Jamier Rose knows full well that Noble High’s boys’ basketball history has been, in a word, dreadful.
He knows the gym walls covered in banners for wrestling and other sports bear none for basketball. The junior guard, who was in the top four in scoring, rebounding and assists in Class AA South a year ago, points out that Noble’s last boys’ 1,000-point scorer was in 1985.
“Everyone has kind of known Noble as the laughing stock and as a team we’re trying to change that,” Rose said.
This year, Noble has been relegated to Class A, one step down in the enrollment classification system. The irony is, the step down comes after a season when Noble finally showed real, tangible signs of improvement.
Noble went 7-11 last year in the regular season, sweeping Sanford, Massabesic and Scarborough, and picking up an eye-opening win against a Gorham team that went 13-6. With Rose and his classmate, Bryce Guitard, both averaging 18 points as sophomores, the Knights played tough almost every night.
“I talked to some kids that I know around the state and there were actually some teams that were worried about playing us,” Rose said. “I have older brothers that used to play through the program. No team has ever worried about playing against Noble.”
But in the offseason, the Maine Principals’ Association came up with a new rule that moved basketball teams that had won fewer than 25% of their games over the four previous seasons down a class. Noble was 11-61 during the regular season in that span, 0-4 in playoff games.
Morgan, 27, in his third year as the varsity coach, said he and Noble Athletic Director Aaron Moore talked it over and decided to go to Class A rather than to petition to say in AA. Overall, seven boys’ teams and nine girls’ teams accepted the downward reclassification, including the Massabesic boys, who also moved from AA South to A South.
There is no denying Noble’s boys’ basketball program has been a doormat for decades. The MPA’s Heal point archives paint a bleak picture.
Since 1988, the Knights’ only winning season was 2013-14. They went 10-8 in the regular season and 11-9 overall, claiming their only large-school division playoff win.
Over the past 35 years, Noble has had six winless seasons and eight one-win seasons. Last season’s seven wins marked the third-best win total.
Morgan said some of his players felt “disrespected” when they were initially informed they would be playing in Class A.
“I had to remind them that it wasn’t them, specifically, it was just the way reclassification worked,” Morgan said.
Senior captain Isaiah Conary, a versatile 6-footer and returning starter, said he would have preferred to stay in AA.
“I want to win at the highest level you possibly can. It’s like if you have a choice in college, you want to play Division I, not Division III,” Conary said.
Conary said he now views the reclassification as being good for the future of the program. He’s also glad Noble will play five AA opponents – South Portland, Thornton Academy, Sanford, Bonny Eagle and Lewiston – and is excited to play new opponents.
“We’ve never played Gray-New Gloucester. I play AAU with some of their guys and they’re a tough team,” Conary said. “Another team that we played last year that’s pretty good is Kennebunk. We’ll go play Falmouth, another really good program. And we open the season with Freeport, which I don’t think we’ve ever played in basketball.”
Noble’s improvement actually started years ago at the youth level, a program led by Bryce Guitard’s father, Brian, and Conary’s uncle, Ryan Conary.
“Our youth program became really strong when the base of our kids right now were in fourth and fifth grade, so we have to start there and give credit there,” Morgan said. This year, Noble had 50 players try out and will have a 12-person junior varsity and a 15-player freshman team.
Bryce Guitard said he had begun to expect success. With his dad coaching, the youth teams were undefeated multiple seasons. Then, their eighth-grade year was lost because of COVID. As freshmen in 2021-22, the Noble varsity was 0-18.
“Coming in freshman year, we didn’t know what to expect,” Bryce Guitard said. “There were a bunch of powerhouses, so it was hard to adjust. The speed and the way it was played, at first I felt like I didn’t belong, but then everything came to me easier and slowed down and I was able to play my game.”
Guitard said he’s come to accept the reclassification, noting there is still the challenge of trying to continue to improve.
“It’s not what you want to do, but I’m excited. It’s a new start. We’re playing new teams,” Guitard said. “I feel like it’s kind of a reset, and it could be good for us.”
And whether in Class AA or A, the goal is to gain respect, both around the state and within the school itself.
Moore, the athletic director, is a Noble grad. He said last season’s team generated enough interest to fill Noble’s 1,200-seat gym for senior night, something he had never seen for a basketball game.
“Our whole goal since we started playing was to put Noble on the map,” Rose said. “We are really working our hardest, getting in (the gym) before school, after school, before practice, after practice, just working our hardest to try to switch up the narrative.”