While Bounce likes to think of the night before Thanksgiving as the official kick off of boys basketball season, it is actually the Tuesday before that has become the night of first games around the area.
So to get you ready, Bounce is ready to give you a breakdown of all four area conferences and a few other straggler area teams.
Don’t you dare worry Summit Athletic Conference and Northeast Corner Conference fans, Bounce will have his own breakdown of those conferences as well. But for now, let the Northeast 8 and Allen County Athletic Conference take their turns.
Northeast 8 Conference
East Noble returns a ton from their NE8 unbeaten team from a year ago and that makes them a clear favorite in the conference. They will have games where they can be matched in a lot of ways, but can anyone in the NE8 match their athleticism? The Knights will need to up their game because everybody else will up their game against them this year now that they know what they are dealing with.
Huntington North notched a lot of quality wins last season and are a bit underrated if you ask Bounce. Most of these guys have three years of varsity experience under their belts. If you look back at last year, you will see that any given Viking could lead this team offensively or defensively on any given night. From Hank Pulver to Zach Daugherty to Sawyer Stoltz, their depth is impressive.
Norwell is young in a lot of ways, but have one of the area’s top scorers and rebounders to rely on. Coach Mike McBride is building the program nicely in his own vision, now heading into it’s third season. Juniors Conner Torson and Drew Federspiel will join classmate Will Geiger in making a run toward the top of the conference.
Ali Ali of East Noble will look to take his game to the next level. Like his team, Ali has a target on him now. Bounce is intrigued to see how he will fight against the junk defenses that will be thrown at him.
Hayden Jones of East Noble is Bounce’s favorite point guard and one of Bounce’s favorite players in the entire area. His tenacity has proven to be untouchable so far and no player or coach that talks about Jones has anything but great things to say about him.
Will Geiger of Norwell can clean up against any opponent. He posted three 30-plus scoring games last season and is critical in the success of the Norwell program.
Mitchell Wilson of Columbia City knows how to turn it up to a higher gear. Over the summer with Team Focus, Wilson proved his leadership is continuing to grow. The Eagles have had to rebuild and Wilson is the cornerstone of that. His 31 points against a tough New Haven team last year also showed that he can score at a high rate.
Players on the Rise
Blake Davison of Leo shouldn’t be a new name as he filled a crucial role last year as a freshman for the Lions. If you know Leo, you know the name Davison. His brothers Adams and Jeremy have been all-area caliber players in the past and Blake will likely fill that role before all is said and done too. He is far from the biggest guy on the court, but he is scrappy and while I won’t pigeonhole is brothers as just shooters, Bounce thinks Blake has a more multifaceted game.
Donovynn Sisson-Lewis of New Haven can flat out shoot the ball and that is something that New Haven will need in a hot shooting NE8 this season. For a Bulldog team lacking experience, someone stepping into a leadership role will be important and all signs point to Sisson-Lewis maybe being that guy.
Allen County Athletic Conference
Jay County will return four of their five top scorers, led by brothers Michael and Ryan Schlechty. The Patriots have had a stronghold on the ACAC since they joined it and this year should be no different. They slow games down and have a strong ability to make other teams play at their pace. Wyatt Geesaman and Parker Grimes, both at 6-foot-5, will be big for them inside.
Adams Central boasts arguably the best guard in the conference in Kevin Brown. But the Flying Jets are deep behind him. As much at Jay County could be strong inside, Adams Central’s 6-8 Dylan Miller and 6-6 Ben Voirol will be a difficult combo to contain. The Flying Jets could go seven players deep.
Woodlan returns a strong junior class and will need Ben Reidy, Mitch Mendenhall, Trevor Wiedenhoeft or Aiden Bayman to step into a leadership role. This group of four had a good leader to follow in Aaron Hahn and one or two of them could break out to make Woodlan a high quality contender.
Michael Schlechty of Jay County made 64 percent of his shots last season and will be the biggest offensive threat of the conference favorites. The Patriots’ opener at Richmond will test his scoring prowess.
Kreigh Roush of Southern Wells turned out big performances in the postseason to lead Southern Wells to a Sectional title. The Raiders’ regular season schedule strengthened Roush and made him a tough matchup in Class 1A. Bounce would expect nothing less this season.
Kevin Brown of Adams Central is, as previously noted, one of the top guards in the ACAC. Brown gets to the basket with ease and if he does, you are in trouble. Brown shoots 86 percent from the free throw line and is also a clutch jump shooter. He scores in a ton of ways.
Players on the Rise
Nick Miller of South Adams made a big presence on the football field and will need to do the same on the basketball court for a rebuilding South Adams team. The Starfires lost top returning scorer James Arnold for the season due to injury from football season. Miller could be a big presence in an increasingly growing ACAC.
Joe Reidy of Woodlan could be the conference’s best freshman. Everyone boasts Reidy’s skills, including big brother Ben. As Woodlan does everything new: new court, new coach, new look, why not add on a new freshman to rely on in Reidy?
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