Outside the Huddle and Bounce are counting down who it feels are the top 50 individual boys basketball players in northeast Indiana heading into the 2020-21 season.
Today, we unveil five of the best in the area at positions No. 25-21.
No. 25 – James Arnold, South Adams
Once football season ends, Arnold will again lead a Starfire team that will be at the top of the ACAC. There were times in 2019-20 when Arnold really flashed dominant traits, especially after missing the entire previous season. He averaged 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds and kept the Starfires right there in every game, including helping lead a comeback charge to a win over conference champion Bluffton during the ACAC Tournament.
Arnold exhibits strength getting to the rim and working through traffic. Yet, one of his best attributes is his midrange game. With him being able to work in the 10-to-20 foot range smoothly, it is difficult to predict where he will spot up from. Because of that, teams can overplay him, leading to his dribble drive success. If they under play him, he can step back into range and hit the deep ball too. But don’t think that he can’t play a true point guard role either. He is a quarterback in the fall for a reason and it allows him to move freely and make quality decisions come winter. He averaged a team second best 2.7 assists per game last season.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JAMES ARNOLD
“James is a true leader in every sense of the word. James is someone who leads verbally, leads with his play, and leads by example by showing the rest of the team how to prepare for opponents. On the floor James gives us a lot of flexibility because he is the type of player who can score from anywhere on the floor.” – South Adams coach Josh Hendrixson
No. 24 – Luke McBride, Norwell
While his father/coach remains humble on his talent and push to the forefront of the NE8, there is no questioning that McBride positioned himself as perhaps the best player in the Class of 2023 in the entire area last season.
McBride was thrown into the fire quickly on a deep and talented championship team. He had no choice but to step up so he didn’t get left behind.
His defense on the perimeter plays a pivotal role in the structure of Norwell’s flow. He isn’t afraid to step in, straight faced and take charge against quality perimeter threats. The way he can smother a defender makes up for a bit of lacking size and length.
Then, of course, there is the three-point shooting. McBride is lights out shooting the ball and it really has already opened up what Norwell can do offensively. No matter the opposing defense, they cannot let their guard down and sneak away from McBride for a moment because he can spot up from anywhere around the arc. Last season, he averaged 10.9 points per game, but will now take on the role as perhaps the top scorer for Norwell.
COACH’S QUOTE ON LUKE MCBRIDE
“Luke had a good season last year, and he will be expected to take on a bigger leadership role for our team this season. We hope the work he has put in this past offseason will carry over onto the court this season. We are excited to see his leadership progress throughout the season.” – Norwell coach Mike McBride
No. 23 – Brett Sickafoose, Whitko
At this point, Sickafoose is almost a staple of area basketball. Every year, he has turned up his skill set and aggression as one of the most important pieces for Whitko basketball. In turn, he has scored over 1,200 points in his high school career and will stick out again as a senior.
Sickafoose is a player who you can truly tell plays in the moment when watching his mind work on the court. He doesn’t take plays off and if he ever is looking towards the next play, it certainly doesn’t show in his face or mannerisms. A one possession at a time lead guard is crucial for a team that plays the kind of grind-it-out style the Wildcats are used to.
One of the best pure scorers in the area, Sickafoose averaged 23.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game last season. He is always the guy you want with the ball in his hands to enhance your offense with a score or a pass. His rebounding numbers are built out of more pure will than skill. He is a small guard, yet will attack the basket with vigor to get the ball back into Whitko’s possession.
COACH’S QUOTE ON BRETT SICKAFOOSE
“He is a hard worker that is dedicated to being the best he can be. He is a versatile player that is an extremely good shooter and scorer. His leadership and work ethic will allow him to lead our team again this year. He was Warsaw Area Player of the Year last year and is excited about his upcoming senior season.” – Whitko coach Chris Benedict
No. 22 – DJ Allen, Leo
Heading into his third varsity season, a slimmer, stronger and taller Allen has emerged to be even more of a challenge inside for the Lions.
Allen was critical a season ago in Leo’s sectional title run with his post presence being huge. You could tell he learned against some of the best posts in the area last season how he had to strengthen his body and, over the summer, really showed he knows how to use his build better in the post.
Allen averaged seven rebounds per game last season, but was almost just as strong number wise on the offensive glass as he was defensively. With added height and length even from March, teams are going to have to throw heavy traffic at him to slow him at the rim. Allen also averaged 11.3 points per game.
That length will play a big role when Leo is conducting some mismatches. Allen, after all, isn’t just a true post. He can defend on the perimeter and offensively he flows comfortably in the mid-range. With another big teammate down low, it frees Allen up to float more and force opposing defenses to throw a quicker and smaller defender at him that he can then have little trouble posting up.
COACH’S QUOTE ON DJ ALLEN
“DJ’s aggressiveness and motor are his greatest strengths. This year we need him to continue to be able to step away and defend more versatile players and continue to improve his finishing around the rim.” – Leo coach Cary Cogdell
No. 21 – Andrew Leeper, Homestead
It didn’t take long into his sophomore season for Andrew Leeper to gain the trust of his coaches and teammates. He was an extra option when the season started, a guy that would maybe fill in here or there on the varsity level. Then some injuries, illnesses and other player absences cleared the way for Leeper to get major varsity minutes and he really flourished.
There is something to say about a player who has been as hyped as Leeper has since middle school proving why the hype was there. It is not a teachable thing to just have the will to step up in the big moments when called on and Leeper has that.
The junior averaged eight points per game during his sophomore season. Leeper has always had some cagey post moves, with an underrated, silent assassin-like reverse at the rim after being able to spin off a defender. As some of his peers have caught up to him in the height department, Leeper has had to alter how he plays. While he can still move well in the post, Leeper has truly conditioned himself to make off ball cuts where he can collect passes in motion to the rim. He also has zero problem spotting up to shoot the ball at up to 24 feet and his length makes that a problem to defend.
COACH’S QUOTE ON ANDREW LEEPER
“Junior who got his opportunity as a sophomore and came right in vs. East Noble and had 11 point and 10 rebounds. Looking forward to watching Andrew’s growth in the game the next two years.” – Homestead coach Chris Johnson
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