As the former longtime boys’ coach at St. Frances Academy and director of the Craig Cromwell Summer League, William Wells has a place in the annals of Baltimore City basketball. His accomplishments will be recognized at the inaugural William Wells Challenge, Dec. 10 at UMBC’s RAC Arena.

“It’s a great honor. I’ve been around a long time and have seen a lot of players,” said Wells. “I’m really grateful to be selected as the person to represent the Baltimore Catholic League and the city.”

BCL commissioner Jack Degele originally announced plans for the early season mixer after Wells’ induction into the league’s Hall of Fame in May. The event will featured two games, highlighted by showdown between the area’s consensus No. 1 and 2 teams, perennial BCL and MIAA A Conference powerhouse Mount St. Joseph and reigning Baltimore City Division I champ Poly. 

No. 12 Patterson and 8th-ranked and defending MIAA A champ St. Frances Academy, will meet in the nightcap. The eastside programs last met in 2012 at the Baltimore City Schools Basketball Academy at Lake Clifton.

There’s been several city/private boys’ matches at the Basketball Academy, which takes place in mid-January. City and Catholic basketball programs competed regularly as members of the Maryland Scholastic Association (MSA) from 1986-87 to 1991-92 school year. Baltimore City left the MSA after the 1991-92 school year to join the state public association (MPSSAA).

The 1986-87 campaign marked the return of Catholic programs to the MSA. The Catholic programs left the MSA in 1971 after a riot broke out following the Mount St. Joseph/Dunbar MSA A basketball title game at Dunbar, widely regarded as the darkest moment in Baltimore basketball history.

The Baltimore Catholic League was formed shortly thereafter. 

Wells, a Dunbar graduate who was in attendance at the St. Joe/Dunbar game in 1971, has been one of Charm City basketball’s brightest lights. For 32 years, he was director at Madison Square Recreation Center, which was a haven for east Baltimore youth. The Madison Buccaneers basketball program helped produce some of Baltimore’s top all-time basketball players.

They played at “The Dome,” Madison’s outdoor court that has a flat, gray roof over it. During the late summer nights, thousands filled the stands and sidewalks to watch the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Keith Booth, Sam Cassell, Reggie Williams and Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues play showcase games.

Wells started the St. Frances boys’ basketball program in 1986, transforming it from CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) into one of the area’s elite. He won 517 games and a record seven BCL Tournament titles before retiring after the 2007-08 season. 

Wells has directed the Cromwell League at Madison since 1985. He’s currently doing mentoring at his alma-mater Dunbar.

“He’s given his entire life to basketball and Baltimore,” said Degele. “He’s the perfect guy to have a game in his honor. He’s such a gentlemen and so well respected. This will be a legacy for him.”

William Wells Challenge

When: Saturday Dec. 10

Where: RAC Arena, UMBC

Tickets: $10 in advance (available at Corrigan Sports Enterprises); $15 at door 

No. 2 Poly vs. No. 1 Mount St. Joseph 

Time: 4:30 p.m.

Players to watch: Poly – Demetrius Mims, Jr., 6-4, guard/forward; DeVonde Perry, Sr., 6-foot-6, forward; Mount St. Joseph – Darryl Morsell, Sr., 6-4, guard; Jalen Smith, Jr., 6-9, forward/center

No. 12 Patterson vs. No. 8 St. Frances Academy

Time: 6:30 .m.Players to watch: Patterson – Christon Adams, Sr., 6-5, forward; Marvin Price, So., 6-5, guard; St. Frances – Jordan Goodwin, Jr., 6-0, guard; Eral Penn, Sr., 6-7, forward