Dudley Davis, who runs the Youth Education through Sports program in Portland, was looking for something special to celebrate the organization’s 20th anniversary. Last summer, Davis hooked up with Mike Sumner, who promotes the annual Atlantic Coast Conference Barnstorming Tour.

Wouldn’t it be great if the ACC Barnstormers – a team of senior players from North Carolina’s four ACC schools – played a basketball game in Portland, thought Davis? Davis had met Sumner through Sumner’s son, Pet, a basketball player at the University of Maine at Farmington. Davis helped Pet recover from a broken hand that sidelined him his junior season.

“We started the conversation last summer, and after a while, we said ‘Let’s just do it.’ We thought it would be a wonderful thing for the kids of Maine. It’s a natural fit and a good thing for us to do as we promote our 20th anniversary. What kid wouldn’t love the opportunity to play against ACC players?” said Davis.

This is the 37th year that ACC players have toured, playing mostly high school all-star teams in North Carolina. On April 17, the ACC Barnstormers will play a Maine high school all-star team at Deering High. The game will serve as a fundraiser for YES!, which teaches basketball skills to children in grades three through high school. It also offers summer leagues, an AAU team, programs in television broadcasting and production, and educational clinics.

The ACC team is expected to include Quinn Cook and Sean Kelly of Duke; Desmond Hubert, Luke Davis and Jackson Simmons of North Carolina; Ralston Turner, Desmond Lee and Staats Battle of North Carolina State; and Darius Leonard, Daniel Green and Doug Niedrich of Wake Forest. Aaron Willis of Husson, Eric Westbrooks of Thomas and UMF’s Sumner also will be part of the ACC squad, and UMF Coach Dick Meader will serve as an assistant coach. Phil Ford, a former North Carolina star and NBA player, is the head coach.

“The Barnstorming Tour actually dates back before I was in school,” said Ford. “I’ve been involved the last four years as coach.”

Mike Sumner said ACC Barnstorming games are usually wide-open, high-scoring affairs with little defense. The ACC team has never lost, but not every game is a blowout.

“The high school kids are very motivated,” said Summer, who was a classmate of Ford’s at UNC. “You would be surprised at how close some of these games are.

“This will be the seventh game of the tour. The ACC guys will be enjoying themselves by then. We’ve played a few games in Indiana and Virginia in the past, but practically all the games are in North Carolina. This is our first game in Maine.”

Drew Bartlett of Marshwood and Milani Hicks of Scarborough are two of the players on the Maine all-star team. Both said playing against some of the top college players in the country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and will give them an early indoctrination, perhaps an advantage, when they head off to college. Bartlett is going to Emmanuel College in Boston, while Hicks is leaning toward Colby-Sawyer in New London, New Hampshire. Both are Division III schools.

“It’s going to be a challenge and a lot different,” said Bartlett, who led the SMAA in scoring at 22.2 points per game. “This is an opportunity not too many high school players have. You just have to play with confidence and enjoy the experience.

“To improve your game, you have to play against the best competition, and this is certainly that. Playing against the ACC players may make the Division III level seem slower when I start playing.”

Bartlett, who was also the SMAA’s top 3-point shooter, is looking forward to going against the ACC players in a 3-point shooting contest. There will also be a dunk contest.

“They can really shoot the 3. They’ll be looking to take us down a few pegs,” said Bartlett.

“I think it’s going to be fun,” said Hicks, the SMAA’s No. 2 scorer at 21.9 points per game. “We’re going to see how our talent stacks up against them.

“I think it will be hard to adjust to the speed and the intensity of the game at first.”

Davis said having the ACC stars playing in Portland will give kids in the YES! Program something to aspire to.

“It could plant a seed that they too could someday play in the ACC with talent and hard work,” said Davis.

In addition to Bartlett and Hicks, the Maine all-stars will be Derek Breunig and Sean Jany of Westbrook; Jaren Muller of South Portland; Liam Densmore of Portland; Kevin Barrett of Thornton Academy; Trever Irish of Lewiston; Stephen Ochan of Deering; and Justin Frecker of York. The coach is David Brenner, a former Deering head coach who now coaches South Portland’s freshmen team.