Matt Fleming faces perhaps the most emotional game of his career to date Wednesday evening when the Bangor High School boys basketball team travels to Oxford Hills of South Paris.
The game, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was pushed back a night due to inclement weather.
Asked about facing his former teammates for the first time — Fleming earned BDN All-Maine honors as a sophomore for the Vikings last season before he and his family moved to the Bangor area last summer — the 6-foot-5 forward offered a look of anticipation and reflected more on helping his new team build off last Friday’s season-opening victory over Lewiston.
“I love the place that we’re in, I love this dynamic,” said Fleming, one of seven juniors on a Bangor roster with no seniors. “I was excited to hear that we were going to be this young because there will be no change in the team next year and we won’t have to start from Day 1.
“Day 1 started this year, we’re going to be on Day 366 to start next year and we’re going to be way ahead of any other teams.”
In the Rams’ opener, Fleming, junior guard Damien Vance and sophomore wing Henry Westrich combined for 72 points in a most balanced way with Fleming scoring 25, Westrich 24 and Vance 23 during the 82-47 victory at Red Barry Gymnasium.
“He’s brought a lot more confidence to our group,” said Vance. “I think we have a lot more confidence shooting the ball and getting up the court and being able to contribute to our offense.”
Vance, Westrich and fellow starters Noah Missbrenner and Jason Smith all figure to benefit from the defensive attention Fleming will draw from opponents, and Westrich and Vance in particular experienced that first hand on opening night.
“I score the majority of my points on leak-outs (fast breaks),” Westrich said, “and I know I can trust that Matt’s going to get that board and throw me a great pass for a layup on the other end of the court. Him being here really opens up possibilities for the fast break.”
Fleming also sees himself capitalizing on the offensive potential of his new teammates.
They’re great shooters, which should make it easier for me to get inside stuff because they spread the defense out,” he said. “I think we complement each other really well.”
The transition to a new basketball program has not been without some adjustments.
“I had been playing with the Oxford Hills guys since third grade, so building chemistry here took a little time,” he said. “I still make some passes that I expected would be (on target) but sometimes aren’t yet because we still don’t know each other’s games as well as we should and we will, but it will definitely come.
“The easiest part is just playing,” he added. “We have a great group of guys.”
And while one game does not make a season, a Bangor program that won its last six games last winter but missed the Class AA North playoffs is building off that finish and is focused on upward mobility this winter.
All eight Class AA North teams qualify for postseason play in February, with the top four to host regional quarterfinals before the rest of the tournament is staged in Portland.
“We’ve got a completely clean slate from last year,” said Westrich, “and that really gives us the intensity that we want to get to that next level.”
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.