The National League continued to showcase the best players in professional basketball, but constant squabbling among the owners drained the league of much of its vitality. Millville dropped out before the season got underway. Minor-league teams in Burlington, Conshohocken, and Wilmington were signed to raise the National League membership to eight teams. It quickly became apparent that none of the new members were capable of playing up to the standards of the tougher National League, and soon they proved to more of an embarrassment than an addition to the league.
A month into the season, a reshuffling was undertaken to attempt to save the National League. The original Wilmington squad disbanded and was replaced by the the team that had started the season in Philadelphia. Bristol, which had a strong team but poor attendance, sold off the best players on its roster to Burlington which had a fans, but few good players, and then withdrew from the league.
Rising above the growing disarray was Camden’s Bill Morganweck, a savvy promoter and sound basketball man who engineered his squad to a sweep of both the first and second half races. Figuring prominently in Camden’s success were set shooting stars Eddie Ferat and Snake Deal, and high-scoring Bill Keenan, who had displaced veteran John Wendelken as the league’s best center. Equally important in the club’s success were defensive aces Winnie Kinkaide and Charlie Bossert, the league’s dominant defensive duo.
The return of star Sandy Shields to top form provided New York’s impetus to bounce back from the previous season’s disappointments. The Wanderers provided Camden with strong first-half opposition, but when Shields injured his ankle they could not repeat the effort in the second half.
Trenton began the season sluggishly, and was soon scrambling to interject some energy into the club. Veteran center Bill Everingham replaced Gus Enderbrock at center and youngsters such as Bobby Mayham and Pete Riley were given expanded playing time, but nothing could prevent the club’s first sub .500 season. Defending champion Bristol played well in both halves, but was distracted by the midseason retirement of Charlie Klein and the mid-season transfer of the team to Burlington. The Wilmington club performed competently behind veterans Willie Barber and Hilly Wallace.
While basketball in the traditional strongholds around Philadelphia was in a period of instability and adjustment, the professional game was blossoming in Massachusetts. The New England League (last year’s Massachusetts League) and the newly re-organized Massachusetts Central League drew over 225,000 paid admissions during the 1902-03 season. The main threat to the rising popularity of pro basketball in Massachusetts remained the bitter warfare between the two leagues. The Massachusetts Central League, which had prematurely halted its season in January of 1902, was back with four strong independent teams (Springfield, Holyoke, Ware and Westfield) recruited to battle holdover squads in Millbury, Webster and Worcester.
The New England League returned with the South Framingham, Maynard, Lowell Burkes and Lowell PAC squads, while the talented Cambridge club transferred to Marlboro. Additions included a new team in Hudson and two teams in New Hampshire, Manchester and Nashua. Marlboro, featuring center Bill Sheridan, won 16 of 17 games to win the first-half title of the New England League. Intoxicated with their success, the club agreed at midseason to also represent the town of Chicopee in the Massachusetts Central League. They briefly performed in both leagues until the Massachusetts Central League officials ruled that a team could only be represented in one league at a time. Because they found it to be more lucrative, the Sheridan-led squad withdrew from the New England League and agreed to exclusively represent Chicopee for the remainder of the season. The Massachusetts Central League proved to be much faster competition for Sheridan’s squad and they finished in the middle of the pack. Springfield, behind the scoring of the speedy Martens brothers, Charlie and Henry, dashed off to an early lead in the standings. In mid-January, fabled center Toby Mathews signed on with the team to solidify the club’s grip on the Central Massachusetts League title.
South Framingham won the second half title of the New England League and then agreed to meet the erstwhile Bill Sheridan-led Marlboro squad in a post-season playoff for the league title. Sheridan and his teammates recaptured some glory by winning the game 23-19 to claim the title of the league they had earlier abandoned.