BANGOR, Maine — This weekend, pickup basketball teams from across the state and New England are in Bangor for the fifth annual Clark Noonan Memorial Basketball Tournament at Bangor High School’s Red Barry Gym.
It turns out there will be a few “ringers” among the hundreds of competitors in the event, which honors the former Bangor High and Saint Joseph’s player who died in a car accident in 2012.
Among those scheduled to suit up in the scholarship tournament is Troy Barnies of Auburn.
The former Edward Little High School and University of Maine standout is on hiatus after playing his fifth season of professional basketball in Europe, but he is trying to keep his skills polished.
“It’s a way for me to learn more about the game, adjust what I need to, play the game,” said Barnies, who is on a team called Class Acts that includes the likes of former University of Vermont star and former pro Taylor Coppenrath and former Bentley University standout Keegan Hyland of South Portland.
For most Mainers, competitive basketball pretty much ends with the completion of their college career. Few have gone further in the game than Barnies.
The 27-year-old continues to move up the ranks of European basketball, thanks in part to his relentless work ethic.
“When I come home after my seasons, I take a break, mentally and physically, but I still like to stay after it because I don’t want to be lazy. I still have to get better,” Barnies said.
He recently completed his fifth pro season as a member of the Atomeromu SE Paks team in the Hungarian League. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and one steal while shooting 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the foul line.
Atomeromu posted a 28-17 record.
Barnies’ pro career began in Turkey after his graduation from UMaine in 2011. He moved on to play for two different Latvian ballclubs, then relocated last season to Hungary, which is bordered by Romania, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Slovenia.
Each move has represented a higher level of play, more money and a better chance to showcase his skills.
“We talked about what would be the best option exposure-wise, competitive level and money,” said Barnies, who in August returns to Hungary where he will join a new organization, Szolnoki Olajbanyasz.
Barnies has never been satisfied with being a pro. He has done everything in his power to continue improving.
There have been plenty of challenges, including adjusting to the European style of play and officiating, which requires an emphasis on footwork.
“I’m at the highest level I have been at overseas so far right now,” he said. “I’ve been making small steps, but moving up every year.”
Barnies has significantly expanded his game since earning All-America East first-team recognition as a senior at UMaine in 2011, when he blossomed into a potent post presence at power forward.
“My game has changed completely, but I feel like that’s what I love about it,” Barnies said.
Barnies has spent recent seasons working on his skills as a perimeter player, where he is forced to put the ball on the floor and also shoot 3-pointers.
“At the professional level, I’m an undersized 4 [power forward]. I can still guard big guys, but I also have to use my versatility and quickness against them,” he said.
Barnies said coming from a small state and a relatively unknown college program have forced him to make scouts take notice with his play.
“It’s tough getting your reputation up when you’re coming from Maine,” he said. “It’s really been fueling the fire, to be honest, throughout my career. It’s nice to the be the underdog. I really enjoy it.”
Hungarian teams are allowed to have five Americans on the roster and play four at a time. That is a departure from Turkey, where each team is permitted only two Americans, one in the game.
Living and playing in Europe comes with a few challenges. Barnies admits having learned only small bits and pieces of the native languages where he has lived as many people also speak some English.
There also are benefits, including being able to visit many new places and sample the local cuisine. Barnies declined to get into the specifics of his salary, but he said he is provided with an apartment and a vehicle during his stay.
“The only things I have to pay for are gas for the car and groceries,” he said.
Barnies said personal safety has not been much of an issue living and playing in foreign countries. He pointed out that he previously lived within a few blocks of where a terrorist bombing occurred in Istanbul in 2015.
He and his fiancee, Abby Tardiff of Augusta, have enjoyed living in Hungary and seeing the sites.
“I think she’s more excited to go back than I am right now,” Barnies said. “I’m still trying to enjoy this Maine weather.”
Barnies hopes his stint with Szolnoki Olajbanyasz will serve as the conduit to better opportunities down the road. The ultimate goal is the NBA, but a spot in the Euroleague, featuring Europe’s best basketball, might be more realistic.
Szolnoki Olajbanyasz will provide Barnies with a chance for advancement as it competes in the Hungarian A Division and also plays in new Basketball Champions League, a high-level tournament that includes 48 teams teams from 31 countries.
“This is big for me to get more exposure around Europe,” he said.
Barnies will head back to Hungary to begin his preseason preparations in August. In the meantime, he’ll be working out and trying to enjoy visiting his family and friends in Maine.
Eventually, he plans to join the coaching ranks. While at home, he shares his experiences working at the Hoop Basketball Camp in Casco and helping out Edward Little coach Mike Adams with his summer program.
Barnies also has been working with the city of Auburn to procure funds to refurbish its outdoor courts.
He realizes how fortunate he has been to have enjoyed the chance to play professionally.
“My goal is to get to the highest level possible before I retire, before my body says I can’t do it any more,” he said.