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The last time Matthew Fleming and Wol Maiwen squared off in a serious basketball game, both players proved unstoppable.
Fleming scored 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and made four 3-pointers to lead Bangor past Edward Little of Auburn 56-52 in the 2019 Class AA North championship game.
Maiwen countered with 23 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots while keeping the Red Eddies close.
“We were the go-to guys for both of our teams and we guarded each other, so we were basically right beside each other everywhere on the court,” Fleming said of the rivalry. “Neither one of us are the kind of players to trash talk, so it was basically silent the whole game and obviously he would get the best of me once in a while and I would get the best of him.
“It was just back and forth, really good competition because we have respect for each other and we’re good friends.”
Now, after a year of prep school basketball behind them, they will become teammates. Fleming and Maiwen have made verbal commitments to join the University of Maine men’s basketball program next season.
“It means a lot being able to play here in my home state,” Maiwen said. “I get a lot of support here.”
Fleming and Maiwen, along with Sanford High School recruit Leyton Bickford and Black Bears guard Taylor Schildroth of Blue Hill, will bring to four the number of Maine high school products on the state’s lone Division I basketball roster for the coming season. That’s one of the largest groupings of potentially significant in-state contributors since the days of Troy Barnies, Sean McNally and Mark Socoby more than a decade ago.
“I think it’s great that coach Barron is looking to get more Maine kids because another aspect I think we’ve struggled with is filling the stands,” Fleming said. “I definitely think the community around Maine will be interested in seeing people that they might have known before. They’ll see some more familiar faces on the floor, which will bring out more fans, more support and create more of a fun atmosphere, which hopefully will translate into more wins.”
Fleming, named Mr. Maine Basketball and Gatorade Maine Player of the Year after leading Bangor to the 2019 state championship, has spent this academic year at West Point Prep, part of the U.S. Military Academy.
Fleming found the school and its basketball program to his liking, as this winter he shot better than 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line while helping his team compile a 26-5 record.
“I definitely think I’m a better rebounder and my defense definitely has gotten better,” said Fleming, who also bulked up to his current 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame, My shot has gotten better, too.”
Fleming also realized an interest in becoming a teacher but since West Point does not offer an education major he began making inquiries at the University of Maine, which had recruited him while he was in high school.
“I wanted to find out if it was a possibility to come back home,” Fleming said. “I didn’t want to come back and have to pay for school, so if [coach Richard Barron] wasn’t interested in having me or there weren’t any scholarships left I would have stayed at West Point.
“It worked out that he hadn’t erased my name off his board and was still interested in having me.”
The 6-4 Maiwen, a Mr. Basketball finalist and like Fleming a Bangor Daily News All-Maine first-team choice in 2019, played this winter at Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, Massachusetts.
With the Wildcats he worked to expand his game before ultimately deciding to attend UMaine in the fall. He also considered Bryant University, the University of Hartford and the University of New Hampshire, the latter two of which are America East rivals of the Black Bears.
“I needed that prep year to transform my game a little bit so I can play more of a perimeter game,” said Maiwen, who has indicated an interest in studying accounting at UMaine. “I think I’ve gotten more confident with the ball outside the 3-point line and I’m shooting the ball a little better and seeing the floor better. It helped slow the game down for me.”
Fleming and Maiwen — who did play one summer of AAU basketball together — will join a UMaine program coming off a 9-22 season overall, 5-11 in America East play, and both hope to help the team move up the conference standings.
Fleming will have the additional challenge of following a path blazed by older brother Andrew Fleming, a two-time America East all-star who just capped off his four-year career with the Black Bears as one of only six players in program history to total more than 1,400 points and 700 rebounds.
When the younger Fleming had his first pictures in a UMaine uniform taken last Friday, he wore Andrew’s No. 0, though he didn’t know his brother’s thoughts on possibly sharing the same number with the Black Bears.
“I’ve been feeling that kind of pressure my entire basketball career, having to live up to my brother’s name and everybody always comparing me to him,” Matthew Fleming said. “I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”