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 2021-22 season. This is our third annual Top 50 countdown.
Today, we unveil five of the best in the area at positions No. 45-41
No. 45 Jevon Lewis, Wayne
The book is still out on this sophomore, but the fact that he was able to be one of the most impact freshmen in the area last year gives him a bit of argument to work from. The 9 points per game as a freshman could be labeled as “just ok” in some circles, but the fact is that it didn’t take long for Lewis to rise up and score in important games. After going scoreless against Snider and Leo early in the season, Lewis had more than solid games against quality defenses in both wins and losses. He averaged 14.3 points per game in the final four games of the season, including a career best 21 points in a Sectional loss to New Haven. Lewis is a crafty scorer, which leads him to be a high volume shooter. He can take deep shots, but doesn’t rely solely on them, even with a nice 4-for-9 triple game against Columbia City under his belt in his freshman season.
He is a strong two-way player who isn’t just looking for buckets and as you are trying to build a mentality at Wayne, having a young guard who understands the importance on both ends of the floor is nice. His speed is a major asset on both ends as well as he is difficult to get by despite a smaller stature, yet you can’t really step in front of him real easy either. Random bonus: everyone needs a lefty and in Lewis’ role, it makes him tougher to defend.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JEVON LEWIS
“Jevon is the definition of warrior. He has become out vocal leader this year, he wants to be challenged and he challenges his teammate to get better as well. He has transitioned from a spot up shooter to floor general and we cannot get him out of the gym. We are excited to watch Jevon continue to grow.” – Wayne coach Byron Pickens
No. 44 Ethan Bontrager, Fremont
Bontrager is an absolute lights out shooter when he gets rolling and was one of the most underrated players in the NECC last season for a Fremont team that took some bumps that made them stronger for their postseason run. That is the epitome of Bontrager’s overall game: he will take some bumps that will make him tougher through later stretches of games or of the season. The junior scored 13 points per game last season and had remarkable shooting numbers, hitting 58 percent of all shots while knocking down 40 percent of his three pointers.
When Bontrager is playing with confidence, there is seemingly nothing that he can’t do. While he shines as a shooter, a confident Bontrager rolls with the punches and can get to the rim, initiate contact when needed and gets up for rebounds while opponents may be keyed in on bigger Eagles in those moments. Those moments of glaring intensity from Bontrager make him a bit of a wild card for Fremont, where opponents may know what he is capable of but likely have no clue when and how he will strike on any given night. As his body gets stronger, his defensive prowess will also continue to grow.
COACH’S QUOTE ON ETHAN BONTRAGER
“Ethan Bontrager is a gym rat. He absolutely loves the game. He plays year round. More importantly, he plays WITH PURPOSE year round. He doesn’t just go out there and run around and jack up shots. He has worked a lot on his defense and rebounding this off season. We all know the kid can shoot the rock, but I’m excited for him to showcase all the other facets of his game that he has worked on since last March.” – Fremont coach Josh Stuckey
No. 43 Dalton Wasson, Heritage
Continuing the high level shooters with a bit of hidden toughness mixed in. Wasson looks and acts the part of a machine. He is always moving, never staying stagnant on either end of the court. It starts with his shooting where he hit a team high 52 threes at a 39 percent success rate last season. Wasson steadily improved in a number of areas, but he is, first and foremost, a shooter. Part of his strong shooting opportunities is that he relies considerably on off-ball movement and screens to get space for his shots, as opposed to breaking down defenders. His ability to move without the ball in his hands is strong and the speed of his catch and shoot release improved last season.
While Wasson is more of a spot-up shooter than anything else, but he is very capable of scoring and contributing in a number of other ways. He averaged 10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game in 2020-2021. He scored in double digits in each of his first seven games last season. As a guard, he was able to pull down seven or more rebounds five times and had a handful of solid assist games as well. A future Division I baseball player, Wasson is no stranger to being on a high level athletically. Normally, a baseball ability wouldn’t mean a thing here but it means in Wasson’s case that he has had to face some tough moments and shows he can thrive in them.
COACH’S QUOTE ON DALTON WASSON
“Dalton is a high level multi sport athlete, and we are excited for him and his commitment to Belmont University to play baseball. Dalton has a fantastic motor, and he is one of the hardest workers I have ever been around. Dalton shoots the ball very well, and he is a fantastic defender on the ball. Dalton is willing to do whatever is asked of him to help put the team in the position to win. Dalton has meant a great deal to our program, and we are excited to see what he can do as a senior.” – Heritage coach Adam Gray
No. 42 Chris Hood, East Noble
There are not many kids who can see their skill set as a lineman on the football field transfer to the basketball court as well as Hood is able to do. Hood is a big body for sure and that is far and away his biggest strength. Hood can back down basically anyone in the post so his ability to get good looks is pretty high. The biggest part of that strength is that he continues to get better every time he is on the court. From spotty work as a sophomore, he goes into his senior season with much more savvy and that allows him to use his strength and leverage in the post better. He is coming off a near double double year of 12.8 points and nine rebounds per game and he did that in what was a pretty big NE8. There is still some size and skill in the post of the conference, but Hood may have the body and strength to negate a lot of what those other bigs can do.
A big development in Hood’s game is on the defensive end. He’s not just a body anymore there, he really understands how and when to push back. His movement has improved and he can cut off angles at a much higher rate, allowing him to use that body better and protect the rim better than he ever has before. Offensively, Hood had a couple great moments last season including 27 points and 15 rebounds in a season ending loss to Snider and his 23 points against Westview on 11-of-12 shooting.
COACH’S QUOTE ON CHRIS HOOD
“Chris is an absolute beast. You can’t teach his size and strength! His foot work has gotten so much better from last year. Excited to get him back in the gym.” – East Noble coach Brandon Durnell
No. 41 Ayden Ruble, Leo
Ruble excels at moving without the ball, making a really good use of screens and changes in pace. That skillset and drive to always move has helped Ruble and Leo in a number of ways. His constant movement can be a distraction for teams. Not just because he is running around but because they know he can be a threat scoring the ball once he gets rolling. He was gigantic in the Regional semi final game and his start to last season’s Class 3A state title game was major in keeping Leo in the game while their big guns weren’t getting good looks. Now that Leo knows they can really lean on Ruble, his usage rate will rise and we will get to see if he is up for the moment every time out. So far, he has proven that he is. Big shots, buzzer beaters, hustle plays and a good deal of lead ball handling…Ruble has done it all and will now get a bigger role to boot.
Something that we have always looked highly at Ruble for is his defense because he has always been one of those blue collar guys who will just do whatever is asked of him on the defensive end. So as his scoring and lead guard opportunities increase, having a solid defensive foundation to fall back on is good. Ruble is really good at hounding opposing ball handlers and using his agility and quick hands to create challenges and kind of stonewall opposing drivers. Ruble is strong too, maybe deceptively, and it allows him to hold his own against potential mismatches
COACH’S QUOTE ON AYDEN RUBLE
“Ayden has done a good job of running our offense. He sees the whole floor well and is a good defender and rebounder as well. We need him to continue to do an excellent job of getting everybody involved.” – Leo coach Cary Cogdell
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