The Northeast Corner Conference will be loaded this season and Outside the Huddle has not hidden the intrigue that conference provides. Who will be at the top? Well Churubusco certainly expects to rise up and so many people have their eyes planted firmly on Turtle Town as this season gets going.
But what does that all mean? Are the Eagles overhyped? Or will they be a group that can meet some lofty expectations from those outside the program?
“At the end of the day, we haven’t done anything. We’ve had a nice little run over here for three years, getting to the point where people are paying attention to Churubusco but we really haven’t accomplished too much,” coach Chris Paul said. “We’ve talked a lot about people may be mentioning and talking about what we can accomplish, but at the end of the day we just have to be locked in on Adams Central and then Leo and then Westview and one at a time.”
Jackson Paul returns for his junior year at the point guard spot and is working to stretch defenses out by improving his jump shot. Paul averaged a team high 17.9 points with 5.5 assists and 3.2 steals per game last season while shooting 42 percent from the field but just 19 percent from long range, which is what his is working on getting more consistent at. Paul started since his freshman year coach Paul is proud of the leader Jackson has grown into to this point.
“He’s worked probably harder than anyone that I have coached. He is either in the gym or the weight room every day and he’s transformed himself, his body,” Chris Paul said. “He’s very physical so now he can defend and get to the rim a lot easier than used to be able to.”
The Eagles also return a pair of guards in Gage Kelly and Luke McClure from their 12-12 season in 2018-2019. They averaged 6.5 and 8.2 points respectively, but added a tough as nail asset to Churubusco’s guard core with their own physical play. McClure has been good at being a guy to leak out and run a full speed break. A fourth possible returner, Jake Fulk, injured his knee during football season and will not play.
Added intrigue clearly comes from the new faces to the Eagles lineup, starting with Landen Jordan, a transfer from Concordia Lutheran. Jordan made the move last December but had to sit out due to transfer rules. At 6-foot-8, he immediately is an intimidating presence when teams take the court. His size will force some double teams that will leave the Eagle guards open and he will be a rim protector on defense and a difficult guy to rebound against with a quick outlet pass following.
“We have something that a lot of other people don’t have and that’s that fast, athletic, 6-8, jumps out of the gym body,” Paul said. “Landen allows us to do a lot of different things.”
Hunter Perlich also joins the varsity team as a major X-factor. A junior varsity player last year after a transfer from Carroll, Perlich is a strong, fundamental hard worker in the post that can shoot the ball well in the mid range and a little bit beyond.
On the perimeter, the Eagles will add Canterbury transfer Noah Wolfe. Paul says he didn’t realize how skilled that Wolfe was until he’s seen him every day. Wolfe is a deadeye shooter who averaged 12 points per game last year for the Cavaliers and has developed a reputation for being a quality defender under effort. His coach says the thing he likes most is his ability to bounce back.
“He doesn’t care if he has missed four straight, he’s going to shoot that fifth one,” Paul said. “He carries himself with that confidence. He just believes he is going to knock that next shot down. He believes that we are going to win, that he is going to win.”
Tim Knepple, 6-foot-4 and up from the junior varsity will also have the chance to contribute shooting and, Paul hopes, rebounding.
While the hype is there for the program, Paul is just happy to work a day at a time to get back to a championship level. He did win one Sectional title in his first year running the Churubusco program with older son Jalen being the lead player.
“We had a June where we played 20-25 games and traveled around, played really good competition and then we took that break and it’s been a while,” Paul said. “Its just nice to get them all back in the gym and start working on some things.”
It is easy to admit that hype plays a big role in Churubusco’s placement. But they have had the skill set to consistently back it up. The guard trio of Paul, Kelly and McClure are proven and if you saw them together with Jordan and Wolfe this summer, you know that when things click, they have five viable options on the floor at all times.
How many other teams have 5 quality scorers and defenders on the court at once? Not enough.
“If we do what we are capable of doing and focus every day on getting better and coming together as a group, I think we have a chance to do some really special things not only this year, but for years to come,” Paul said.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
The Eagles will need to prove they can stay poised in tight situations. They haven’t had as many critical games, they probably haven’t had as many close games as they will have and so we don’t yet know how they will do down in the nitty gritty.
JAN.28 AT SNIDER
Look, the NECC is going to be a grind but this one has been circled on our schedule since the day we knew it would happen. We didn’t get a true Snider/Busco game this summer in the Panthers’ Monday night league and by this time, both teams will be at fully strength. These are two of the area’s most complete teams that can play both patiently and aggressively.
HUNTER PERLICH, SENIOR
Perlich provides a true post to work out of. From 12 feet in, you are going not be hard pressed to find many more aggressive and feisty performers. He is a load to handle around the rim and with teams not being able to help much down on him, he can get the better of most one on one matchups.