After leading Mountain Valley to a state championship in 1994, Andy Bedard spent two seasons at Boston College and then played his junior and senior seasons at the University of Maine. Submitted photo

When Colby basketball and Maine coaching legend Dick Whitmore called Andy Bedard several months ago to inform him he was being inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame this Sunday, the Mountain Valley High School legend shook off the emotions that came from receiving the honor to make the most of the opportunity immediately before him.

“When (Whitmore) called, I was very excited and honored and humbled and just really appreciative of the honor,” Bedard said. “The best part of the phone call was I got to talk hoops with Coach Whitmore.”

Whitmore had followed Bedard’s basketball career ever since he emerged at Mountain Valley in the early 1990s, around the same time Bedard started paying close attention to Whitmore’s Mules.

Playing guard at Colby for Whitmore at the time was one of Mountain Valley’s first basketball stars, Matt Gaudet, Bedard’s high school idol and fellow Rumford playground rat.

“He was just so much better than everyone else,” Bedard said of Gaudet, a Colby, Maine and New England basketball Hall-of-Famer. “I tried to emulate and play like Matt, so when Matt went to Colby, my dad (Ray) and my uncle took me to most of their home games.”

A 6-foot-1 guard with limitless range, Bedard went on to play NCAA Division I basketball at Boston College and the University of Maine, but there’s still a part of him that wondered what playing for Whitmore at Division III Colby would have been like.

“(Whitmore) let his players shoot from all over half-court. Watching it happen, I was, ‘Oh, this is great,'” he said. “I think we ended up having an hour conversation about his coaching at Colby. Maybe he called thinking it was going to be about me, but I was more interested in hearing some stories about his teams.”

Bedard has found himself swapping a lot of stories since learning he will be inducted along Tom Austin, Eric Fenton, Pat Gallant-Charette, Sam Ladd, Wally LaFountain, Jessica Leclerc, Steve Martin, Wes McCauley, Kevin Rand, Nancy Storey and Tim Wilson with at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium. Running his own business and raising three children with his wife, Melinda, has cut back on the chances he’s had to reminisce about one of Maine’s most storied basketball careers.

“Sometimes you don’t get a chance to reflect, so it gives you an opportunity … to think back and go through it all,” he said. “For me, the best part was it gave me a chance to think about it and I got a lot of congratulations and heard from some people I hadn’t talked to in years. It gave me a chance to thank them. I was just thinking about how lucky I was coming out of Rumford and having the coaches that I had and the mentors  that I had and the camp counselors and all of the people who helped me.”

Bedard and his Mountain Valley teammates were usually the ones helping fans sneak in through the locker room for sold out games on nights when the Falcons would shut down Rumford and surrounding towns.

By the 1993-94 season, his junior year, Bedard and the Falcons were battling Cindy Blodgett and the Lawrence Bulldogs for Maine’s high school basketball spotlight with a dream season capped by the school’s second Class B state championship. Gaudet had led Mountain Valley to the 1990 gold ball.

“We play at Lisbon and lose the first game of the year and then we run the table after that,” Bedard said. “That was a special group. The coaches, Matt Kaubris and Andy Shorey, have been massive supporters of mine and helped me more than anybody. They brought that ’70s toughness to our team. They were big on people filling their roles and not worrying about who’s scoring and who’s doing this. Everybody had a role to play and they put all of the pieces together.”

Talented players such as Dean Boudreau and Shawn Spadea were among the pieces that fit with Bedard in the Falcons’ cobalt blue and silver, but it was Bedard’s spectacular play that remains prominent in Maine basketball lore.

Mountain Valley High School graduate Andy Bedard plays for the University of Maine in November 1998, Submitted photo

He still holds multiple tournament scoring records, but his final game at Mountain Valley tops all of his exploits in legend and deed. In the 1994 state final against Camden-Rockport (now Camden Hills), he wowed a packed Bangor Auditorium crowd by scoring 53 points, an all-class state championship record that still stands.

“It’s funny because I think missed my first five or six shots,” Bedard recalled, “and not only did I miss them, but I think they were complete bricks with an air ball thrown in there.”

“You’ve got to love Coach Kaubris and Coach Shorey, it’s not like they told me to quit shooting after I air-balled my first five,” he said. “After my first one went down, it was kind of like I was in this zone where it felt like everything was going in. It was just kind of a blur.”

Though a superior athlete with great court vision and shooting touch, Bedard believes his playing style reflected what he called a blue-collar “Rumford mentality.”

