Armstrong Quiet, Constant Leader In Bears' Resurgence
POTSDAM - The 2019-20 men's basketball season at SUNY Potsdam was one of resurgence and going back to the future.
The 20-7 Bears won 20 games and reached the SUNYAC Finals for the first time since 2005 years and averaged 81 points per game. They went 14-4 in the SUNYAC Conference and 9-1 at home while stirring up the echoes of the glorious era of SUNY Potsdam Basketball under the direction of Hall of Fame Coach Jerry Welsh.
The echoes included the roar of large crowds at Maxcy Hall.
"It is was great to see the crowds getting larger at Maxcy Hall to watch us play. We had big crowds especially on Friday night and we had good crowds on Saturday afternoons," said four year Coach Jim Bechtel who engineered the Bears' revival led by members of his first recruiting class.
"And it is great to share it with Coach Welsh. We talk all of the time."
Leading the Bears' return to prominence are three senior co-captains in Danny Delsol-Lowry, Jaquan Thomas and Madrid-Waddington Central graduate Aaron Armstrong and explosive sophomore transfer Isaiah Brown arrived at midseason and made a meteoric impact including a 42-point game.
Brown (Westside Queens, N.Y./NIA Prep) was honored as the SUNYAC Player of the Year and Thomas (Hollis, N.Y./Richmond Hill) and Delsol-Lowry (Queens, N.Y./Queens High School of Teaching) claimed spots on the second and third teams, respectively.
Delsol-Lowry (12.6 scoring average) and Thomas (16.3 points per game) scored their 1000th career points a matter of days of apart and the high-flying Brown averaged 24 points per game while wowing the crowds with his high-wire-act slam dunks. None better than a hammer throw-down off a an alley oop pass from Armstrong in transition in the Bears' final home and Senior Day game against New Paltz.
The play illustrated Armstrong's selfless leadership for the Bears.
It started with him making a quick switch on a New Paltz pick and roll, step into the passing lane for a steal and on the run flipping a perfect pass to Brown for a two on one fast-break flush.
Armstrong did not show up when the SUNYAC Conference All-Stars were announced but according to Coach Bechtel he is the type of player who shows up on every coaches' wish list.
"Aaron was part of my first recruiting class who came to Potsdam which had gone 1-24 the year before and laid the foundation for our success. I saw Aaron play a bunch of times at Madrid-Waddington which always has excellent players under Coach Aaron Jones. He received the Joe Jukoski Award as a senior. He was a scorer in high school and I knew he could play here," said Bechtel.
"Over the years he got much stronger, changed his game and made his contributions by being a solid team player who totally understands situational basketball. He does all the little things that makes a team win and he is definitely our swiss army knife. We have recruited several guys from the New York City. Aaron has adapted to them and they have adapted to him. He is a great leader, one that younger players look up to."
The 6-3 215-pound Armstrong has led quietly with extreme efficiency and firmly established as the heart and soul of the team's defense. As a senior he is averaged 6.3 points, 1.9 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game and ranks among the team leaders in minutes played, shooting percentage at. 583 and free throw percentage .847. He made 11 of 33 3-point attempts and averaged less than one turnover per game.
On offense he is constant motion constantly setting and rolling off picks patiently waiting for scoring and facilitating opportunities and seldom, if ever, taking a forced shot. On defense he plays firm and physical and is always ready to provide help or double team. His ability to defend at all five positions and read the flow of the game makes him invaluable.
"My defense always sets up my offense and I take pride that I can defend one through five. Playing here has been great. Myself and my fellow seniors won three games in our freshman seasons and this year we earned the number two seed for the playoffs." says Armstrong after being honored with his family at the Bears' Senior Day game.
"Being a four-year starter has been special. We have a lot of talented players on our team and we work very hard. Being a college basketball player has been a great experience for me."
An experience he shares with a large family contingent which regularly attended his games.
"Aaron's family has become a big part of our family as a team." said Coach Bechtel.
If Aaron's future plans bear out he and members of his family could very well remain as Maxcy Hall regulars.
"I plan to enter the state police and I hope to do some coaching with Coach Aaron Jones at Madrid-Waddington," said Armstrong who has made the SUNY Potsdam's President's List every year.