Welcome to June and that means a return to the basketball court with your high school team. Just a little sidebar month in the middle of AAU season, but it sure is a fun one.
On Thursday, Bounce was able to take in some of that action during one of the University of Saint Francis Shootouts. The Cougars do a good job hosting some of these great shootouts early in June and give us a first, unbridled look at what area high school teams will be next season.
But fair warning: this is June. June basketball is fun. June basketball is interesting. But in some cases, June basketball means little. It can be off pace, it can be wild as teams try to get a first semblance of gelling for a season that doesn’t come for another five months.
That said, I was able to take in action of seven of the 10 area teams in action during June 6’s USF Shootout.
A willingness to attack is something that is looking to benefit a rebuilding Hornet team. They’ve lost a bit to graduation, but the threat of Dyer Ball looms heavy. That threat, a justified one, kept Blackhawk Christian focusing heavily on him early and allowed the Angola shooters to get good looks in a game that the Hornets lost in overtime on Thursday.
Angola is looking like, as much as ever, they are a system team and the personnel will change but the system will stay just as hard nosed as ever. Joel Knox was a heavy handed threat that plays to that strength, taking the ball to the rim fearlessly and building a confidence that shines defensively as well. He is going to a player than makes the many changes in their lineup easier because he plays willing to shoulder so much of the load. Being able to take Blackhawk Christian to overtime, even in a losing effort, is a big early June moral victory; and yes those count right now.
North Side is really going to have to establish an inside presence and that was immediately noticeable in their game opposite Jimtown. The Jimmies got early looks on the dribble drive and in the midrange because North is so perimeter oriented. I love the aggressive nature of freshman to be Brashawn Bassett, who will one of the top ninth graders in the area next season as he gets into a more natural flow to his offensive game. He has a head strong, winner effort and the Legends require more of that.
Capone Daniels and Rodney Woods are also heady and read the court well. Few things drew my attention on the day more than Woods diving after a loose ball down 20 in the loss to Jimtown. You can’t teach that kind of effort, especially in early June. The first look at North Side this summer didn’t wow me, but the Legends are showing improvement and effort under Coach Gary Andrews and that is important. After dropping their opener to Jimtown Thursday, they then beat Eastside, Lakeland Christian and Garrett.
Lucas Van De Weg and Ben Voirol have a certain comfort level between them and it leads to some calm for this group. Their guard play needs to work through some of their decision making patterns, but don’t we all in June? Voirol is going to have to be a top contributor through his ability to set heavy screens. Once he is able to role or slip from those screens more efficiently, he will be in great shape for a team that could be more interior oriented because of his size and inexperienced guard play.
Bounce may not be as versed in Lakeland as other schools closer to Fort Wayne, but I could tell immediately that they have some pieces to rise in the NECC. All roads lead through Brayden Bontrager and he seems to be a willing participant in that. He rebounds well, reads the court well and his aptitude offensively lends itself to playing every position on the court as long as the opposing post isn’t too tall. Everyone knows by now he is Lakeland’s top talent, but his ability to get his teammates involved shined through most for the Lakers on Thursday. Bounce is liking Braden Yoder for what he brings to the table, especially as he answers the question of what he can do to create for himself when Bontrager is not on the court.
Before the Spartans ever took the court Thursday, the important image was that of Jake Archbold in a basketball uniform; he showed some rust but how strong he is overwhelmed a lot of that when he got to the rim. The Spartan quarterback took last year off but could be a huge piece, but I’m sure there will be plenty more on that going forward.
Preston Barker is back from Snider and adds a quality replacement for graduated Trent Loomis as a long perimeter defender who can shoot at a quality rate and give opposing offensive players pause. A trio of Barker, a taller Luke Goode and a laterally improved Alec Grinsfelder was highly intimidating for Columbus Grove to try and attack. Not only did Barker force a 5-second call on the perimeter 1-on-1, Grinsfelder snatched a ball with two hands at the basket from a would be Columbus Grove scorer, showing his might. We haven’t hidden our respect this summer for Goode and his increasingly better game didn’t hide Thursday ever as he continued to score a lot of places on the floor and was lights out many times against Norwell in a close evening win.
Let me just say, for those of you who only see him during hibernation months, summertime farmer Will Geiger is a tough guard. Geiger looks as toned as I’ve seen him and the quickness of his first step has elevated to match that. When Norwell matched up with Homestead, Geiger was able to use a pretty smooth baseline spin move in the post to create space at the rim.
Norwell, playing with three freshmen, had to lean heavily on Geiger, Connor Torson and Drew Federspiel, but their freshman group is pretty advanced too headed by coach’s son Luke McBride, who has a calming confidence despite his relative lack of size and experience. Norwell shoots the ball extremely well in major spots and McBride more than holds his own days after finishing 8th grade. So much so that the Knights led Homestead for much of Thursday evening’s game before the Spartans pulled off a win in the closing seconds.
It is hard to say we learned much about the Braves so far that we don’t already know: there are a few holes to fill. Hole number one: who is the point guard. Brian Parrish looks like he could be a steady hand as a backup eventually, but there is a lot of growth that can only be advanced with experience that he is starting to gain this June. Coach Marc Davidson’s interaction with him seems to hint at that eventual role but with them playing more of a get the rebound and go offense, it will stay gradual for now for Parrish.
It wasn’t easy to replace Jalan Mull, but they did it and won a state title. It won’t be easy to now replace Michael Pulver but that will fall into the hands of Zane Burke, who will handle the point guard duties at this point. Nice too was the added physicality of Burke, who shows no complacency in the risk of being labeled as a “shooter.” He fought through screens, got the better of Angola players that tried to post him up and just generally looked like one of the most complete players on the court most of the time against both the Hornets and later Logansport.
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