Andre Stringer is not one to shrink from a challenge.

Too short for pro basketball? Lean down and say that to his face.

Maine Red Claws fans are learning to love the 5-foot-10 rookie for his long-range shooting and his close-quarters defense.

“I guess people like little guys,” Stringer said with a smile.

He’ll try to cement his status as this winter’s crowd favorite at the Portland Expo when the Red Claws (9-2) host Erie on Friday and Westchester on Saturday.

Stringer is averaging 6.1 points and 2.6 assists as a backup guard for Maine. He has used a quick release to launch 42 3-pointers, connecting on 16. But, more impressively to Coach Scott Morrison, he has proved to be the Red Claws’ best on-ball defender.

“He has two attributes that I’ve found that the crowds like. One is he plays hard defense. He’s always hustling and, especially blue-collar-type crowds respect that. And also he’s the smallest guy out there. The average fan is probably closer to his height than the other guys on the team. When you see him out there grinding and hitting shots over bigger guys, it’s easy to get excited for him,” Morrison said.

“I’ve already seen him outperform a lot of guys that have more physical attributes in their stable.”

Stringer, a native of Jackson, Mississippi, was a three-year starter at shooting guard for LSU despite his stature. He came to the Red Claws’ tryout camp in Waltham, Massachusetts, this summer and impressed Morrison with his deep shooting. The coach wanted a crop of players who could stretch the floor.

Stringer is certainly not hesitant to launch his shots. But what has earned him 20 minutes per game has been the way he harasses opposing guards.

“He can guard the point guard. He can make it tough for them to run their offense,” Morrison said. “He also can guard shooters and chase them off screens and kind of be in their space and make them uncomfortable.”

At a stout 190 pounds, Stringer is also strong enough to front guards who try to expose him in the post. In order to back him down, you have to be able to move him, and that’s not as easy as it looks.

Stringer aspires to an NBA career. But for now he’s happy to be a “glue guy” for the Red Claws.

“I’m just trying to learn as much as possible,” he said. “My role is not really important to me right now. It’s just whatever gets us wins.”

Only two players on NBA Development League rosters as of Thursday were listed as shorter than Stringer – Kiwi Gardner of the Santa Cruz Warriors and Yuki Togashi of the Texas Legends, both 5-foot-7.

Stringer admitted, though, that even the height the Red Claws list him as is generous. Asked how tall he is, he answered: “5-9, maybe 5-8.”

Toldwhat he was listed at, his eyes widened.

“Oh, yeah? I like that. We can go with that,” Stringer said.

Stringer admitted that he often daydreams about what it would be like to be more “normal-sized” in basketball terms.

“I always say, if I was taller than what I am, I’d be in the NBA right now. That’s just dreams,” Stringer said. “I’ve had a chip on my shoulder my whole career. People always say ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that’ because of your size. But I guess I’m a living testimony that you can make it if you just put in hard work.”