patriots’ head coach Tony Hamlin announced his retirement from that post shortly after the state championship game, and Bess said he has talked to both Hamlin — who remains the Penquis athletic administrator — and Lyford about his plans.

“The way the season ended, with coach getting his 400th (career) win and me scoring my 1,000th point and then us winning the state championship to close out the Auditorium, it was kind of like a Cinderella story,” he said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/03/18/sports/penquis-basketball-star-bess-exploring-transfer-to-hampden-academy/ printed on April 23, 2014