With the evident ebb and flow of high school basketball conferences, things are going to swing in the Northeast 8 Conference this season with graduation taking its toll on two 20-plus win teams.
So now, there is a chance for a new set of teams to take up stock at the top of the conference. Either way, there feels like there isn’t big gap between teams in the middle of this conference and even whoever finishes eighth isn’t going to be a bad team at all. Can there be a lot of “any given team on any given night” scenarios?
NOTE: The order of teams listed is Bounce’s personal predicted order of finish. Don’t sue me.
New Haven (BOYS HOOPS PREVIEW #8) feels like a team that is always in the running but really has the chance to take control this year if they can finish close games and learn along the way. Thomas Latham (Top 50 Boys Hoops #22) had a great summer but there is a possibility that Jamarr Hutchins could have a really great year as one of the fastest, most athletic point guards in the conference.
Norwell (BOYS HOOPS PREVIEW #9) has built themselves for this year with a solid freshman class. Even if that group of ninth graders don’t get strong quick enough, the trio of Will Geiger, Drew Federspiel and Connor Torson are going to be able to carry a heavy load. This team lost just twice in the NE8 last year, to those aforementioned 20-plus win teams.
Leo is going to be right in the thick of things even though they are quite young still. Blake Davison (Top 50 Boys Hoops #24) returns as their de facto leader, but expect DJ Allen (Top 50 Boys Hoops #41) to have a tremendous year as well after a feeling out process a year ago as a freshman. Zack Troyer is a long 6-foot-5 and his rebounding prowess will be huge for the Lions.
Columbia City has some momentum coming off a decent football season, especially with guys like Michael Sievers and Greg Bolt having the chance to provide some real post physicality for the Eagles. Obviously Mitchell Wilson will be one of the very best players in the entire area. Expect some help from TJ Bedwell, does a lot of intangible things, and Mason Baker, who can be a solid yet streaky shooter.
East Noble goes into rebuild mode behind Hayden Jones (Top 50 Boys Hoops #9) but with little additional returning. Nate Dickson is one of the area’s best pure shooters and can step up big if he can get the ball in the corners. Spencer Denton is an aggressive add as a sophomore and played well in limited varsity minutes a year ago. Question marks still exist of who from the football field may show up. A return from Gage Ernsberger would add a lot to the need of height, the return of Brooks Miller adds another fiery guard. And then there is the rumor that Bailey Parker may make his way to the hardwood; time will tell on that one.
Bellmont lost a lot of experience and length too but do return their top player in Kade Fuelling (Top 50 Boys Hoops #23), who is criminally underrated in the area. Brothers Tyler and Scott James return and each bring a unique skill set to the perimeter game. The Braves will be down, but continue to possess some good scoring options.
Huntington North will have to rally around Deven Newcomb (Top 50 Boys Hoops #38). He proved this summer that he has a high motor but can he shoulder as much of a burden as he is going to need to? Jordan Hollowell make major strides in the postseason last year and will need to play a big role with this group. With Craig Teagle on the sidelines, never count out the Barons.
DeKalb is a team that even I have a hard time listing “at the bottom.” That shows what a wacky year it could be in the NE8 because the Barons could easily beat many of these other teams. Cole Richmond (Top 50 Boys Hoops #44) is a big time shooter, but developing his game in other ways. Caleb Nixon‘s speed is next level and he will be looking to be a consistent scorer for the Barons. Connor Penrod is still a project but he’s got the size and potential to be potent.
This is as difficult as it is in any conference. Every team has a player that could qualify here and you can read about all of them in our Boys Hoops Top 50. That said, we name the 4 with the biggest impact potential.
Will Geiger of Norwell is about as blue collar tough as they come. Geiger around the basket is one of the hardest stops in Northeast Indiana. He is continue to get better scooting out from there and if he manages to knock down more of his free throws this year, expect him to put up the best numbers of his career.
Thomas Latham of New Haven had one of the best summers of anyone in the NE8 and his name was a hot button one along the way. He gets to the basket with authority, rebounds well and we can expect to see him become one of the best players in the area.
Hayden Jones of East Noble plays with reckless abandon sometimes and it is a lot of fun to watch. He certainly doesn’t lack confidence but his solid football season will make for even more of that. Jones took a backseat scoring last season, but don’t expect him to lay back this year. Jones has been one of the best point guards in the area for years for a reason.
Mitchell Wilson of Columbia City (Top 50 Boys Hoops #13) has been a workhorse for his entire high school basketball career. Even when the Eagles have struggled, you can count on Wilson to go nonstop for 32 minutes. He changes any game he is in.
PLAYERS ON THE RISE
Cole Richmond of DeKalb is more than just a shooter and he continue to demonstrate that. Why on the rise when we know he’s a big scorer? Because he is rising in all of the area outside his long range shooting. Richmond is a really smart defender and knows how to fill a variety of roles that lets him play multiple positions on both sides of the ball.
Tyler James of Bellmont has really good court vision and ball movement capabilities. He will be the guy trusted to with getting everyone else up and running I do believe. Can he also score at a decent rate?
Connor Torson of Norwell is a fun presence who can slide between being a seriously strong perimeter defender and a guy who brings a lot of boldness to how Norwell can play. Torson can be a quality rebounder too.
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