DeKALB – Aaric Armstead never wanted to leave Chicago.
After Aaric spent three years playing at Hales Franciscan with his older brother, Aaron, their father, Phil, decided to move Aaric and his two younger brothers, to Fresno, Calif., in 2011 to escape the city’s violence.
While the two older brothers had just led Hales Franciscan to the 2011 Class 2A state championship, they were now split apart for the first time in their lives.
Aaron played his freshman year of college at Wisconsin-Green Bay and transferred to San Jose City College a year later.
Aaric played out his senior season of high school at Bullard in Fresno and then elected to take one more year at La Jolla Prep School near San Diego.
“We played with each other for pretty much our whole lives throughout high school until he went to college and I ended up going to prep school,” Aaric said. “Just having that time away from each other allowed us to develop new skills and the independence of playing by ourselves.”
Now the two are reunited back near their hometown, each signing with Northern Illinois this summer. Aaron enters as a junior with two years of eligibility remaining while Aaric is a freshman.
While both Armstead brothers come to NIU at the same time, they admit their decisions to play at NIU were made independently.
NIU coach Mark Montgomery said his staff started recruiting Aaric during his senior year of high school and into his prep season. When a late scholarship opened up, Montgomery said the Huskies pursued Aaron as well.
“What we liked about both guys was their athleticism, basketball IQs, come from an unbelievable family, have Chicago ties,” Montgomery said. “When you’re at Hales Franciscan for three or four years of high school so we want to tap into that area. They played AAU with Chicago-area teams, I think it’s good, some name recognition on top of two guys that are hard workers, very skilled.”
NIU lost a few perimeter players off the 2012-13 team, including leading scorer Abdel Nader, who transferred to Iowa State and was the only Huskie to average in double figures.
While Aaron comes in with prior Division-1 basketball experience, Montgomery said both brothers should see “extended minutes” in their first season.
After two years away, both Armsteads are glad to be back in Illinois.
“It’s great. I have a lot of friends and family out here versus California, I don’t really know too many people out there, just a few relatives,” Aaron said. “It’s just like being in your home environment…and being able to play in front of the people that I love the most.”