The month is quickly winding down and so are Bounce’s chances to see high school basketball teams on the court together before I have to take the fall off for football.
So that means I had to make my currently weekly trip back down to Huntington for another day long shootout hosted by the fine people at Huntington University, which means quality time with my guy Josh Riikonen. I spent the day on Friday, June 21 at Huntington North High School because why travel when all 10 (yes, 10!) area teams would eventually make their way to the high school during a long and extra exciting seven hour day!
P.S. If you were paying attention, even my gridiron loving cohort Blitz stopped by at one point to take in the action as he eagerly awaits less rain and more football.
And, as always, as I talk about these teams from Friday’s action, let us all remember that it is still just June.
Rebounding is an area where Canterbury will need to see a lot more work, especially when Chris Diwis is not on the floor. Will Shank (main image) put in a lot of extra effort and Quinten Williams put in a willingness to get stronger on the glass, but that doesn’t immediately equal answers as he is rough around the edges.
Shank is smooth rebounding and everywhere else, but we already knew that. His midrange game creates so much for his teammates who favor the perimeter. Shank worked Friday morning at all levels of the court and it allowed he rest of the Cavs more freedom. When he gets to the basket, Shank found a way to score through and around contact superbly (again, see that main image; how does he hit that shot?!). His crafty lefty finish allows him to contort this body in all kinds of ways to put the ball in the basket and isn’t that the name of the game?
I like the way Canterbury is willing to get out and run as it certainly worked to their benefit against an Eastbrook team that had no subs. New coach, new look means that they will need to continue to pick and choose their spots on what tempo they will need to run. Diwis’ presence was great in the half court offense as they went to him immediately after he first checked in Friday morning and allowed him to work the low post, leading to a pass out for a Noah Drapala three. Diwis struggled at times to finish at the rim, but there is no doubt that his presence benefited the Cavs greatly in rebounding and defensive pressure.
Drapala continues to be a dead eye shooter when he spots up but struggled Friday morning with a hand in his face or creating for himself on the perimeter. Holidey Stephenson may have been the best player I saw on Friday at creating contact at the rim as a duel threat point guard. Canterbury needed his enthusiasm offensively in a win against Eastbrook where their shooting was so spotty.
The Railroaders like to shoot the ball a lot, but their conversion rate was less than stellar against North Judson. The biggest takeaway from the one game I was able to see of theirs on Friday was that they have a lot of size and physicality to boot. Working a high/low with the posts is something they showed could come with a modicum of success, yet they didn’t go that route nearly enough as they struggled to put points on the scoreboard. Jarrett Bailey showed some positive aggression but failed to finish much at the rim. I really think that Jayden Broadnax showcased hints of being able to contribute too.
A top takeaway was Logan Gard, who does establish himself well off the block and when extended out some. He has a smooth jump hook that is hard to defend because of his length and he was highly successful with it for a few stretches of their Friday morning game. He struggled more to find it early in the second half because of how he established himself in the first, now with North Judson double and even triple teaming him. He is however a bright spot for the Railroaders, who struggled mightily against North Judson.
I love how Caleb Nixon gets up the court and when you outpace SAC players like he did on Friday morning, that puts you in rarified air. Nobody on Wayne’s squad could keep pace with him and that led to transition layups and easy dump offs for Connor Penrod. Penrod was pretty strong in his own right, pivoting at a highly successful rate at the basket to create spacing for post buckets. DeKalb is always known for their shooting prowess and their half court game. Adding a quality post makes both of those things strong, hence why DeKalb is always better with a man in the middle. While Penrod could use to put on some more weight, he moves fluidly in the post and is light on his feet.
Brody Hiteshew and Cole Richmond both contribute to the perimeter play that was competitive against Wayne and Warsaw. Both are quality shooters who are getting better at setting up their own shot. Back to Nixon while we talk about the guard play of DeKalb: I have heard from people all summer that I need to give him a deeper look and I have to say I am impressed with him as a tough on ball defender and a pass first point guard who does create for his teammates and we don’t have enough of that.
