Two years ago, a scholarship to play basketball at a Division I college seemed to be little more than a dream, so Troy Barnies was in no rush to decide where his next stop would be once he completed his senior year at Edward Little.

But hard work, a breakout junior year and an impressive performance at a prestigious summer camp changed that. More than two months before the national signing period begins, the 6-foot-7 Barnies has already verbally committed to play basketball at the University of Maine starting in the fall of 2007.

“I kind of wanted to wait on it, but after talking to my dad and mom (Stanley and Lorie) and to (EL) coach (Mike) Adams, I felt if I was to stay in Maine, I could contribute to the University of Maine and help it get noticed as a college program,” Barnies said.

“I’m excited,” added Barnies, who will be quarterbacking the Red Eddies tonight when they open their football season against Cony. “It’s great to have a Division I program to be a part of, especially being in the state that I’ve lived in my whole life.”

As a junior, Barnies averaged 22.6 points and 11.3 rebounds while leading EL to a 14-4 record. He was named Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference South player of the year and selected to the Sun Journal All-Region team.

Barnies made the verbal commitment early in August. A verbal commitment is a non-binding agreement which allows schools to set aside an athletic scholarship for prospective student-athletes until they sign an official NCAA National Letter of Intent with the school. This year’s early signing period begins Nov. 8.

Maine head coach Ted Woodward could not comment on Barnies’ decision because schools are not allowed to discuss recruits until signing day. But according to Edward Little coach Mike Adams, Woodward was clearly interested after getting some glowing reports from his assistants who saw Barnies in action last July at the Eastern Invitational, a basketball camp held at the College of New Jersey.

“Troy went to the Eastern Invitational and had a phenomenal weekend,” Adams said. “The second day he was there, coach Woodward called me and said, ‘Hey, we need to get Troy up here.'”

Barnies visited Maine a short time later, and while several other schools, including the University of New Hampshire and a number of Division II schools, showed interest in him, he said he instantly felt comfortable on the Orono campus.

“The atmosphere up there made me feel like I fit in,” said Barnies. “The (players) up there are great guys. Coach Woodward kind of reminds me of coach Adams. He’s an easygoing guy.”

He said Woodward told him he’s projected to be a small forward in college. Even though he’s a 3-point threat and a strong ball-handler for a big man, that means he has to work on his shooting and dribbling skills. He’ll have to do a lot of that after practice, though, because he’ll be EL’s primary low-post option this winter. The development of Barnies’ college game will have to take a back seat to the needs of the Eddies, who are aiming at competing for a state title this winter.

Adams doesn’t doubt his star center will put in the extra time.

“We really need to work on his outside shot, get it more consistent, and that’s just done through reps,” Adams said, “He’s always worked hard, but he needs to understand, and I think he does, that it’s a whole other level right now.”

Barnies recalled that as a tall, lean and typically awkward freshman, he never expected to get a scholarship to play college basketball.

“With his length and his athleticism and his work ethic, we certainly saw a lot of potential in him his freshman year,” Adams said. “I knew he’d play college basketball somewhere because he had some of those tools that you can’t teach.”

At Maine, Barnies will be following in the footsteps of another EL grad, Jon Wallingford, a walk-on guard for the Black Bears in 2001-2004.

Adams said he and other school officials believe Barnies may be the first male athlete from Edward Little to receive a Division I basketball scholarship.

“We were talking about that, and we couldn’t come up with another one,” Adams said.

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