This past week, Purdue Fort Wayne hosted multiple days of high school team camps. With June in full motion, high school basketball teams are back together for the month training, working out and getting work in during a variety of shootout events across the area.
Bounce was able to get out to PFW a couple of times during the week as the university hosted multiple days at the Hilliard Gates Sports Center.
Here are some quick takeaways from the teams that I was able to see.
Keep in mind, in the good and bad, that this is still the month of June and a long way before the season kicks off. But thank goodness for high school basketball being back in our lives!
There wasn’t a lot new to learn about the Legends in terms of talent on the day I watched them. The blend of Brauntae Johnson, Brashawn Bassett, Jordan Green and Rodney Woods remains one of the most intriguing foursomes in the area and that continued to be on display during Wednesday games at PFW.
Johnson, we all know is a stud, but he is continuing to get better at creating space with the ball in his hands. He has always been great at finishing with tight defense, but that space creation is going to continue to elevate his jump shot. On the flip of that, Bassett showcased on Wednesday his ability to finish through contact. Bassett has never been short on confidence or bravado, but as he continues to back it up at the rim, he may be proving that he can a second elite scorer for North Side and not just a motor guy,
Green, looking a bit unassuming with his serious face, has seen a rise in his athleticism. With about 2:30 to play against Marion Harding on Wednesday, Green rose up against a pair of defenders and slammed one home hard from the lane line that brought the whole gym up. His length on that dunk was impressive and these kind of moments are really going to be able to separate him.
Junior to be Ivan Hood was able to make a good mark on Wednesday. He has energy that can be a good match for that power four. He had a really nice moment in the first half against Marion Harding where he was able to finish a runner in the lane through heavy two player contact and also get to the free throw line.
One thing that was noticeable about the defending Class 3A state runner up is that there was active focus on working ways to get DJ Allen involved in the post. With Allen being the focal point of their offense at least to start the season, other teams will clearly be gunning for him. So there has to be some tricks but a lot of quality execution in getting Allen his looks at the rim. His overall craftiness will be important too, especially against some of the traditional posts the NE8 offers, but that schedule is a long way off. For now, figuring out how to get him those opportunities is important.
The team’s defense on Wednesday was solid against Norwell, Arsenal Tech and North Side. The Lions got into passing lanes well to make things happen in transition. A solid part of that was Jackson McGee, who did a lot defensively on ball, especially with some rip aways at mid court against Norwell.
One of the major questions we will be evaluating all summer with Leo is who will be a fire starter in a post Davison world. While Allen’s offense is key, the Leo guards will all have to be in stronger positions moving forward. McGee could be that guy if his shooting is on, something he struggled with against Norwell but picked up against Arsenal Tech. Ayden Ruble and Xavier Middleton are important pieces because of their experience. They played well with higher expectations and roles on Wednesday with their confidence soaring. The brother duo of Brody and Trey Hiteshew have a really nice natural chemistry together and we got to see that Wednesday too. Together, those five guards are all getting their reps in seeing what combos are going to be the best moving forward.
Watching the Leo guards Wednesday was intriguing and will only continue to be throughout the month as they have been highly successful this past week at and away from PFW.
It is also worth looking at who will rebound with Allen with Leo also having a big post loss to graduation. Luke Shappell showed some rebounding prowess but it remains to be seen how he would fit into the offensive flow.
There isn’t a true read to get out of Norwell’s games on Wednesday because a significant portion of their lineup is was still unavailable due to the outstanding success of their baseball program. Luke McBride, Brody Bolyn, Luke Graft, Lleyton Bailey and Cade Shelton were all missing from the Knights’ lineup at PFW.
That leads to positives and negatives for coach Mike McBride. You want to get to work with your team in June fully, but also its not bad to get some quality reps against varsity teams from younger guys, some who may play JV and others who may be part of the varsity lineup. That said, it is only fair to note some takeaways from Norwell’s appearance.
Sophomore to be Ashton Federspiel is one to watch. His older brother Drew as a big part of this program and Ashton has the assets to help Norwell a lot over the next three years. He still sits in a tweener spot where I want to see if he is a shooter or a rebounder. He had a really nice chase down block early against Leo that shows that his hustle and size can benefit him tremendously on a team that needs some size. He had the ability to pivot well in the post for space against second string Leo posts, but he will have to be bigger against the top tier of NE8 big guys. I have seen him play other times this summer and know that he can also step out and shoot some.
Junior Jake Parker showed some promise rebounding the ball as well, something that Norwell needs. He could compliment their depth inside a ton.
There were also a couple of freshmen that had a chance to stand out Wednesday even if they don’t end up being complimentary varsity players this coming season. Drew Graft is clearly a trusted piece and ball handling asset. He was let to run the point and wasn’t afraid to mix it up on the offensive glass. Kaedyn Quintanilla moves around well and can handle himself in a variety of situations. Unforced errors here and there need to be cleaned up but he plays locked in defense and gets around screens well. Quintanilla is not afraid to create his own jump shots.
