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Armstrong rewards Maine’s loyalty and commits

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. —Andre Armstrong could’ve had a long list of interested colleges. He could’ve waited until next year at this time to see what other schools came along after a year at Monroe Community College, building himself up and expanding his game.

Instead, he committed to the University of Maine, the program that was following him since this time last summer.

“They were loyal to me,” said the former Forest Hills standout fresh off a postgraduate year at Notre Dame Prep (Mass.). “They waited a long time. Even when I didn’t get the [SAT] score I [needed in the spring], they said we’re gonna work with you, get you a junior college.”

Armstrong, a 6-foot-2 guard from Flushing, rewarded that faith and plans to sign next November, the first moment the NCAA allows players for the class of 2011 to put pen to paper.

That was hardly a surprise to Forest Hills Coach Ben Chobhaphand, who firsthand watched Armstrong work himself into a Division I player, the first in Chobhaphand’s six seasons at Forest Hills.

“It shows at Forest Hills we can produce Division I scholarship players,” Chobhaphand said. “It means a lot to the program, a lot to me.”

Armstrong, 19, arrived as a freshman, and talked about becoming a Division I player. He now is one, a credit to the time he often spent with Chobhaphand before and after practice. Early in his career, Armstrong was strictly a shooter, but he has developed into a combo guard capable of running the point.

“I’m real proud of him,” Chobhaphand said of Armstrong, who led the Rangers to their first Queens borough title and a PSAL Class AA quarterfinal berth in 2009. “It’s a testament to him. Hopefully, he leaves his mark there like he left it at Forest Hills, gets a degree and plays overseas.”

He is qualified now, and had other options — current ones — in St. Francis College and New Hampshire, but felt comfortable with Maine. He developed a close relationship with the coaching staff — Head Coach Ted Woodward and assistant Chris Markwood, his lead recruiter — which frequented his games, and felt the Black Bears’ run-and-gun style was a perfect fit.

“I’m still going D-I — that was my plan — and I’ll still have three years,” he said. “[Waiting] is no big deal.”

In addition to the close bond Armstrong shared with Chobhaphand, he also deferred credit to mentors Nate Blue and Rob Diaz, who played such a big role in his progression as a player and maturity as a person.

“It’s a great accomplish­ment,” he said. “But I’ve got to work hard and make sure I take care of my books at Monroe and make sure I’m ready to play at the next level.”

Updated 6:00 pm, October 10, 2011
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