Central Noble sophomore-to-be Connor Essesgian has become one of the area’s best basketball players very quickly.
Is it a surprise? To some.
One coach who has known Essegian for years was surprised to see him rise up and throw down a one handed slam on the opening day of the GRBA Nationals. He exclaimed about it from a full court over as eyes diverted to Team Focus’ afternoon game on July 27 against Wisconsin Swing.
“I think it really allows me to grow as a player: with a target on my back, it makes me have to work harder, go harder in practice, lift weights more and really get my body in shape,” Essegian says. “I think I have played really well this summer, it is a lot better than last summer for sure.”
Essegian has earned the focus on his game by using his own laser like focus to guide him to that world of on court diversity. When he came to Central Noble to start his freshman year, Essegian was a knock down shooter and seen by himself and others mostly as just that. He erased most of those notions by the time his first high school season ended. As the summer season wraps up at the end of July, he has rose up the local ranks as smoothly as he has started rising to the rim.
Essegian is no longer just a shooter. He still does that; he still does it very well. But during Friday’s win over Wisconsin Swing for Team Focus, it was Essegian’s full range of abilities that shined through to the tune of a blowout. He hit outside shots, used his court vision to find teammates filling in lanes to the basket, he outpaced defenders to the rim and, of course, opened a few more eyes by rattling the rim with a first half dunk.
“It has really been something that I wanted to work on. Last summer, I wasn’t playing above the rim, I was more of just a shooter. Now, I feel like it is a big part of my game because if I am not getting to the basket it doesn’t allow other things to get opened up,” Essegian says.
To a degree, he attributes the growth in his own game and that of his Team Focus cohorts to a tougher schedule. The team took part in the NY2LA league this summer that saw them traveling to tougher tournaments and taking on teams that were aggressive in their pursuit of playmaking. Essegian really only had one option at that point: get better too.
He says that Team Focus coach Casey Adams, who served as an assistant last season with Central Noble, has emphasized a change in his body to add more muscle. With that change, Essegian and Adams want to see him being even stronger with the ball in his hands.
That shouldn’t be a challenge based on conversations about Essegian, especially with Central Noble coach John Bodey, who has praised the sophomore-to-be’s work ethic at every turn.
“It is the only way that I am able to get to the next level. If I stay the same and not work as hard, go as hard as I can, there is no point in playing,” Essegian says.
Although the high school season is still far away, focus now shifts away from the summer scene and getting the Cougars into position to compete in what will be a highly competitive Northeast Corner Conference. A year ago, they placed second behind a dominant Westview and also ran into the Warriors in what was, statistically, the state’s toughest Sectional.
“It is really working to get to that Sectional championship. I am excited, I love competition. That is what drives me, I love to be a competitor, that is just who I am,” Essegian says. “A tougher schedule, a tougher conference, that is exactly what I want.”
The Warriors stand in Central Noble’s way again, as do many other teams in the NECC; it could be the area’s toughest conference. And all eyes will be on Essegian as he tries to lead a talented Cougar core to improve on last season’s 15-8 record under Bodey. They will also be searching for their first postseason title since 2017 and just their second Sectional title since 2003, before Essegian was born.