When it comes to Norwell names you should know, Wednesday was a great day for returner Jon Colbert to be able to take some leadership of this group. Colbert has spent two seasons as part of this varsity lineup and playing with the younger group Wednesday was great for him to develop as a leader.
New Haven has some undeniable chemistry and that was evident all day Wednesday, especially between Jakar Williams and Darrion Brooks. The athleticism of Brooks continues to soar and shine while he plays above the rim and he has a point guard in Williams that looks hard to get him involved in those moments that will bring the gym up. After watching Williams play in the post some this summer away from the Bulldogs, you almost forget how quality he is as a point using that vision that he has from the football field.
It didn’t take long for Jackson Turnwald to remind how deadly he is as a shooter. He was willing to mix it up when needed but with the attack mindset of so much of his team, it isn’t hard for Turnwald to kind of just seep out into a corner and spot up. He is so dangerous from there and that aggression from his teammates gets defenses focusing on the paint and letting Turnwald spot up as one of the area’s more dangerous shooters. Nick Myles‘ defense was stout in the full court, continuing to put a lot of pressure on opposing ball handlers.
Myles Harris, a 6-4 forward, joined the starting lineup and was able to move swiftly like a guard despite his size.
6-foot-3 Martin King was an eye catching piece off the bench. He reads the court pretty well and you can see he is constantly working in his head how to make an impact. Another player in New Haven’s lineup that will always be critiqued is James Hardy, the sophomore son of one of Fort Wayne’s all-time great athletes. I have kept my eye on Hardy for several years, as have many, and his improving athleticism says some good things about his future. Hardy is figuring out how to better use his body and frame as time goes on.
A rebuilding Bluffton was on display Thursday when I watched them against a strong Antwerp, Ohio team.
For the first time in a while, the Tigers have to build without a returning “star,” but that is why we play in June, right?
Tucker Jenkins, a sophomore, has some good interior principles but needs to work on finishing some. He does know how to position himself in and around the post and get looks at the rim; that is half the battle. He also displayed a solid rhythm jumper; if he can beat guys at the rim, he is the type of guy who could really spread out the floor for the Tigers.
Max Stoppenhagen is a kid who will return for Bluffton and had the keys at point guard on Thursday. He really has a good grit to him defensively. He is quick to the ball and that can help Bluffton overcome a lot of their youth and shortcomings as they search for an identity this summer.
In my time watching Bluffton on Thursday, I didn’t get to see a ton out of senior to be Harrison Schreiber other than the fact he does seem to have a positive attitude and is taking in being coached. I have always been a fan of Schreiber’s game and he is going to have to be a guy, in my eyes, to take control of leading this group so being coachable is great. I do want to get more glimpses at Bluffton this summer so I can see more of how his game is developing.
This looks like it can be a fairly patient group. That means that Thursday against Michigan Collegiate, they don’t [yet?] have the motor of a traditional Brandon Appleton coached group. But being patient really worked best for them, you can always ramp things up later when we get closer to November.
In ways, it looks like Dylan Oberlin or DaVonte Dickerson are going to need to be consistent interior threats even if it is out of position a bit for them. Dickerson showed some nice signs against Michigan Collegiate on Thursday that he can post up and feed his teammates in an area that makes him a nice duel threat. When in the high post, Dickerson could really shine most, which he showed flashes of when I watched the Hornets on Thursday. His mid range jumper is nice and he can also attack or feed others from there. Dickerson could also be a good lead guard at times Thursday in getting to work when Angola takes time to let things materialize.
A first half assist to a curling Oberlin showcased some of Dickerson’s passing IQ on a quality level when he doesn’t get too far ahead of himself. It also showed that the pair works really well together right now.
Cam McGee has some toughness as a possible lead guard. He handled pressure and worked to get through contact while still getting downhill well.
Tyler Call had good court vision and if Angola can let plays develop and not get too ahead of themselves, he is going to be at his best as a possible set point guard. He is much better in place than he is on the fly.
Things like this PFW camp will help this team enhance their decision making, where they struggled at times against Michigan Collegiate. There were some poorly timed turnovers that gave their opponents back-to-back-to-back offensive opportunities.
The movement and communication of Jake Land is really nice to see. When you talk about a team in the summer, you want to see leaders develop and Land seems to know where to be and where to tell others to get. Considering that Oberlin and Dickerson aren’t what you’d call a “true post” despite some size, Land could be a good leader in the paint. Other than that, would like to see him use his physicality a bit more as he set hard screens when helping dictate the offense.
