Basketball Hall of Fame selects all-time Warrior points leader
FORT KENT, Maine — More than 40 years ago Elmer Pelletier erected a basketball net in his backyard as way to provide some extra practice time for his son, who was pretty good at that game and wanted to get better. All that practice paid off for Tom Pelletier, who still holds the all-time scoring record at Fort Kent’s Community High School, with 1,768 points.
“We played hundreds of one-on-one games there,” Pelletier said recently, standing in his kitchen and looking out into the yard. “Glenn Lamarr and I would chip ice off the court in the winter, so we could play.”
Lamarr was just one of the friends and teammates Pelletier recalled while talking about his days playing on the Fort Kent hardwood. Pelletier, who graduated in 1974 and went on to play soccer for Brown University was recently named as one of 19 people to be inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.
The 60-year-old, two-time first-team All-Maine guard played four years of basketball for what was then called Fort Kent High School. He also played soccer and baseball.
“It’s really a great honor,” Pelletier said of his being named to the Hall of Fame. “It’s your peers that nominate you. They are in the basketball community in Maine. So that’s special.”
In 1973 and ‘74 Pelletier was named to both the Eastern Maine Class A All-Tournament Team and the Bangor Daily News All-Maine Boys Basketball Team, First Squad.
He also helped lead the Warriors to two Eastern Maine soccer titles, with Pelletier being named the Aroostook League Most Valuable Player twice.
Pelletier’s impressive point total is from a time before there was a three-point line in high school basketball. There is little doubt that, with a three-point line and his ability to get open and shoot from the perimeter, Pelletier would have amassed a scoring record even farther out of reach for future payers.
As a freshman, Pelletier averaged 17 points per game. That would increase to an impressive 26 ppg by his junior year and an unprecedented 30 ppg his final season.
None of Pelletier’s teams ever won the state title, but with Sam Jordan as coach they did make it to the tournament three of the four years he played, and the school was in the much tougher Class A division back then.
“We never won the tournament, but we were the only team to beat Presque Isle, Caribou and Houlton in the same year,” Pelletier said.
His sophomore year, the Fort Kent Warrior boys were 14-3. But, even that was not good enough to earn a trip to the state tournament, such was the competitiveness of high school basketball at the time.
“Our biggest win was at Presque Isle my sophomore year,” Pelletier said. “It was the first time Fort Kent had ever beaten Presque Isle. We won 73-68, and I had 40 points.”
Pelletier still has news clippings from that game in his scrapbook.
“That was probably our best team,” he added.
Pelletier said it was a combination of many factors that made those Fort Kent teams so good. “I think tradition has a lot to do with it,” he said. “In my era, we really got team sports going.”
“It’s really a matter of getting a group of kids who want to work at it,” added Pelletier. “Off season work is important. We had a nucleus of good friends who worked year-round.”
Pelletier cannot say for sure why he was able to score so many points during his high school career.
“I’d shoot hundreds of jump shots a day at home,” he said. “The coach had to set up plays for you. Your teammates had to be selfless.”
Soccer was Pelletier’s other sports passion, which is why he chose Brown University. Like most Ivy League schools at the time, Brown was not known for its basketball prowess, but it had a “fantastic” soccer team, Pelletier said.
In 1975, Pelletier’s Brown team made it to the semifinals of the NCAA soccer tournament, losing to University of San Francisco, 2-1 in triple overtime and defeating Howard University to take third place.
After college, Pelletier studied law at the University of Maine and practiced law in Aroostook County for 20 years. Today, he is a judge for Maine’s Workers’ Compensation Board, traveling between his Fort Kent home, Caribou office and Augusta.
Athletic skill runs in Pelletier’s family. His brother John played sports while at Howard and his other brother Paul is an avid skier. Pelletier’s father, Elmer, has been a fixture at the Fort Kent Golf Club for many years.
“He won the club championship in four different decades,” Pelletier said. The elder Pelletier was also the state’s top pistol shooter at one time. “I get my athletic talent from my dad.”
That athleticism was passed on to Pelletier’s three daughters, who all played either basketball or soccer in high school.
“The best part of this whole thing are my grandkids,” Pelletier said of his entering the hall of fame. Each of Pelletier’s four grandsons and two granddaughters are interested in sports, he said.
“They have something to brag about and shoot for. It was a long time ago for me,” said Pelletier.
The Maine Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place Aug. 20 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Pelletier will be inducted in the Legends category.