The Generals showed massive waves of improvement since I saw them Monday night. Now with an honest to god full week under new coach Byron Pickens, there was clearly a lot more comfort all around. One guy who clearly doesn’t struggle with comfort is freshman to be Elijah Brown. I last saw Brown less than two full weeks ago in a Heritage uniform (it is June basketball don’t ya know) and he has certainly ramped up his overall effort since then. He is a high riser who is going to be able to out athlete a lot of people, yet he still played with assertiveness on Friday morning.
Wayne beat DeKalb at 10 a.m. because their effort and ball movement peaking at the end of the first half and staying consistent in the second half. Consistency comes with comfort and Wayne can hang their hat on being pretty consistent this quickly. The energy and demeanor of Michael Redding and Quincy Miles didn’t waver much as they played quality grinding basketball without over emotion. Their young teammates can continue to learn a thing or two from that. Two of those guys who seem to be learning at a quick pace are Isaac Faulks and Gregory Gorman; with Faulks being more a steady hand while Gorman is a quick on ball defender. Redding has already delved into creating his own offense more as opposed to being that token shooter and he is doing very well as a leader.
Wayne went 3-0 on the day but their day ending win over Northrop was the most important. Wins do not mean much usually in June, but to beat the defending co-SAC champs, who have a lot back is nice. And for that team to be the ex team of your new coach, well I am sure that left Pickens pretty satisfied to start his weekend.
The Bruins have visible gaping holes if you know their team from last year. Yet they have five players back who played significant time to start for them. I am talking a lot out of Huntington about comfort and the Qualen Pettus, Khamani Smith, Nick Haines, TaQuay White and the Tenoah Ridley combination certainly played very well off each other on Friday. Their transition offense almost always leads to a bucket because of how well they spread the floor and fill their lanes. This group of guys play hard for each other’s enjoyment and it shows.
It is pretty fair to say that most of this core didn’t show me anything new. That isn’t really a bad thing as they all have areas where they are successful and they played to those strengths as well as anyone on Friday. Of the group, Haines stood out because he attacked defenses off the dribble so well, which wasn’t always a role he could play in the past. White was tough inside, Smith worked the midrange as well as ever and Pettus is all energy all of the time as the de facto leader at this point.
Yet watching Northrop wasn’t so much about what we all already knew as much as it was the guys that could at least try to fill the massive shoes of Sydney Curry and Isaac Anderson. One of the most oddly unappreciated point guards last year, Anderson was so tough to guard and so tough to push the ball against. Northrop has a couple of guys in Drew Beverly and Elijah Fincher who can do some of the same things, but it will be a race to see who can get better quicker. Beverly appears to be the more harassing on ball defender of the two but Fincher’s game is multi tooled offensively. Inside, Jayden Billingsley gave them good minutes at Huntington rebounding the ball but he isn’t a true post. Rebounding by committee rather than by Curry will win or lose Northrop a lot of games.
The Chargers present a good blend of new and old faces, but one thing that remains consistent is their ability to get into passing lanes with heads up defense. Ray Vollmer and Richie Gross both shined against Yorktown by playing fast and pressure filled defense and it was contagious going through the rest of the lineup with Jalen Jackson adding to a trio of returnees that had absolutely no quit in their attack on that side of the ball against Yorktown. That pressure spurred an early run that kept the Chargers working with the lead, where they are always comfortable and hard to catch.
This is a Charger team that emphasized getting to the basket over jump shooting on Friday, which is a bit of a change of pace overall. A couple of guys showed the desire to fill a spot up shooter role but nobody was overly successful, although Cody Burkey did hit some quality threes against Maconaquah. If anyone can be the next Dan McKeeman, it is Ryan Preston. The role was tailor made for him, a three and D guy who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty and mixing it up with everyone on both ends of the court just to keep you off balance. Preston didn’t need to be a difference maker against Yorktown but showed the skills that will make him one more often than not in the future because his basketball I.Q. is considerably high.
Carroll will need to find more inside presence as Yorktown was able to get the ball in the post successfully a lot, but as the game progressed, Sam Strycker showed a renewed vigor in rebounding the basketball. That carried over later in the day as well. If he can put that kind of enthusiasm into his interior defense consistently, he could be a top SAC post but his movement appeared limited at times against Yorktown.
