Boys basketball season is over, but just like last year, I am not quite done with things yet. So over the next few days, Bounce will be giving out some awards of his own, solely of my own opinion, about each of the four main conferences in our area and beyond. Don’t forget that Outside the Huddle will award their official Player of the Year and Coach of the Year coming up soon.
Today we look at the area schools we follow along with who are not in one of the major four conferences.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Zane Burke, Blackhawk Christian
Every time OTH talks MVP, it is important to point out that we focus on exactly what it stands for and it isn’t “BEST PLAYER.” Who was the most valuable to their team with what they provide? Sometimes it means the best player, sometimes it doesn’t, but specifically it is who is MOST VALUABLE to a team’s overall success. I am NOT naming a traditional conference player of the year, but focusing in this column on overall value.
So when we talk about terms of overall value, you could probably have a hay day with the Class 2A state champions. After all, there was so much talent and so much value to go around here it is a bit lopsided. Zane Burke though provided the most value, in that way, in my eyes. As the Braves have made their program defining run the last four seasons, the point guard role has been of tremendous value. For two seasons, they got by with a true point guard even if they played substantially different roles.
Zane Burke was NOT a point guard when he took over for the 2019-20 season. He is now. He left a huge mark on the program by being a scoring point who was still wildly unselfish and helped put his team in the best possible position nearly every offensive possession. The ball flowing through Burke’s hands provided so much value this season to his game, to the team’s state title and to teammate Caleb Furst’s run at a Mr. Basketball crown.
Honorable Mention: Caleb Furst, Blackhawk Christian; Brett Sickafoose, Whitko; Weston Hamby, Manchester; Jacob Boyer, Blackhawk Christian; Will Shank, Canterbury; Jaxson Gould, Warsaw
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Jaxson Gould, Warsaw
This sophomore shined for a Warsaw team that is doing big things and will return a big chunk of their team next season. The Tigers didn’t have the best record against our traditional four conference area schools, but it put them more in focus in our area and certainly Gould was a major part of that.
Gould was IBCA All-State Underclass Honorable Mention after a stellar season. With so many guys that broke out in general or broke out as higher level players, it is hard to ignore how Gould went from scarce appearances as a freshman to arguably the best player in the NLC as a sophomore and that argument against him isn’t a great one. Gould averaged team highs in scoring (16.6), rebounding (5.3), assists (2.6) and steals (2), while shooting 50 percent from the field, 39 percent from deep and 82 percent from the free throw line.
We all should certainly look forward to having two more seasons to catch Gould in action locally.
Honorable Mention: Devon Lewis, Canterbury; Jacob Boyer, Blackhawk Christian; Judah Simfukwe, Warsaw; Gage Sefton, Blackhawk Christian
MOST UNDERRATRED: Drake Lewis, Whitko
Whitko as a whole should be considered underrated for the work they did this season. They went 16-8 with their first five losses coming by an average of just four points per game. While Brett Sickafoose was a scoring machine, Lewis played his part to the best of his career. He is a steady hand that took pressure off of the Wildcats’ leading scorer and also a bit of a younger team that were figuring out their roles early on in the season.
Lewis actually spent the most time (30.5 minutes) on the court per game this season. The ball needed to flow through him in new coach Chris Benedict’s offense. He averaged 15.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game which are hardly numbers that should be considered underrated, but still as the second option in this lineup, it probably didn’t get the attention that is warranted. He had multiple 20+ points games and a 34 point output against Wabash while shooting 44 percent from the field on the season.
Honorable Mention: Jacob Boyer, Blackhawk Christian; Max Carter, Manchester; Carter Harman, Lakewood Park; Marcus Davidson, Blackhawk Christian
COACH OF THE YEAR: Marc Davidson, Blackhawk Christian
No brainer here, right? There were a lot of area coaches outside of the four main conferences that had great first years at their school (see below), but none of them won a state title or was more utterly dominant than Davidson. Its hard to call a second state title the a culminating point for a program that he has built up so greatly over the years, but something was different about this one.
Bounce chatted at the state finals with friend of the website, Judd Johnson of Leverage Photography, and I agree now with the conversation tone of that post game talk: this one felt different. In my opinion, two seasons ago, it was a party like atmosphere when the Braves won a state title but this year could have even been labeled as anticlimactic in some ways. Yes, a huge celebration but it almost felt like it was always expected. Locally and state wide, it really felt like we all expected from the tipoff of the season that the Braves would be the Class 2A state champions.
So in the end on April 3, it was a coronation as much as anything. That speaks volumes to the preparedness of Davidson and his staff. They’ve done so well with this program that you just expect them to win and anything short of a state title this season would have been surprising. Takes a great coach and staff to pull that off.
Honorable Mention: Eli Henson, Manchester; Matt Moore, Warsaw; Chris Benedict, Whitko
GAME OF THE YEAR: Blackhawk Christian vs. Silver Creek, Dec. 12
The scene at Southport was scarce and fan support at the venue for the annual Forum Tipoff Classic was certainly at a premium this season but the game lived up to the hype with the eventual Class 2A state champion Braves beating the Class 3A champion Dragons 94-84 in double overtime. It was Blackhawk Christian’s sixth highest scoring game of the season.
Even without Trey Kaufman-Renn in the lineup for Silver Creek, this thing was an all out war and the first of many high quality showcases for Kooper Jacobi on the season. That said, Zane Burke’s 31 points and eight rebounds were a major showcase for him as well, including really heating the Braves up in the overtimes sessions.
The real star though was probably Caleb Furst. Although we didn’t get to see the Furst/Kaufman-Renn matchup, this still didn’t disappoint with Furst and Kaufman-Renn going at each other. Furst ended with 23 points and 21 rebounds
Honorable Mention: Heritage at Canterbury, Feb. 20 in 2OT; Whitko at Columbia City, Nov. 25; Manchester at Whitko, Feb. 23; Southwood at Manchester, Jan. 19; Blackhawk Christian at Indianapolis Attucks, Feb. 20
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