Sterling, Colorado must be a trucker town. Because Armand Thomas is a wide load. On Friday, May 1, the 270-pound Lehman High School senior signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Northeastern Junior College, a small two-year school near South Dakota.
Northeastern has awarded Thomas a two-year scholarship worth $80,000. He will move to Sterling after a summer of weight lifting and New York Panthers AAU ball. Thomas – an imposing 6-foot-8 center – is from the Throggs Neck Houses.
“I’ll miss Throggs Neck,” Thomas said. “At the same time, I want to leave. People who I used to play basketball with are hanging out now, doing negative things. I want to show the kids that it’s possible to do positive things.”
Thomas spent his freshman year at St. Raymond’s High School for Boys, then transferred to Lehman. Lions head basketball coach Chuck Hicks was ecstatic.
In 2008, his junior year, Thomas led the NYC Public School Athletic League in rebounding. Nicknamed “Big Baby,” he led the Lions to a 12-12 record in 2009.
Thomas considered transferring to a prep school for his senior year. St. Raymond’s teammates Kevin Parrom and Omari Lawrence opted for South Kent in Connecticut.
But Thomas wanted to beat Wings Academy; the Lions had never beaten Wings before. Big Baby decided to stick around.
“Lehman is like a big family,” Thomas said. “I’m close with my teammates. My older brother played here.”
On January 15, the Lions beat Wings 69-67. A number of NCAA Division I colleges and universities recruited Thomas, including Manhattan College, SUNY Albany and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Thomas chose Northeastern for academic reasons. He plans to play in Europe or transfer to Manhattan College in two years. According to Thomas, fans from Sterling pack Northeastern games.
“I hear that it gets cold out there, but that it’s beautiful,” Thomas said.
Big Baby hopes to major in psychology. He wants to understand how those around him think. Thomas calls Lehman assistant coach Rich Esposito his inspiration.
“Coach Esposito pushed me,” Thomas said. “He and Coach Hicks believed in me.”
Esposito is happy for Thomas.
“He’s a gifted player and a gentleman,” Esposito said. “Lehman has always been a football school. Thanks to Armand, now it’s a basketball school, too.”