By Joe Henricksen
When the preseason rankings come out in November, it was expected that Hales Franciscan would be among the top 10 teams in the Chicago area. But the news that star Aaric Armstead will not be returning this season to help the Spartans defend their state championship will be a major blow.
Armstead, who is among the City/Suburban Hoops Report's top half dozen senior prospects in the Class of 2012, will be headed to Bullard High School in Fresno, Calif., along with up-and-coming junior Adam Armstead and talented freshman, 6-1 Austin Armstead. The Armstead boys are in California living with their aunt, while the rest of the family will soon be joining them.
"This was not a basketball-related thing at all," said Phil Armstead, Aaric's father. "No, this had nothing to do with basketball."
Although Phil Armstead did say there were some "philosophical differences" the family had with Hales Franciscan, those differences were not a reason for the family's move to California. Phil Armstead said the biggest reason for the move was to "seek a better, safer environment for his sons."
Both Aaric and Austin lost friends recently to senseless murders this past summer. And 16-year-old Adam Armstead was recently in a scary situation at a Dollar Store as the store was held up at gunpoint.
"That was pretty much the last straw," said Phil Armstead of the news one of his sons was in danger at the Dollar Store during a hold-up. "There is a growing safety issue in the city. The violence has gotten too close. It's crazy. The boys are going to be able to experience something entirely different in California. Just the other day they returned from the ocean and then jumped into the swimming pool."
A year ago Aaric Armstead averaged 14.1 points and knocked down 84 three-pointers in helping lead coach Gary London's team to a 29-4 record and Class 2A state championship. The 6-5 senior scored a game-high 18 points in the title game win over Murphysboro.
Hales, which finished third in the state two seasons ago, was expected to be one of the favorites again in Class 2A this coming winter. Although the Spartans lost leading scorer Aaron Armstead, Aaric's older brother who is now playing at Wisconsin-Green Bay, a nucleus of Aaric Armstead, highly-regarded Eddie Alcantera and junior guard Shaquan Alexander was expected to keep Hales among the top teams in the Chicago area.
Armstead's college recruitment remains open, with a host of schools at various levels involved with the highly-athletic wing with terrific size. Armstead is planning on taking a visit to Manhattan. He was offered by Loyola on Tuesday. He also remains very interested in playing with his brother at Wisconsin-Green Bay, with Northern Illinois making a very strong push of late.