The weeks are ticking away until the start of basketball season. This means we have reached that weird middle area where Bounce is jazzed about hoops and Blitz has our readers still, rightfully, focused on football.
So this amphibian had to find the middle ground in fairness to my big, hairy gridiron counterpart. So until we can start pounding that hardwood, Bounce is going to spend his Friday nights lurking around area football stadiums just to check in on some impact guys.
So here is my top ten (in no particular order) list of guys, all potential impact players this winter, who you should join Bounce in checking out while football season continues for at least five more weeks, and for some beyond that. They could make an impact on the court, but are worth watching to see their impact on the field too.
Qualen Pettus, Northrop
On the court: Summer has made all of the difference for Pettus in the eyes of many. But did it really? Should we forget the flashes of All-Summit Athletic Conference performer that he showcased many, many times last season? Northrop could be a top-level team this season and Pettus’ athleticism could make him its top offensive threat and a tough-to-defend target for opposing defenses in transition.
On the field: While still a tad raw, he is a very big threat and one that quarterback Bailey Meerzo has become a fan of targeting for big plays following his breakout catch-and-run Week 1 at Homestead. Pettus is only going to get bigger, stronger and faster.
James Arnold, South Adams
On the court: His 21-point, nine-assist night against Southern Wells last season showed that with a little seasoning, Arnold could make the Starfires a contender whenever the Allen County Athletic Conference opened back up. It could very well be open this season and his leadership from the gridiron is only going to make him a tougher guy to stop on the court.
On the field: When Nic Stuber headed to running back, Arnold was handed the difficult task of being the Starfires play caller. After Stuber’s season ended early, Arnold has been thrust into the role of being a big leader for a team that has to make waves offensively to contend for the ACAC title and in the postseason. He has passed that test so far and if he can excel again this Friday against Adams Central, he will have some high-level confidence.
Brenden Lytle, Bishop Dwenger
On the court: One of many freshmen who played significant varsity time last season, Lytle showed flashes of being the next top-notch Saints lead guard. He will get the chance to play off ball a lot this year with Matt Kochanski taking on a lot of the ball-handling duties, but Lytle is no stranger to next-up duties and will be a go-to guy anytime he is called on.
On the field: Defensively, Lytle was been strong from a Week 1win over Wayne onward. He stepped in Week 5 at quarterback and helped the Saints offense dominate Carroll. No matter where the second half of the season heads, Lytle is going to be an impact player.
Hayden Jones, East Noble
On the court: There probably isn’t a better point guard in the area than Jones. Never mind, Bounce will say it: in my opinion, there is not a better point guard in the area. He was a welcome breath of fresh air last season as a sophomore and this year he could lead the Knights to dominant run in the conference.
On the field: Jones’ return on the football field last week was a surprise and he immediately made an impact being in on plays defensively. He adds to a really strong defensive core for East Noble that is the Northeast 8 favorite right now. The Knights may have been doing fine without him, but they absolutely will be accepting of his return in the second half.
Luke Goode, Homestead
On the court: If you had the chance to see Goode this summer, you will know that he has grown tremendously from just being considered a three-point threat. While others outrank him in grade and varsity experience, make no mistake that the Spartans could be Goode’s team based on composure and overall ability. Oh yeah, he still hits threes pretty well too.
On the field: Goode’s arm worked in tandem with fellow quarterback and backcourt mate Jake Archbold early in the year and the Spartans will continue to need it to get their mojo back in the second half. Look for their rivalry game with Carroll to be a good quarterback duel for all three involved with Goode being able to stretch out his throwing depth a lot.
Michael and Ryan Schlechty, Jay County
On the court: The duo produced more than a quarter of Jay County’s scoring and rebounding last year and are about as Patriot basketball as it gets. Michael is the team’s top returner, leading the team in scoring last year while shooting 64 percent from the field for a team that won 14 games. Look for Ryan to step his game up offensively, but he is also one heck of a point guard whose distribution helped Jay County win a lot of those games.
On the field: Michael has been a big body at fullback, rushing for 6.7 yards per carry in the first half of the year. Ryan is a strong linebacker that has racked up 48 tackles, two interceptions and a blocked field goal for the 2-3 Patriots. Either side of the ball could be an impact spot for them.
Jeren Kindig, Concordia Lutheran
On the court: Nobody knows what this year’s Cadets will look like under a new coach, but Kindig could be a crucial component in a seven-man rotation for Concordia. If the Cadets are to compete in the SAC this year, they will need to play defense and Kindig could easily be a tone setter in that area.
On the field: Toughness is something that Kindig athletes have put out in the area for years and he is no exception. While he isn’t the primary target, he makes the most of it when quarterback Jake Byrd puts the ball his way.
Everett Johnson, Bluffton
On the court: Johnson isn’t a primary option for the Tigers, averaging 6.3 points in just over 10 minutes last season as a junior. But three of the five key contributors in front of him have graduated and Johnson will likely see more time to get after it and is a high percentage area shooter.
On the field: Johnson is one of the area’s toughest runners, averaging 133 yards per game while imitating a bulldozer. Remaining games at Adams Central and home against Lakeland are worth the drive to watch.
Ronald Collins III, North Side
On the court: Word is that new Legends coach Gary Andrews has liked what he has seen from Collins so far. He could be a true point to build around for several years and his varsity leadership and experience is growing with the responsibility he has been given on the football field. Collins’ biggest question mark will be his ability to transition from freshman hoops to the varsity level.
On the field: The difference between his freshman year and the first half of his sophomore year has been night and day. What you are getting if you watch him in the second half is a calmer quarterback whose arm strength and decision making improves each week.
Ben Reidy, Woodlan
On the court: One of several players thrust into the lineup as sophomores, there is a chance that Reidy could be the one forced to emerge as THE guy as a junior after the graduation of Aaron Hahn and Ah’lan Howard. As previously noted, the ACAC could be a fun race this year and Reidy could help Woodlan to the top.
On the field: The Warriors may not be going back to state, but Reidy has been important in correcting a ship that looked astray in the opening weeks. Coming off a week that led him to be the Outside the Huddle Player of the Night, his second half of the season could be one of extreme growth.
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