BANGOR, Maine — Paul Cook didn’t expect to play Division I college basketball when he picked up the sport as a youngster in the tiny coastal town of Lubec.
But a 5-inch growth spurt after his eighth-grade year to 6-foot-4 helped spark an 1,800-point high school career, followed by a valuable year of prep school that propelled Cook to live out his Division I dream at the University of Maine.
He traces much of that success to his Down East roots.
“I started playing around the time I was [in] third or fourth grade,” said Cook, owner of a Bangor-based real estate, investment management and brokerage business.
“I fell in love with basketball immediately and just had an enormous amount of support from the people in Lubec and the people of Washington County, and it drove me to become better because it was such a passion for me,” he said.
Cook, 55, is among 19 former coaches and players who will be part of the fourth induction class of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Class of 2017 will be inducted Sunday, Aug. 20, at the Cross Insurance Center. A news conference announcing the honorees was held Wednesday morning at the center.
“This is more of an eclectic group than we’ve had in the past,” said Tony Hamlin, chair of the Hall of Fame’s selection committee. “We’re kind of blending toward getting into the modern era, which is after 1980.”
Joining Cook in the Hall of Fame Class of 2017 are Terry Carr, who helped Stearns High School of Millinocket to the 1963 New England championship before going on to play at UMaine; Bob Cimbollek, who established 11 records while playing at Husson College before embarking on a long career in both officiating and coaching, the latter effort producing five state championships and six Eastern Maine crowns; and Diane Nagle, who helped Houlton High School win four consecutive Eastern Maine championships as well as back-to-back state titles in 1985 and 1986 before going on to UMaine.
Also to be inducted are the late Bernard “Bunny” Parady, a coach and administrator in the Mount Desert Island region whose teams totaled 23 tournament appearances, seven regional titles and four state championships in 26 years; Kissy Walker, the former Cony of Augusta and UMaine guard who has coached the Husson University women’s basketball team to more than 425 victories in 26 years; Terry Spurling, who led Ellsworth High School to back-to-back state titles and the 1954 New England championship and went on to play at UMaine before coaching at Aroostook Central Institute of Mars Hill and Houlton High School; and Wally Russell, the Penquis Valley of Milo and UMaine point guard who twice led the Black Bears in assists before going on to compile more than 200 victories as a high school coach in Milo and Guilford.
Other honorees include longtime former University of Southern Maine women’s basketball coach Gary Fifield, whose teams won 660 games and three national championships; former USM star Tim Bonsant, who went on to coach his alma mater, Erskine Academy of South China, to the 2004 Class B state title; former UMaine at Farmington standout Cameron Brown, the 1978 NCAA Division III scoring leader; and former Gorham High School and University of New Hampshire women’s basketball star Kelly Butterfield, who later played professionally in Ireland and Australia.
Also to be honored are former York girls basketball coach Rick Clark, who led his teams to 509 victories, four state championships and six regional titles; Derek Counts, who scored more than 2,000 points at Oak Grove-Coburn School in Vassalboro and more than 1,000 points at the University of New Hampshire; and Lewiston’s Dick Giroux, who scored 1,510 points and grabbed 964 rebounds for Husson College from 1967 to 1970.
The Hall of Fame lineup also includes Derrick Hodge, a two-time All-Maine performer at Morse High School of Bath who went on to score 1,206 points at UMaine; Cathy Iaconeta, the diminutive point guard who starred at Portland High School who went on to earn all-conference honors at UMaine, where she captained the Black Bears to a 23-7 record and an NIT berth in 1990; Tom Maines, who amassed 369 victories during a 30-year coaching career that included three consecutive state championships while at Morse of Bath during the late-1980s; and Jim Stephenson, who set the UMaine record for points in a game with 54 in 1969 and also holds the school mark for career scoring average (22.7 ppg).
Set to be honored in the hall’s “Legends” category are former Bangor coach Frederick “Red” Barry, legendary Jonesport-Beals guard Dwight Carver, longtime Augusta middle-school coach and sportswriter Gary Hawkins, Bath’s Chick Marchetti, a southern Maine basketball official for more than 40 years; two-time first-team All-Maine guard Tom Pelletier of Fort Kent and Waterville-area broadcaster and sportswriter Bob Woodbury.
Teams to be recognized are the undefeated Class A state champion 1979 South Portland High School boys squad and the 1980 Westbrook High girls team, one of a string of four straight Class A state championship teams from that school.
Cook, whose graduating class at Lubec barely numbered 30, routinely put up that many points in a game for the Hornets. At one point as a senior in 1979, he averaged 33 points and 25 rebounds.
As that legend grew, Cook and the Hornets increasingly drew the attention of the broader basketball community.
“We would play at home to sold-out crowds, standing-room-only, and then we’d go to Washington Academy or wherever, and the same thing would happen,” he said.
“That’s what the essence of high school basketball is about. You look at Lubec High School, and it closed in 2010, but being there and playing basketball back when I did was a big deal. It was special to all of us, and I had great teammates and coaches to help me along.”
Cook transitioned from the Class D high school ranks to the Division I college wars by playing postgraduate basketball at Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, helping coach Terry Kenniston’s club win the 1980 New England championship with a 26-1 record.
“The one year at MCI, I learned I could compete with kids that later on earned Division I scholarships — and a couple even tried out with the Boston Celtics,” he said. “That I was able to be part of that starting unit and be successful gave me the confidence I needed to be successful in Division I.”
Cook’s early days at UMaine featured a unique introduction to big-time hoops.
“When I was a freshman at Maine, we played DePaul at the Bangor Auditorium, and we got in foul trouble early, so [coach] Skip [Chappelle] looked down the bench and called my name and asked me to go into the game,” said Cook. “The two or three minutes that I was in the game, I remember that I couldn’t feel my arms I was so nervous, so that kind of explains the difference between playing at Lubec High School and at the University of Maine.
“You got used to it after a while, but that was one of my first college games ever, and to step onto the court against [future NBA stars] Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings was unreal. The basketball felt like a beach ball,” he said.
Cook was a role player at UMaine, where his teammates included future NBA players Rick Carlisle and Jeff Cross and current Chicago Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.
He captained the team as a senior and averaged 6.7 rebounds per game during the 1983-84 season.
“My role was very defined by the coaching staff, what I was supposed to do and what I wasn’t supposed to do,” Cook said, “and I think as long as I stayed in that role, I was able to be successful.”