BANGOR, Maine - Professional basketball is coming to the coast.
The Rockland-based Midcoast Sternmen will join the Pro Basketball Association for the 2021 season with a 12- to 14-game regular-season schedule followed by playoffs to crown the champion of a league with more than 50 franchises around the country.
The 17-week regular season is slated to run from mid-May to late July, setting up three weeks of postseason play in August. That will include an all-star game and the PBA semifinals and championship game to be held in Dallas.
"We're not the G League," said Waldoboro native and longtime college coach Jim Graffam, the Sternmen's coach and general manager. "We're probably like Single-A baseball is in the minor leagues, but these guys can play and what we're trying to do is to promote them and help get them overseas to play."
Rockland banker Brad Galley, who played basketball at Husson University in Bangor and is a former assistant basketball coach at the University of Maine at Machias, is president and CEO of the team. Graffam said the Sternmen plan to play their home games at the Rockland Community Center.
The roster of approximately 10 players will be made up of some prospects with local connections as well as others who already have professional experience overseas.
"It's an opportunity league," Graffam said. "It's a chance for guys who may have played one or two years overseas and want to get a little more on their resume. Or, as we are finding out, it's also for guys who might have graduated from college or high school a couple of years ago and have that itch to play professionally."
The team held a local tryout last weekend and added several players to its roster. The newest Sternmen include former Husson University standout Travon Butler and Isaiah Brathwaite, a former standout player at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington and Thomas College of Waterville who more recently has been an assistant boys basketball coach at Cony High in Augusta.
Others set to join the team are three-time All-Little East guard Jaylen Leroy of Plymouth (N.H.) State University and 6-foot-7 wing Carter Skaggs, a Washington State and North Carolina-Wilmington product who lives in Old Orchard Beach.
"While he was at Washington State he dropped 20 on UCLA and he also scored 26 points in a half one time," said Graffam of Skaggs, who signed his contract during a noontime ceremony on Tuesday. "He's a big, rangy left-hander who wants to try to play overseas, so this is a match made in heaven for both of us."
Also playing for the Sternmen are 6-foot Canadian point guard Joey Puddister, who has played professionally for the last three years in the Netherlands.
Another tryout is planned for this weekend to fill out the roster.
"I'd like to have five players with experience overseas and five other guys who are hungry and really want that," Graffam said.
Players will receive a modest stipend for their efforts on the court, and Graffam said they will live together in a house and work jobs in the community during the week to supplement their incomes.
The team also plans to conduct youth basketball clinics for players around the region.
"You know the old saying, 'A rising tide lifts all boats,'" Graffam said. "I can see the level of play at the high schools and middle schools getting better because kids are going to see these guys in town and say, 'This isn't something I see on TV, these are real people. I want to go to the games. I want to see some dunks. I want to see some exciting play.'"
Regular-season games will be played back-to-back on weekend dates to reduce travel. The Sternmen won't be able to avoid some long-distance commuting for road contests, since they are the only New England team in the Northeast Region of a league that has its heaviest concentrations in the Midwest and South.
"There is interest to create teams in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, so that will be better for us in another year," Graffam said.
The PBA will use National Basketball Association rules, including a 24-second shot clock.
"We feel that this is a great opportunity," said Graffam, whose previous basketball coaching stops have included Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, Westbrook College, St. Joseph's College of Vermont, the Lee Academy postgraduate program and Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire.
"Not that I wouldn't want this in Portland or Bangor, but I think this being in this area will be great because this is a hotbed of basketball, people love it here," he said. "We feel that with the influx of tourists in the area, plus with it being in Rockland, that we should be able to get a good following."
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