The road to the top of Class 1A recently ran through Blackhawk Christian, the 2018 state champion in that field. Then they had to move up forcibly by success factor. They were well on their way to a possible Class 2A state title when COVID took away the end of the season after the Sectional round. Their losses, just three of them, came to 3A power Silver Creek, 4A contender Indianapolis Attucks and crosstown somewhat-rival Homestead.
They were there. They were primed for back to back titles. And now they bring EVERY SINGLE major player back to try once again in 2019-20.
“We’ve had a really good fall and we are definitely going to be a deeper team. If we had a weakness last year, it was probably a lack of depth but this year we are hopefully going to be deeper,” Braves coach Marc Davidson said. “It has been very competitive throughout the fall and throughout our practices. I’ve always thought that was a good thing, when you can really go at it in practice and push one another and make one another better.”
It all starts, which is fair, with Caleb Furst. The 6-foot-10 senior averaged 21.7 points, 14.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game last season as the Outside the Huddle Co-Player of the Year. Furst quickly became the cornerstone of the Braves lineup and heading into his fourth and final season, he has to be at the forefront of every opponent’s mind every night. But he isn’t alone. Classmates Zane Burke and Marcus Davidson are also major returners and they three are considered by most as the top trio in Northeast Indiana. Marc Davidson says the three have really embraced the intangible roles of leadership and toughness.
A contributing factor to that is that Furst, Burke and Davidson have never settled. While all playing on the varsity level since their freshman seasons, none of the three ever got stagnant. Each season, we see different, improved and impressive versions of each of them.
“That is a special group right there,” Marc Davidson said. “Whats great about those three is that they have continued to improve as players. They are all three in the gym all of the time. I think it is kind of contagious. They see how much each other is working and it kind of spurs them on to continue to work hard. When you get that from your best players, it kind of just naturally tends to permeate through the team.”
Callan Wood and Andrew McIntosh are the other two returning seniors. After playing next to none as sophomores, they two were thrust into the lineup immediately last year and had to fill roles that were vital to a state championship program.
A major strength for the top returners is their shooting. Furst (65% from the field) is tough to stop inside while Burke (49% three pointers), Davidson (45%), Wood (43%) and Boyer (46%) are all dead eyes shots from deep more often than they are not. Thinking putting them on the line is better? Look no further than Furst (85%), Burke (79%), Davidson (84%) and Wood (78%) for that answer.
“Callan is a kid who is just extremely dedicated and the improvements he has made have been really big for us. We will continue to look to Cal to be that high energy guy,” Marc Davidson said. “Andrew just works his tail off and just does whatever is asked of him. We talk about intangibles and Andrew is that type of kid, he doesn’t care if he gets a shot or scores the ball, he is going to guard, he is going to run the floor and do all of those little things.”
New Jersey move in Luke Moorman will round out the senior class.
“Really hard worker, ramps up the intensity, very vocal in practice,” Davidson said of Moorman.
The junior class at Blackhawk Christian was bolstered by new faces to the team or the varsity level. Jacob Boyer and Luke Lagrange are returning and 6-foot-5 Lewis Jones comes in from Michigan. Boyer has been contributing in spots since his freshman year as part of the state champion team. Lagrange struggled to find a consistent role in the lineup at times last season, but has improved since play ceased in March. Davidson says that Jones is very fundamentally sounds and poised, likely ready to step in and help quickly.
It is crucial that the junior class, as well as sophomores Gage Sefton and Josh Furst embrace and accept their roles and what the level Blackhawk Christian plays on has evolved to.
That level becomes real when you look at Blackhawk Christian’s schedule for this season. They will again play every single SAC school not named Carroll, the top two NE8 teams in Leo and New Haven. And their out of area schedule is even tougher with neutral site games against Silver Creek and LaLumiere, visits to Culver Academy and Indianapolis Attucks and home games with Cathedral and Tindley.
“We are going to test ourselves no doubt about it. This will be the toughest schedule that we have played, we do that intentionally,” Davidson said. “We want to continue to push ourselves throughout the regular season in hopes that is going to payoff for us come tournament time.”
They will also get the chance at the once in a lifetime experience of playing in the Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle where they will face old foe Barr-Reeve, the same team they beat to win the 2019 state title.
“That is going to be a phenomenal experience. We are not exactly sure what that is going to look like at this point but still a phenomenal opportunity for our kids and our school,” Davidson said.
This team is absolutely loaded. They bring back every player of statistical consequence from a season ago and they were poised to challenge for a Class 2A state title. With nine guys back, who is to think that Blackhawk Christian isn’t in that same spot this year? They only lost one time to an area team in 2019-20 and in the last three seasons, they only have four total losses against Northeast Indiana teams. This is a powerhouse that has become a dynasty.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Two high level Division 1 prospects is better than one? At this point, it is easy to decipher who the #1 team is. So why not higher? Maybe there isn’t a great answer. Blackhawk Christian is a close to a 1B as there is. This team is very good and them not being #1 doesn’t have anything to do with them, more to do with the team who is ranked #1, who that team added and the fact that Blackhawk Christian lost their head to head meeting last season.
December 12 vs. Silver Creek at Southport
This schedule is absolutely loaded but a quick trip to take on Class 3A power Silver Creek for the second straight year is a measuring stick. If the Braves can win this game, then can they beat anyone on their schedule? Silver Creek got by the Braves last season and was one of only three teams to do so. Silver Creek also possesses Trey Kaufman, the most comparable player to Caleb Furst on the Blackhawk Christian schedule.
Kaufman and Furst will be teammates at Purdue next year, but this year they are jockeying for lead positioning in the Mr. Basketball race. This is a big time game with big time implications for momentum and potential heading into 2021.
Jacob Boyer, junior
With all of the guys on this loaded lineup, so many of them have crucial attributes that the Braves will need the best of. Boyer gets this sport because he can really open things up by playing all over the floor and wherever coach Marc Davidson needs to move him around to. If he has to play inside, he has the physicality to do so. If he needs to play outside, he hit 46 percent of his three pointers a year ago.