Last year, Blackhawk Christian was a basket away from playing in their second state title game. The shots didn’t fall. Not throughout. Not the shot before the buzzer. Not the putback that followed.

It didn’t leave the Braves sore. It left the Braves hungry.

“Culture is a huge part of it. That is something where we have been fortunate to have great kids in our program,” coach Marc Davidson said. “I’ve always said that leadership is plural. In any successful organization it has to be. It can’t be just the coaches saying ‘this is how it is going to be,’ they players have to buy in.”

Senior Frankie Davidson is back to lead the program and the long line of Davidson brothers stepping up big for their father/coach. Last season, Davidson improved his game immensely in becoming multi dimensional, scoring a team high 16.6 points per game and hitting 79 three pointers at a 50 percent rate. He is a knock down shooter who cannot be left alone, but he also gets to the rim well and can play above it. Defenders are going to have a tough time with Davidson.

Any questions people had about Caleb Furst (14 points, 6.6 rebounds per game) as a freshman have quickly evaporated. Like Davidson, Furst’s growth over the course of the season was fascinating. He cleaned up almost every freshman error last year and established himself as a force by Christmas time, playing huge in winning the North Daviess Tournament. By the time that Blackhawk Christian advanced to the semi state round in Class 1A, everyone in the state knew Furst was the guy to stop.

How will he handle the pressures of being a big time recruit, with offers from half of the Big Ten, and having a target on him every night?

“He is a really humble kid and is also a very hungry kid. Those are two things we talk about a lot in our program, Caleb really embodies those things,” Marc Davidson said. “There is going to be a circus around him for a couple years, I don’t expect that to bother Caleb in the least.”

Blackhawk Christian graduated eight players after last season from the team that Frankie Davidson and Furst were part of, including three other starters.

“We did lose a lot, but we like what we have coming back too. We have a good core with Frankie and Caleb so those are two really nice pieces to build around,” Marc Davidson said. “We have had a really good fall. Effort has been good, energy has been good, leadership has been good.”

Michael Pulver will also return fresh off soccer season and will critical in the leadership. Pulver’s defensive aggression and shooting touch will continue to be hallmarks of his game. Pulver is a top notch competitor, who’s effort permeates throughout the team according to Davidson.

A recent development, sophomore Zane Burke will be eligible to start the season after a transfer from Churubusco. Burke is a high end guard who played at a high level as a freshman. With the loss of Mull, Blackhawk needs another really good ball handler and Burke’s ability to start the season with the Braves means a lot.

Trinity Clark also joins the team and transferred in from Bishop Dwenger midway through last season, but did not play. Clark was a heady guard for the Saints for the half of the season he spent with them. Clark may not have the same skill set at Mull did, but he will play much in the same vein.

Up from the junior varsity team will be senior Abe Hicks and sophomore Marcus Davidson. They are both quality guards who will make the Braves deeper and able to handle the ball by committee. Marcus is built more like his dad than Frankie is and more likely to play bully ball than the finesse play of his older brother.

In preparation for a run in Class 1A, the Braves will play just four in-class opponents before the postseason. Playing outside of their class is something they do often to toughen up. They will again play nine of the ten Summit Athletic Conference teams.

“I think we have a chance to make a run. If these guys can buy in, that is going to be a really big thing for us,” Marc Davidson said. “What we did last year really doesn’t matter. We have to reestablish that in terms of our effort, commitment and I love what I have seen this fall.”

WHY #2?

Furst is one of the best sophomores in the country and for as much as he improved last year during the season, he has gotten better. Say the same for the elder Davidson brother in the lineup.

“We are going to expect more from both of them in terms of what they do on the court and who they are,” Marc Davidson said. “We’ve challenged them to be a voice and be loud, encouraging, positive so we are hoping those two will assume that role for us.”

There are teams like Carroll and Homestead that we always know will be strong because their coaches reload. Marc Davidson has done the same thing consistently now at Blackhawk Christian, well enough to be given a big benefit of doubt.

WHY NOT HIGHER?

As loaded as the Braves are, they still have questions to answer when replacing critical seniors from last year’s team. You don’t just replace a point guard like Jalan Mull. They also lose two 6-foot-9 plus guys in Drake Thompson and Jared Hofer, a leader and defensive stopper in Luke Sassmannshausen, among others. Can the new faces step into those roles quickly?

CRITICAL GAME

December 27-29 at the North Daviess Tournament

The Braves will open with perennially strong Brownstown Central. Blackhawk won this tournament last year by beating Class 1A’s then top ranked Barr-Reeve. It made the Braves the team to beat in the class. Will a win in this year’s tournament mean the same?

Brownstown Central returns all but one player from an 18-7 team, so this opening round game won’t be a slouch one for the Braves. And maybe even a Barr-Reeve rematch lurks.

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