PARIS — The Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School boys’ basketball team completed a shooting drill at the start of practice on a snowy, sleepy Monday afternoon.

Those who have been part of the ritual at any school know that the trifling walk-through is anything but meaningless, because somehow the result determines everyone’s amount of running.

“Twice, down and back,” assistant coach Joe Oufiero matter of factly commanded, and a dozen or so Vikings took off in unison.

By the end of the first baseline-to-baseline dash — roughly the distance from the back of the end zone to midfield on a football gridiron — Andrew Fleming, built like a National Football League tight end, was half a court ahead of his friends.

Fleming’s speed might have elicited a double take from a visitor to the Vikings’ closed-door preparations, but his level of leadership and the temperature of his competitive inferno shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point.

In a state that typically produces only three or four Division I men’s basketball players with every four-year cycle, Fleming was Maine’s anointed one from sophomore year until now, the doorstep of his final high school tournament.

Oxford Hills (14-4) will face Bangor (5-13) in the Class AA North quarterfinals on Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center. It is the second half of a doubleheader that tips off with a clash between Edward Little and Cheverus at 5:30 p.m.

“I love all my teammates,” Fleming said. “I just want to get as far as I can with them, have as much fun as I can.”

Fleming, son of Brian and Gretchen Fleming of Norway, doesn’t have to wonder where his talents will take him next.

On Nov. 11, 2015, three weeks before the start of his senior season, he made good on a previous verbal commitment and officially accepted a full scholarship to play basketball at the University of Maine.

“That’s more of a personal thing,” he said. “Getting that out of the way and just being able to focus on getting the team as good as we can be, I didn’t have to focus on myself at all.”

The big jump

He joins a relatively short list of locals to wear the blue and white for the Black Bears in his lifetime. Andy Bedard of Rumford, Troy Barnies and Jon Wallingford of Auburn and Sean McNally of Gardiner preceded him.

Tom Knight of Dixfield played four years at Notre Dame. T.J. Caouette of Winthrop made a similar impact at Villanova. Each enjoyed substantial television time and wound up with an invaluable degree.

Others have trickled out of the state to test their mettle at so-called mid-major schools throughout the country.

Division III is the traditional path for most Mainers. For Fleming, it would mean a guaranteed spot in somebody’s starting lineup. To suggest such an alternative is a failure to comprehend Fleming’s work ethic.

“Everyone hopes that they can go up and contribute right away,” Fleming said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to play as much as I can and do whatever coach wants me to do.”

Fleming and his father made a list of goals for his basketball career as the then-wiry redhead ascended from middle school into ninth grade.

One, play Division I basketball. Two, develop enough strength in his legs to dunk.

That one would inspire laughter from anybody who has watched Fleming take off from the baseline or just inside the free-throw line and throw down one-handed jams with electrifying ease as a senior.

“I couldn’t do it,” he said. “I was only 6-foot-1 at the time. That’s what I wrote down. I really just focused on that. It helped me to push myself even more.”

The first 3-inch growth spurt happened his sophomore year, when Fleming took a sixth-seeded Oxford Hills club on his shoulders and led upsets of Bangor and Brunswick to reach the regional championship game.

The Vikings fell to Messalonskee and another Division I prospect, Nick Mayo, now starring for Eastern Kentucky, in the 2015 quarterfinals. Fleming was a marked man his entire junior campaign, double- and triple-teamed at every turn. It fueled his off-season workouts and his successful summer tour with the Hampden-based MBR team, which enjoyed unprecedented success at AAU nationals.

“For the most part, once middle school started I’ve been playing year round competitively. The higher level you play, it always helps you,” Fleming said. “It’s pretty much a full-time job. I’ve never had a full-time job, but that must be what it’s like.”

Senior sensation

Still in the cross hairs of every defensive strategy, Fleming — 6-foot-6, listed as a center, but often performing the dribble-and-distribute duties of a point guard — has countered with a monster senior season.

He hurdled the 1,000-point barrier in a Dec. 30 game against Cony at the Augusta Civic Center, joining 1998 graduate Kevin Toohey as the only Oxford Hills players ever to accomplish the feat. Three games later, in a loss at Sanford, he smashed Toohey’s career-scoring record.

Fleming’s total stands at 1,315 heading into the tournament. His school last won a regional title in 1990.

“I think we can make a good run,” Fleming said of the Vikings’ championship aspirations. “It’s a bigger court. We like to run. Hopefully that helps us out. We played well when we were up there (in December), so that helps even more.”

College may be a relief for Fleming in many respects.

He will be just another name and number on a jersey to opposing fans. His every move won’t be hyperanalyzed. Fleming has acquired several technical fouls this season, leading some to suggest that a few officials hold Maine’s “star” players to a higher standard than their peers.

Defense will be easier to negotiate, too.

“They’re not going to be focusing on one guy,” he said. “Everyone out there can do their thing. At the next level, everyone out there can score, so it’s pretty much one on one at your spot.”

Given that breathing room, Fleming knows what it will demand from his repertoire. As part of his rebuilding program at Maine, coach Bob Walsh has transformed the Black Bears into a high-scoring, get-out-and-run group.

“I feel that I need to make my jump shot more consistent, and my handle has to be better,” Fleming said. “(Maine plays) a lot in transition. I went and watched them the other day, and they’re just fast, up and down, as fast as they can.”

Some will question Fleming’s ability to adapt. Many basketball enthusiasts in Maine curiously tear down their own as quickly and mightily as they build them up.

Then again, they probably didn’t see Fleming soaring above the rim or lapping the field in down-and-backs the last time he was a freshman, either.

[email protected]


Complete coverage of the high school boys’ and girls’ basketball tournaments includes:

  • Updated brackets for all classes;
  • Live updates from the games and arenas;
  • Comprehensive game coverage and profiles;
  • Photos and videos from the tournaments.

You can find updates on:

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.