SANFORD – Most young athletes dream of one day playing their favorite sport in college, but only about 8 percent of high school players will get the chance to compete at the next level.

Sanford junior Leyton Bickford will be part of that exclusive club as the Spartan verbally committed to accept a full athletic basketball scholarship from the University of Maine starting in the fall of 2020.

Sanford’s Leyton Bickford snags a rebound, in this file photo, during a quarterfinal game against South Portland. (Portland Press Herald Staff photo by Ben McCanna)

“I remember writing a letter when I was a freshman to my senior self, I’m pretty sure it said, ‘you better be committed to UMaine for basketball,’” said Bickford. “It’s honestly always been a dream to play basketball at UMaine.”

The sharpshooting junior earned his place at UMaine.

Bickford ranked among the Class AA leaders statewide last season with averages of 17.8 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. He also captured All-Southwestern Activities Association first-team status.

“Leyton was one of the hardest workers on our team,” said Sanford coach Ryan Martin. “He was probably the most talented player on our team. He’s a competitor, he really wants to win and has an urge to be a better basketball player.”

Bickford received interest from a number of schools, but, in the end, he decided to stay home.

“Honestly, it’s the perfect fit … I get to represent Maine,” said Bickford. “It has my major, mechanical engineering, and my sister, (Gabrielle), is a sophomore there.”

Bickford’s visit to the campus made it clear that he had found the setting for his next chapter in life.

“It was really friendly and a really good environment,” said Bickford. “I think everyone’s working hard, trying to get better as a team. I think they’re trying to rebuild – I’m glad to be a part of that.”

Bickford is the No. 8 ranked prospect in the Maine class of 2020 by New England Recruiting Report but is the top-ranked interscholastic player in his class.

Bickford’s coaches are all responsible, he said, for helping him achieve what he’s accomplished on the hardwood.

“All my coaches growing up helped especially AAU coaches, coach Martin, and coach Paul from my freshmen year – they’ve all had pieces to the puzzle to the put in and I think I’ve listened to them a lot,” said Bickford.

While Bickford believes his coaches are responsible in his success, Martin thinks Bickford’s dedication landed him a full athletic scholarship.

“I was just talking to Leyton about how proud he should be of himself because of how rare it is for a Maine basketball player to get a division one scholarship,” said Martin. “It’s a huge accomplishment for him. Leyton works hard in the classroom as well, he takes it seriously… He taught himself how to play the piano, he’s just a super well-rounded kid – I just know the sky’s the limit for a player like Leyton, who has the talent and the work ethic that he has.”

The 6-foot-6-inch forward will continue to work hard.

The Sanford standout had some advice for high school athletes looking to be in his position – work hard.

“I think that Sanford gives you all the necessities that you need and as long as you want to put in the work, you can really do anything you want,” said Bickford. “Anyone can do whatever they want as long as they put in the work that is needed.”

— Sports Writer Sienna Barstow can be reached at [email protected] or at 780-9018. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports

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