“I’m proud to represent it,” he said. “Rumford’s a hard-working and I think I simulated that on the court. I played harder and played faster and dove on loose balls and all of that stuff.”

The connection between Bedard and his hometown couldn’t be severed even when he made the difficult decision to attend Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield for his senior year. At the time, MCI was considered one of the best basketball prep schools in the nation, and coach Max Good had connections throughout college basketball that could open doors for a kid from Maine.

Bedard was one of more than a half-dozen MCI players that year who went on to play Division I basketball. The exposure he got from playing at MCI and attending elite basketball camps, plus the tough love he got from Good, took him to a different level as a player that he doesn’t think he could have achieved staying in Rumford.

“I don’t want to say I would have been on cruise control, but after the run my junior year, I think my senior year it might have been easier to think I was better than what I was, and Max would not let anybody think that they were better than they were,” he said. “Playing for him and in that system and playing against the quality of players that are there every day in practice and travelling all over New England with him happily pointing out what I need to get better at was a great move for me.”

“(Playing for Good) was an eye-opener,” Bedard added. “We have a saying that your best friends are the ones that tell you things you don’t want to hear, so Max must be my best friend.”

A lot of folks back home remained friendly, too, despite Bedard’s fears that he might be regarded as disloyal.

“It would have been easy for some of the Rumford community to throw rocks at me and say, ‘Why is he leaving? What is he, too good for us?,'” Bedard said. “But it was actually very powerful, the support I got after leaving a year early. I remember we had an exhibition game at the Augusta Civic Center in the first part of my MCI season, and I’m quite sure that 80 percent of the town was there to support me.”

Coaches from all over the country showed interest in Bedard, but he ended up picking one of the first to talk to him, Boston College and head coach Jim O’Brien.

“Back then, the Big East was really the basketball conference,” Bedard said. “I’m really close with my mom (Bonnie), so I wanted to be closer to home and not halfway across the country. My grades were really good, so it was a natural selection.”

Bedard’s arrival at BC coincided with a more highly touted prospect, Scoonie Penn, and O’Brien gave most of the minutes at point guard to his prized recruit. Bedard performed well as a reserve, and when Penn was sidelined by academics at the start of his sophomore year, Bedard excelled in the starting role.

When Penn returned to the lineup in early December, though, Bedard’s minutes dropped sharply. He helped BC win the Big East championship and reach the second round of the NCAA tournament, coming off the bench to play 19 minutes total in the two games.

Displeased with his playing time and the upheaval at BC caused by the defection of both O’Brien and Penn to Ohio State, Bedard decided to transfer to Maine, which was coached by John Giannini.

“I wanted to have the ball in my hands and run a team, and the thought of bringing Maine to an NCAA tournament was attractive to me,” he said. “Meeting and getting to know Coach G, who has become my number one mentor in life, it just all worked out.”

Joined by another BC classmate, 6-foot-8 forward Nate Fox, Bedard took a redshirt year then settled in for two years as Maine’s starting point guard.

Bedard broke the school’s career assists record in just two years, was first team all-conference both years, and along with Fox led the Black Bears to the most wins over a two-year span in school history (19 and 24).

In 2000, their senior season, they nearly led them to Maine’s first and only NCAA tournament appearance, but Bedard broke his wrist in the America East tournament semifinals and third-seeded Delaware upset second-seeded Maine, 68-46.

“I think we were a broken wrist away from going to an NCAA tournament,” said Bedard, who still ranks third on Maine’s career assists list and was inducted into the university’s sports hall of fame in 2007.

Surgery and rehab on the wrist kept Bedard out of the combine circuit and damaged his prospects of playing professionally, so he stayed in Orono for a year and served as an assistant coach for Giannini. He spent one year playing professionally in Portugal and was prepared to return for a second season until he met Melinda, who would eventually become his wife.

Now 42, he is co-owner of National Housing Insurance Group, an insurance agency based in Portland. He and his wife live in New Gloucester with their three children, ages 6-12.

Andy Bedard, left, poses with his son, Kaden, who is holding an AAU basketball trophy. Submitted photo

Rather than raining down jumpers from halfcourt, Bedard now spends most of his gym time on the sidelines, coaching his oldest son Kaden’s AAU team.

“We have a special group. Some of them drive down from Newport to be on the team,” Bedard said. “They’re all really committed and have great upside, so be a part of their journey and help them along the way and watch them grow and play, to be honest with you, is the most fun I’ve had with basketball.”