Ryan Schroeder is showing an increased ability to change his pace and play more physical, as if that was something he needed. He has bulked up and that makes him a threat at about any position on the court. He remains one of my favorite underrated players in the area and that enjoyment continues to grow as he mixes it up with the big boys and shows no issue taking off up court after snatching a defensive rebound. Once just kind of a defensive minded middle guard, Schroeder looked very diverse Thursday against Ferndale (Michigan) and North Pickerington (OH),
The physicality and intensity of both of the Central Noble games I saw on Thursday will only pay dividends for guys like Conner Lemmon and Sam Essegian. They are seeing increased focus in June in the absence of injured Jackson Andrews and it will continue into the season. Lemmon took on big point guard duties against Ferndale and ran up against much tougher defenders than he will in the NECC. He keeps moving, which makes him a tougher guard and is good to see for a guy who’s biggest stretches have previously come in spot up situations. I was impressed with his toughness.
Essegian struggled some with the physical nature of Ferndale; his frame being more slight that some of the really big kids on the other side of the game. What peaked interest though, as I have seen previously this summer with Sam, is that he doesn’t have the quitting bone in his body. He never packed it in against Ferndale, still went after them defensively even if he got bodied a little bit and then he bounced back and played solid defense the very next hour against North Pickerington.
Older brother Connor Essegian though has zero problems on Thursday. This kid is easily one of the area’s best and we already knew that but he is also so much better than he was in February. His shot falls from everywhere on the floor with one, two or three hands in his face. In both games I saw Thursday, the only real chance to stop him was to foul him hard at the rim and then he just hits the free throws. Even then, he scored well through some insane contact at the basket. Essegian is a high level scorer who continues to remind everyone that his snub from the Indiana Junior All-Stars was a complete joke. I love a kid who gets better and better and doesn’t rest on their laurels, even as a Division 1 talent and Essegian showed Thursday how much he fits that mold and then some.
Central Noble’s other top returner, Logan Gard is moving well inside and positioning himself better in the rebounding game. He’s had some issues in the past watching more than attacking the glass butt he certainly has been active in correcting that, something else I have seen already this summer in the AAU world. Gard continues to work above the rim with impactful putbacks through contact. He is certainly improving his toughness each time I see him.
To no surprise, watching Homestead goes immediately behind Fletcher Loyer, who was as smooth as ever on Friday against Ypsilanti Lincoln (Michigan). Loyer’s game was so fluid and confident, it is almost one of those things you could take for granted because of how expected it is at this point. Nearly every shot I saw Loyer take on Friday came perfectly in rhythm.
When you look at an almost completely retooled Spartan team in June, an immediate standout visually is Grant Leeper. His size seems to always be extending and he looked comfortable in and around the rim. With the Spartans rooted in guard play, having someone Leeper’s size around the basket helped on Friday. He isn’t quite a dominant player in the post but he really has the chance to being there with the strides he makes between times I have seen him on the court. With having both he and Luke Marcum patrolling the paint, it gives Homestead a solid inside presence.
My favorite part of Friday was the defensive movement and pressure of Grady Swing. He has always been a fundamental player, but a breakout moment wasn’t something I had personally yet seen of him. With his head on a swivel, he moved well against or off ball pressure on Friday. He is a guy who could really turn the tempo of games up and didn’t give Ypsilanti Lincoln much space to operate.
Kyron Kaopuiki did a solid job running the point as Homestead continues a multi year search for a true point guard. Is Kaopuiki that guy? To be determined, but he seems confident in controlling the game and then moving off ball. It was also nice to see Max Schiltz attacking the basket aggressively to add to his game which is rooted in being a really nice outside shooter.
The pacing for the Saints started with Sam Campbell. He was really taking charge out there on Friday when I watched Bishop Dwenger battle Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Campbell didn’t have to be THAT guy in the past but with the Saints needing that guy, he looks to be settling in. He controlled the tempo and his court vision was much improved. In the long line of fantastic lead guards, Campbell could be another Saints frontrunner.
The interior for the Saints looks to be in good hands with junior to be Preston Ross and senior to be Joe Kelly both finding movement in and around the rim. We didn’t get to see a lot of paint focused touches on Friday but the two could continue to be a consistent threat as Bishop Dwenger flows. I like the way that Beau Jacquay added to interior aggression and his will to get involved in the full court and at the rim. He will need to clean up his fundamental movement some, but having he energy to do the right thing is huge for him. Sophomore to be Caleb Lehrman was also involved inside quite a bit, showing the Saints could have some solid depth there moving forward.
It was great to see Henry O’Keefe back on the court as he is finding himself again out there after an injury kept him out last season. O’Keefe wasn’t hesitant at all, he moved well with and without the ball and helped allow Bishop Dwenger to space things out against Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
Ethan Roy and Owen Shively also brought good energy to the backcourt for the Saints. While there is a lot of retooling going on for the Saints, there is still really solid depth.
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