Wyatt Amiss is a fantastic tempo setter who consistently challenged Northrop and more often than not came out on top. If you know Bounce, you know that I like guys who are both quiet and loud at the same time and he certainly fits the bill. His on ball assertiveness made him the most noticeable Tiger in the court while his movement without the ball was so sneaky he was able to cross the baseline untouched for open shots. And trust me when I say, you did not want him to have open shots.
Blake Marsh and Luke Adamiec were both strong fundamental ball handlers that could finish at the rim. They highlighted a gutty performance against Northrop where they were out experienced and over matched athletically. They also both contributed strongly to Warsaw being able to methodically break Northrop’s press quite often.
This is not the Patriot team you are used to and that could open up the ACAC significantly. But that is November talk and this is June. Jay County is small and inexperienced, those are two hurdles that are difficult to overcome so far. The thing about the Patriots is they are going to run their sets, make their screens and cuts and do everything by the book. Against teams without great speed, that is something that will stand out as a major pro. Friday didn’t afford the Patriots that option in the two games I saw.
Brayden Mock may have to fill a massive scoring void even if Jay County doesn’t traditionally score a lot of points. He has a quick first step and avoids contact at the basket well. His weave through defenders was nice to watch, but he will need to work on his finishing rate or allow more contact so he can get to the line more. He does have good court vision as well, but will also have to balance being a pass first and score first guard.
Ethan Dirksen and Bennett Weitzel are two others that stood out for the Patriots. They both put in effort in the post, a point of success for past Jay County teams. Weitzel, a freshman to be, did showcase some really good footwork down low late against East Noble and Dirksen is the type of kid who played gritty basketball every second he was on the floor. I am told by quality sources that Dirksen is going to be one to watch and he showed flashes of a good offensive feel and timing on Friday.
What East Noble lost in height, it has to make up for in shooting, right? The Knights did a good job of finding jump shots in spots against both Wayne and Jay County. Hayden Jones’ transition game is tough to defend as he showcased both his pass first and shoot first tendencies. When Jones intermingles both abilities on one game, as he did on Friday, he is a tough guard and neither Wayne or Jay County necessarily has those guards. Most nights, Jones will be the single best player on the floor and he was in both games I saw him on Friday. He is so tough and so willing to do whatever it takes for the Knights to successful, he is like a runaway train that you either have to avoid or get run over by. While not new, I am constantly in awe by his midrange pull up jumper and how the smoothness of it never changes no matter how many hands you put in his face.
Yet, Nate Dickson may have been the best pure shooter of the day, knocking down three triples quickly out of the gate against Jay County. It was fun across the board on Friday to see guys who were labeled “shooters” just this past season really showcase how they can create shots for themselves on or off ball. Dickson shined in that role too. He didn’t need to post up in the corner, instead being comfortable across the court as a primary scoring option.
Without the size they were used to, East Noble is going to need more guys like the graduated Michael Bender, who outwork most people on the floor and get the 50/50 balls and rebounds that require extra effort. Luck is on their side there with incoming freshman Max Bender, who is a clear younger representation of his older brother. Heck, Bounce even needed to do a double take to figure out why the elder Bender was still around. But don’t worry, coach Ryan Eakins didn’t fail him in Social Studies, it is just the carbon copy in Max.
I have seen Busco on a number of occasions and little change is there to report out of Huntington on Friday. But what I will say is that I am constantly impressed by coach Chris Paul’s emphasis on doing things the right way based on what he has taught no matter the score or the flow of the game. The Eagles are going to play with more flash than in past seasons and did so against Maconaquah. But Paul is more interested in defensive substance in those moments, reminding his team that there is always room for growth and continued focus.
One player who showed some extra stroke in this game was Gage Kelly, who was the star deep threat, knocking down a wide array of triples to the delight of his teammates. And I feel like I mention this a lot…but Jackson Paul gets better every day. That is the best notice I can give the rest of the NECC.
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