Gym Rats hosted their Spring Kickoff Tournament on April 13 and 14 with a full slate of games at Spiece Fieldhouse and SportOne Parkview Fieldhouse. It was a great first look at a lot of local talent, as well as others from around the state and Midwest.
Watching some of the area’s stars like Luke Goode, Qualen Pettus or Zane Burke was a focused option, but in spending 12 to 15 hours in the gym, Outside the Huddle was always waiting for a non star to catch our eyes and get us thinking about the big summer ahead and the always, in our minds, lingering 2019-2020 high school season.
So here are 10 players that caught my attention this weekend that you may not know much about, but should start playing closer attention to at the very least.
DJ Allen, Leo and Indy Heat Red 2022
Even just through Sunday’s semifinal round game, Allen found comfort using his body to impose his will. He has a wide base on his post up action that is good at clearing out an opposing defender as he decides which way he wants to work. His Indy Heat Red team is rebounder heavy, which seemed to cause him to defer a little too much, but he is a tough out in the post on both sides of the ball.
Ray Vollmer, Carroll and Gym Rats Black 2020
Vollmer is getting more post time with Gym Rats than he has seen for the Chargers, but that will be to his benefit. Saturday morning’s game against Team Focus allowed Vollmer to showcase some of his hard nosed play that area watchers have become accustomed to. He was a tough guy to take your dribble at and played nearly as well clogging up the middle as he often does the perimeter during high school season.
Sawyer Yoder, Central Noble and Team Focus 2021 Gold
Yoder played smooth and consistent on Saturday morning and his lack of physical emotion is masked by his hustle. He was often the first player up or down the court each and every trip and that says a lot about a player at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning one of the first weekends of AAU season. Yoder is another of a growing number of area hybrid guards who can shoot the lights out but is also eager even to mix it up in the paint. Keeping that aggression the entire course of a game in important for him.
Jaylen Coon, Warsaw and Gym Rats Black 2020
Coon caught my eye because of his length. He has some rawness to his game still and that is clear, but his form is pretty clean when he shoots from the perimeter and that could be a fun weapon into the future for Warsaw because of a length that is hard to defend out there. As a pure post, Coon’s timing is off but he is able to cause chaos in the rebounding department. He created space well with his screening and filling lanes in transition.
Andrew Tkacz, Leo and Team Focus 2020 Black
If not caring is an attribute you admire in a high school basketball player, then this is a guy for you. Saturday morning, Tkacz played with sometimes reckless abandon to try and will his team back in the second half of a lopsided loss to Gym Rats Black. Tkacz looks comfortable and capable of defending four spots on the floor. His pace is exciting and while he needs to be a better finisher at the rim, his desire to get there goes a long way.
Weston Hamby, Manchester and Total Package Elite 2021
He isn’t exactly a guy playing under the radar in the area, but is a face that those in Fort Wayne should really attach themselves to. He hit three early triples in Sunday morning’s opener on court one with his low center base shot. Hamby is sneaky in his cuts to get open, but also strong in creating space for himself off the dribble one on one with a defender.
Ifeanyi Ezeakudo, Homestead and Team Focus 2022 Gold
If you followed older brother Onye’s exploits, you will love the defense of Ifeanyi. His on ball effort terrific on Saturday and Sunday and a full court press that often included Ezeakudo was a hallmark in many Team Focus wins. These early spring games are all about getting your legs, so there is little doubt that Ezeakudo won’t turn it up and develop offensively too, but right now he can hang his hat nicely on his defensive prowess.
Sam Strycker, Carroll and Total Package Elite 2021
Year three of this iteration of TPE and you can see why this program has always pushed out blue collar athletes. Strycker is a tough interior guy who bodies his way on the glass and is looking like he will develop into a top tier SAC rebounder. There are better pure athletes with TPE but that plays strong to Strycker’s strength of being unassuming; there were multiple instances on Saturday and Sunday of him flying in, virtually out of nowhere, to snag a rebound with his strength and agility. Pictured Main Image
Ashton Johnson, South Side and Team Focus 2022 Gold
Seeing Johnson move away from the post is a true step into the right direction. His body screams that he will battle in the post, his game screams clear out and let him get to the rim. There was an edge in Johnson over the weekend and it was clear in his eyes. Mental development will continue to be a key in his game. A spin move for a layin in closing minute tied a game Sunday morning that his Team Focus ended up winning; clutch plays are clearly in his DNA.
Ryan Preston, Carroll and Rock Summit Basketball 2021
Preston reads the floor very well and his eyes are not the only thing always moving. He is not going to stand still and showcased that throughout the weekend, particularly when we were able to take in a full game of his on Sunday afternoon. He plays much like a young Dan McKeeman of Carroll, which is perfect considering where he plays during the high school season. Would love to see him develop and concentrate more on his jump shot, but it is just as likely he can continue to find success running the point guard position because of how well he sees the floor.
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