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. 15-11.
No. 15 – Hayden Nern, Bluffton
Nern had an explosive season in 2019-20, hence how he goes from an unranked junior to top 15 as a senior. He led the Tigers to an ACAC regular season title and was essentially the uncrowned conference player of the year while being named to the Outside the Huddle All-Area team. Nern averaged a conference best 17.4 points per game while adding 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. During that time, he shot 52 percent from the field while being the team’s leader in three pointers made. While he has some prowess as a long range shooter, Nern’s presence as an aggressor was his biggest scoring attribute.
By shooting 56 percent inside the arc, Nern will be the best returning all around shooter for Bluffton and once of the best in the conference. Nern has a steady hand, a quick first step and a workman like approach that makes him a quality two-way player against about any team on Bluffton’s schedule. There are not many guys who can get by Nern consistently because of that wide range of attributes. With a bit of a roster turnover, watch for Nern to be big in getting Bluffton in the race for a second straight ACAC crown.
COACH’S QUOTE ON Hayden Nern
“Hayden will be a very good leader for our team. He will work hard and push his teammates to be better each day in practice. He has worked to improve his game and continues to make big strides in this area. We look forward to his impact on our team this season.” – Bluffton coach Karl Grau
No. 14 – Will Shank, Canterbury
An immediate impact player on a varsity basketball court, Shank has continued to close the margin between himself and his senior classmates area wide. Shank is a lights out scorer and can do so from almost anywhere on the court that he decides to score from. He has worked as a guy who could knock down the outside shot to be so much more aggressive and proficient around the rim. He cuts to the basket smoothly and is great at evading defenses and leaving them chasing him whether it is in the open court or in a compact half court game. He averaged 15.7 points per game last season.
Shank’s greatest rise in the last year is as a facilitator. He has razor sharp and quick decision making ability that really gets his teammates involved and raises the level of their play. He has always been a leader by example over the vocal type – he can still do both well – but by being the savvy and intelligent ball handler he has developed into, leading by example is more than enough; Shank averaged 3.6 assists per game in 2019-20. He will also be a leader for Canterbury in other categories because of his work ethic. Last season, he averaged 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
COACH’S QUOTE ON WILL SHANK
“I’m really excited for Will’s senior season at Canterbury. He had a tremendous off-season from school ball and had a really successful [summer] season with TPE under Coach [Chase] Sanders. He is such a talented player with a great head for the game. Offensively, he is a dynamic, exciting guy to watch and creates well with the ball in his hands. Defensively, he’s a savvy reader of the game and a great rebounder. He’s already stepped up into more of a leadership role this year and has set a good tone early for the younger guys.” – Canterbury coach Rob Westfall
No. 13 – Joe Reidy, Woodlan
Who wants to try and defend a 6-foot-7 guard? That is what you have in store for you with Reidy, who’s length and basketball IQ have always been his greatest attributes. The wingspan allows him to score around most in the post and make him unguardable in the midrange for people that play the same position as him naturally. So put a big on him? Or will he just drive by and get to the rim against a big? That is a major matchup problem in and out of the ACAC. He averaged 16.2 points per game while shooting 41 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free throw line. Don’t be surprised as those numbers go up and his 30 percent from the three point line soars as his shot has become crisper.
Now take everything you know about Reidy and add about 15 pounds of muscle to it. That is the Joe Reidy you will see into his junior season as he goes from a main weapon for Woodlan to THE weapon for Woodlan. Right now, Reidy is a major force at getting to the rim because of his size and his smarts. He cuts off the wings and elbows razor sharp towards the rim and has become a significantly better finisher in traffic. As teams throw junk defenses and physicality at him on his drives, finishing through that contact makes him a much bigger threat. With the chance of being a lead guard this year for the Warriors, the ball being in Reidy’s hands is the most ideal situation every trip up the floor.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JOE REIDY
“Joe has made some huge strides in his game. Through hard work, he attacked areas of weakness and turned them into strengths. There is nothing Joe can’t do on the floor and we will rely on him to do a lot. Hoe is a big time competitor and we are fortunate to have him as our leader.” – Woodlan coach John Baker
No. 12 – Jalen Jackson, Carroll
When you talk about players who shined with the Indy Heat program this summer, Jackson actually stands out as a leader. A player who has shown many flashes over the past two seasons of being super athletic and diverse, he really took it the next level this summer. As Carroll worked without a guy that leaned on fully as a top scorer last season, Jackson would eventually lead them in points per game (11.8 per game). But was he capable of being a dynamic scorer where the Chargers wouldn’t have to rely so often on a ‘by committee’ approach? Well he answered that in droves over the summer.
Why does matter? After all, these rankings are based significantly on high school season in high school systems. Its simple: the assertiveness, drive and energy he showcased this summer as on of the area’s biggest break into the next level players has made Jackson sharper. Yes, he is very good offensively. But, Jackson’s confidence has started to soar because of what he did in the summer and that is going to pay major dividends for Carroll. Not to mention that he too has packed on the muscle during the offseason. Is he now the most dynamic scorer Carroll has had in years? You bet he is. He also averaged 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 points per game in 2019-20.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JALEN JACKSON
“Jalen has worked extremely hard on improving his strength, perimeter jump shot, and decision making. He can score and defend at all three levels. He will be counted on to be a leader.” – Carroll coach Marty Beasley
No. 11 – Caedmon Bontrager, Lakewood Park
Bontrager doesn’t just control the paint, he absolutely owns it. He could rival any player in the area as an above the rim performer. Since you last saw him on the high school season level, he has gotten bigger, stronger and faster; that is dangerous because he was very big, strong and fast a year ago. Now a junior, Bontrager is going to dominate almost every game he plays in because there just aren’t guys who can match up with him athletically, let alone in size. Bontrager averaged 20.7 points per game last season while scoring in single digits just twice. He is very efficient, shooting 60 percent from the field and, possibly a surprise, 36 percent from the three point line where he hit the third most three pointers of any Panther last season.
If Bontrager can continue to add a bit of a mean streak, especially in the paint, he will be able to snatch any rebound that he would like. Bontrager averaged 8.8 rebounds per game last season with nine double digit rebounds, led by 18 in overtime game against Whitko. Bontrager has an advanced ability to use his ever growing frame correctly and under control. Defensively, he averaged 6.6 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game in 2019-20 because he can use that long frame to challenge and change every shot or pass. When you look as some of the fastest risers in the area, Bontrager is at the very head of the list.
PREVIOUSLY IN THE COUNTDOWN