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A grip on life

Armstead epitomizes the ideal of a student-athlete in his role as Fremont's leading scorer and one of the school's leaders in math

January 16, 2008|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

It's one of those glorious winter days in Los Angeles -- bright sunshine, calm breezes, clear skies. A great day to be somewhere other than school, especially a year-round school when your group is not in session.

Laron Armstead is on vacation until March. But he still comes to Fremont High every day, starting at 7:30 a.m. He is a volunteer math tutor, helping students struggling with algebra and geometry.

"I love it," said Armstead, who adds he carries a 3.4 grade-point average. "I get to meet new kids and stuff. I help them and we become friends."

He also comes to Fremont every day for basketball.

The 6-foot-5 senior is his team's leading scorer, averaging 20.1 points. Armstead's quick post moves and a feathery jump shot make him one of the top small forwards in the City Section. He has helped Fremont to a 13-5 record. More important, the Pathfinders are 5-0 in the Coliseum League, going into today's game at Dorsey.

"He's a hard worker who you can depend on," Coach Sam Sullivan said. "Someone who worked his way into a varsity starter as a sophomore."

Compton's Tony Thomas was also impressed after watching Armstead score 22 and 29 points against the Tarbabes in two separate tournaments.

"He has a lot of experience as a senior," Thomas said. "He's very poised and plays within his talents."

Armstead is one of 13 children. His mother, Linda Million, is between jobs. His father, Randolph Armstead, was incarcerated, though Laron won't say why. He is out now, and father and son have re-connected.

"Do I want him in my life?" Armstead said. "I need him in my life."

But living in his mother's home, with so many people around, always felt chaotic to Armstead. So 1 1/2 years ago, he moved in with grandparents Samuel and Inez Million. Samuel is retired. Inez, at 70, still works part time as a home caretaker, cooking and cleaning for three regular clients.

"I took him in because he came to me," Inez said. "He said he wanted to get his lessons done, that here there was peace and quiet."

Said Armstead of his grandmother: "She's taken care of me when my mom's had trouble taking care of me. She makes sure I have food on my plate, and I've got a straight head.

"She's the first person, besides Coach Sullivan, who asks me every day how's everything going -- basketball, schoolwork. She's one of the first who showed me actual love."

Armstead's math interest blossomed at Fremont during his freshman year, when a teacher started giving him problems to solve. "He told me math was something I would need in life," Armstead said. "He'd give me these random problems with airplanes. I got interested and took it from there."

Armstead started playing basketball in the eighth grade. But at Fremont, Sullivan encouraged Armstead to develop his potential.

"He's the reason I stuck with playing basketball," Armstead said of his coach. "He'd always tell me that if I'd put in the work, I could get to where I'd need to go, that I could be anything I want to be. And everything he's said has been correct."

College is in Armstead's plans. UC Riverside, according to Sullivan, has shown the most interest regarding basketball. Armstead said he will be happy to go anywhere.

"I want to study something that has to do with math or business," he said. "I want basketball to take me as far as I can go."



Boys' basketball

Dan Arritt's weekly top 25 rankings:

*--* Rk School (Rec.) Division LW 1 Taft (12-2) City 1 2 Mater Dei (18-0) Div. I-AA 2 3 Westchester (17-2) City 3 4 Dominguez (13-2) Div. I-AA 4 5 Campbell Hall (15-4) Div. III-AA 5 6 Santa Margarita (17-2) Div. I-AA 6 7 Fairfax (13-2) City 7 8 El Toro (17-1) Div. I-A 11 9 Riverside King (15-1) Div. I-A 9 10 Simi Valley (17-1) Div. I-AA 10 11 Etiwanda (17-0) Div. I-A 8 12 Gahr (13-5) Div. I-AA 14 13 Compton (14-5) Div. I-AA 15 14 JSerra (13-6) Div. I-AA 12 15 Renaissance Div. III-A 16 -- Academy (17-2) -- -- 16 Redlands (17-0) Div. II-AA 17 17 Capistrano Valley (16-4) Div. I-AA 18 18 Los Alamitos (13-5) Div. I-A 19 19 Bishop Montgomery (19-2) Div. II-AA 13 20 Harvard-Westlake (15-4) Div. I-AA 21 21 Palisades (18-3) City 24 22 Upland (16-3) Div. I-A 22 23 Corona del Mar (13-5) Div. III-A 23 24 Price (15-3) Div. III-AA NR 25 Cathedral City (18-0) Div. III-A NR *--*

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