For the past 35 years, the top area players in high school basketball have been named and honored. For the first time in that time frame, there will be no group of players labeled fabulous or even fantastic.
Instead, Outside the Huddle will follow in those footsteps and tradition by naming our inaugural ‘First Five’ team. This group of boys is who we at Outside the Huddle consider to be the top five players in the Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana area entering the 2018-19 season.
Ali Ali, East Noble senior
The East Noble center has increased his versatility in the offseason with a quality summer through Spiece Indy Heat that garnered him several scholarship offers. Ultimately, he decided to sign with the first Division I program to offer, Akron.
Ali played in almost every minute of game time last year, averaging 29.8 minutes per contest with his 16.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists that led him to being selected an Indiana Junior All-Star. He also led the Knights to a postseason win and a shot or two away from a berth in the Sectional finals.
Over the summer, Ali expanded his game and added to his aggression. Playing with Spiece Indy Heat Red, Ali faced off against stiff competition, often under the pressure of playing in front of many college coaches.
“It assured me that I can compete with top level guys. Heading into the season, it makes me confident that I can compete at any level against any team. That is exciting,” Ali said.
Craig Young, Wayne senior
Young was an Indiana Junior All-Star last season, adding that to a list of accolades earned on the hardwood, the gridiron and track. As one of the area’s best three sport athletes, Young is fresh off a great football season for Wayne and has his sights set on a career playing football for Ohio State. But first, there is some unfinished business on the basketball court.
“A lot of these guys I came in with, we won city together as eighth graders, so we are just trying to repeat that success in high school,” Young said. “We are a family, we compete at a high level and maintain a high level because we hold each other accountable.”
Young averaged 17.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, leading the team in both categories. One thing he also brings to the game that is not stated is his raw physicality. Young is a presence on both ends of the court that adds pause to defenders and would-be scorers alike.
“I know I am a good key guy on my team,” Young said, shrugging off the notion that he will be one of the most focused on players in the area. “We have a lot of good guys here that nobody has even heard of yet. I’m not really worried about people focusing on me because they have other players they need to focus on also.”
Dillon Duff, Snider junior
Snider saw hints of a quick revitalization last winter, often led by the strong play of Duff, who made it a habit to play with an aggression rarely seen in the Summit Athletic Conference. Duff has been part of the Snider varsity team since his freshman year, when they were the conference champions.
“He sets the level of intensity, toughness and focus for everyone else on our team. And he’s a good basketball player,” Snider coach Jeremy Rauch said. “He’s a knockdown mid-range jumper, an excellent finisher to his right hand. I think when hes at the elbow, being able to make decisions out of there being able to go both ways or shoot it, he is really tough.”
Duff averaged 16.1 points on 49 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds and had a team high 17 total blocks.
Will Geiger, Norwell junior
One of the biggest targets for defenses in the Northeast 8 Conference, Geiger is somewhat of an unknown in the city with few Fort Wayne teams doing battle with Norwell. He led Norwell with 21.1 points per game, shooting the ball at 56 percent and doing so without relying on the deep ball unlike many of the area’s top scorers. Geiger hit just six three pointers last season. Also averaging a team high 9.8 rebounds, he is one of the more seasoned players in the conference and will be a major leader for Norwell.
“We are going to have a lot more kids who don’t have as much varsity experience. Hopefully that is where I can help be a leader, show them how to do things and help with plays,” Geiger said.
Geiger had three of the four best single scoring games in the area last year of players who return this season. He turned in a 34 point, 17 rebound outing against Bishop Luers and a 33 point, 19 rebound game against Eastbrook. He also scored 32 points against Whitko.
“I have worked on some of my weaknesses. I am hoping on handling the ball better this year when pressure comes, there is going to be more of that this year,” Geiger said.
Caleb Furst, Blackhawk Christian sophomore
It didn’t take long for Furst to erase any questions about his ability to adjust to the varsity game as a freshman. He comes into his second season already boasting Division I offers from Purdue, Butler, Indiana, Ohio State and more with many more coming sooner than later.
“I think we have a very high ceiling and as much work as we put in, that is what we will get out of it,” Furst said of the season ahead for his team.
Furst was as high profile of a middle school player as you could be and he did not disappoint during his freshman season. He averaged 14 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest and was named AP All-State honorable mention while helping the Braves to the semi state round in Class 1A. His devotion to the game in the offseason of high school basketball has made him stronger and more agile.
“I try not to think about expectations too much, just focus on what I can do,” Furst said. “Just being a leader with my communication whether it is on the court or even lifting.”