Believe it or not, high school basketball season is just around the corner again. Girls games will kick off the first week of November and boys games will follow around Thanksgiving.
So what better time for your favorite frog to hop back into focus and talk a little bit about high school hoops while still paying enough homage to the football season that is ongoing?
With that said, as I keep up with Blitz and what is happening on the gridiron, I have seen several names and faces that are going to make an equally big impact this winter.
Not included will be some of the no-brainers like Brenden Lytle of Bishop Dwenger and Hayden Nern of Bluffton, who have long established their important presence on both the field and the hardwood.
BRAUNTAE JOHNSON, NORTH SIDE
Is there any bigger impact freshman name in the SAC (and maybe even the area) than Johnson’s this fall? He has made some big-time plays as a receiver target of Legends quarterback Duce Taylor.
But if you just found out about Johnson this fall, let me be the first one to tell you, “Tae Tae” can absolutely ball. In the rebuild of North Side basketball under Coach Gary Andrews, this is the year that everyone was looking forward to because they have experience, but also because Tae Tae was going to come in as a freshman.
This kid is absolutely fearless, will play high above his grade level and has the real chance of being one of the best players in the SAC for four years.
CAM TOLES, WAYNE
The top returning scorer and defensive threat for Wayne basketball, Toles is going to play an important role in a true transition year for the program.
On the football field, the senior is actually third for the Generals in all-purpose yards as a receiver and primary kick returner. Toles has scored three times on two-point conversion receptions.
Like on the basketball court, Toles has shown a great prowess in doing a lot of the intangibles that may go unnoticed to some. His role will continue to grow though once he gets to Coach Byron Pickens’ gym as Toles will have to be one of, if not THE, guy to lead the Generals.
NICK THOMPSON, BISHOP LUERS
It didn’t take long for the younger brother of Luers basketball star Naylon to make a name for himself last season on the basketball court. Nick’s willingness to go the extra mile and determination to use his length and savvy as advantages were a big part in the Knights winning the SAC title.
Like most guys on this list, Thompson takes a big leap forward this winter in having to be a bigger threat everywhere on the court. His foray onto the football field has been met with mixed results, but it is clear that his athleticism remains a critical part of his importance in the fall as well.
JAKAR WILLIAMS, NEW HAVEN
This is going to be a big body year in the Northeast 8 and Williams (pictured) is going to be another one, but one with a lot of mobility. His footwork has improved so much since last season and you can see that on Fridays on how he moves out of the pocket as the Bulldogs quarterback.
Williams is a head strong, hard worker that never sets out to fail. New Haven basketball is going to be very, very good and Williams’ blue-collar work ethic is going to be a critical part in making sure the Bulldogs all carry their weight.
ELI RILEY, NORWELL
A lot of things at Norwell now fall on Eli Riley after the graduation of a three-man senior class that handled a bulk of offense. Riley is a solid scorer and has developed into more than just a spot-up shooter.
All of that is important, but not as important as his leadership. As Norwell gets young this coming season, it will be important for Riley as the major holdover to keep up that expectation of success in the locker room. He’s helped do that on the football field as a quarterback and he’s going to have to play a kind of quarterback for this basketball team too.
CHRIS HOOD, EAST NOBLE
At the end of last season, Hood was really starting to come around with his game. His size and presence alone were enough to slow a lot of people down. He just got bigger, stronger and more agile in the off-season in playing on the summer circuit as well as in-house weight training for football.
Hood has continued to be a menace on the line for the East Noble football team this fall and is going to be nearly impossible to guard at the rim during basketball season. If he gets you below the block, good luck.
DREW STUTZMAN, SOUTH ADAMS
Injuries took Stutzman out of the basketball swing of things last season. But as the Starfires have the chance to run the ACAC in basketball too, Stutzman’s speed is going to be a critical asset this winter. On the football field, he has planted his flag as being one of the best receivers in school history. On the basketball court, Stutzman can play both featured scorer and facilitator and that will continue to open up the play for South Adams, especially with its bigger post presence.
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