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. 30-26
No. 30 Rodney Woods, North Side
There has never been a time where it should be questioned how much we appreciate Woods’ heart and work ethic. He goes all out all of the time. As North Side was forced into a major reconstruction, Woods has been a constant for the Legends because of that determination. Every year, it seems like Woods really wants it more and more and it is one of the big reasons that North Side keeps getting better along the way. Woods does everything and while that can be said about a lot of guys in the area, very few can claim to do those little things as effectively or loudly as Woods. He does all of those little things so loudly in fact that they become big things very quickly. Need a deflection, a loose ball, a hard rebound? Woods is the kid you call on to get you those things that may not light up a scoreboard but are gritty.
The things that Woods gives the team were on full display last season. When he was in the lineup, they thrived and when injury kept him out of the lineup, it always felt like there was something missing. He did appear in 15 of North Side’s 23 games, averaging 11.1 points along the way. In his two biggest scoring games – 22 vs. Dekalb and 21 vs. Lewis Cass – he shot a combined 70 percent from the floor. He ended the season shooting 56 percent from the floor and 42 percent from deep. And his high percentage shooting prowess isn’t what we consider his top skill. As a senior, look for Woods to grow his scoring, rebounding (6.7/game) and defense (1.5 steals/game).
COACH’S QUOTE ON RODNEY WOODS
“Rodney does all the little things for us. He is our best defender, plays hard, rebounds, can drive, pass and rebound and still average around 11 points a game last year. I am expecting a big year out of Rodney.” – North Side coach Gary Andrews
No. 29 Logan Brace, Fremont
Brace has the defensive versatility to play at least four positions, maybe even five. He is a head strong forward but one who has the transition ability to run with quicker players in the NECC because of his work ethic if nothing else. That works for him well as a team first player because everything he is asked to do, he clearly can pave a path for. He plays with excellent energy on the defensive end as an active and fluid guy and averaged two steals per game last season.
On offense, Brace is efficient far more often than not. He shot 62 percent from the field on Fremont’s Sectional title run last season. He’s a worker who will undoubtedly compete; rarely passive on the offensive end but also smart enough to know when to defer to the hot hand with a Fremont lineup that was and still should be rather deep. There’s a ton of value in what Brace brings to the table. He’s a unique talent and he’s a perfect piece on a winning team because of his drive, heart and leadership. He also averaged 12 points and eight rebounds per game in 2020-2021 but while the numbers clearly aid the winning, the person Brace is to those around him is probably more critical.
COACH’S QUOTE ON LOGAN BRACE
“Logan Brace is a kid who plays with 100% energy all the time. He has been All-Conference two years in a row because he goes after every rebound, he dives on every loose ball, he tries to take every charge, he doesn’t take plays off on defense. It sounds like hyperbole when I say “every” that many times in a row, but it’s true. You won’t find a basketball player who plays harder than him. That keeps the younger guys accountable because if we have an All-Conference kid who is playing that hard, then no one else has an excuse to take a play off.” – Fremont coach Josh Stuckey
No. 28 Logan Gard, Central Noble
How well Gard has developed since moving to Central Noble is eye opening. While he continues to show some of the talent he had at a younger age, such as a quality midrange game including a jump hook that we’ve always enjoyed, he has become a much more multi-faceted player that will now get to ply his trade on the college level next season. Because of the rigors of the NECC, especially in the post over the last two seasons, Gard has become a major physical threat that is tough to contain. His battles with the likes of Churubusco’s Landen Jordan and Prairie Heights’ Elijah Malone have forced Gard into strengthening himself and becoming a talented post attacker, not just a tall kid who plays in the post.
Gard now plays as the standard for post players in the NECC and he continues to improve as those around him push him and he pushes himself. Rebounding has become another area where you can really see differences shine. Gard isn’t passive, he moves towards the ball, he positions himself much better and he clearly knows the importance associated with wrangling in rebounds for his team. He averaged 5.9 rebounds per game last season, a number that will grow out of need and out of ability. His length will prove to be a major weapon in this area, as well as on the defensive end.
COACH’S QUOTE ON LOGAN GARD
“Logan just continues to get better. He can score off of post moves or face up jump shots. He has done a good job for us as a rim protector. Logan has improved so much and has gained so much confidence. I expect Logan to be a dominating force inside this season.” – Central Noble coach Logan Gard
No. 27 Jaylen Lattimore, South Side
Since middle school, Lattimore has been one of the most talked about players of this senior class. His size and aggression lend themselves to being a physical threat that can beat and bang for the often undersized Archers. He can put it on the ground and attack and is also strong in transition. That said, Lattimore can also play as a long range weapon when called upon. Confidence and composure will be key for Lattimore to continue his growth for the Archers, and as a senior, to be a better leader for this group. Football isn’t always a good transition to basketball but Lattimore has been able to be a constant presence for the Archers struggling gridiron program and that should lend him some respect as a reliable leader on the basketball court as well.
Lattimore can score, anyone this high on the list has that ability, but he is mostly as a solid offensive player who is composed with the basketball and has a solid all around offensive game more than it being flashy. He averaged 10 points per game last season to go along with 6.1 rebounds. The consistency lacking early in the season in 2020-21 was certainly taken care of down the stretch. Lattimore scored in double digits in six of his last seven games with a season high 19 points against Wayne. There has to be a lot of hope that consistency carries over into this season.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JAYLEN LATTIMORE
“Jaylen had high expectations with his basketball career, now that he knows he will be playing college football at the next level it will be fun to watch Jaylen go out and display his talent in a carefree way while representing his classmates on the hardwood.” – South Side coach JJ Foster
No. 26 Ajani Washington, Concordia Lutheran
People who didn’t know much about Washington certainly took notice by season’s end. While the Cadets worked through some growing pains and some rebuilding, they found out that it didn’t take long to be able to lean on the freshman. Now a sophomore coming off a summer that really raised his profile state wide, Washington isn’t a secret anymore and, simultaneously, it will be interesting to see how he handles added pressures. He did well with the pressures he had in some big games last year, leading the Cadets in wins over Snider and a Woodlan team that had just beaten eventual Class 3A state runner up Leo. Washington scored a career high 36 points against Bishop Dwenger in the Sectional semi final round after earlier in the week coming a rebound short of a triple double in that aforementioned Woodlan game (16 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds).
There are places that consider Washington a top 5 player in the class of 2024 in the state. Respect given there but a lot of that has to do with how well he was able to play this summer as one of the better scorers we saw with Indy Heat. Can he translate that consistently to Concordia? All signs point to yes. Washington is smooth with just about everything he does and there weren’t many growing pains in getting to the high school level. He averaged 14.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game last season as a long threat across the board.
COACH’S QUOTE ON AJANI WASHINGTON
“Ajani is one of the top PG’s in the state. He proved that last year starting from game one as a freshman. What Ajani did on the floor last year, did not look like a freshman. He has worked hard at his game this offseason and continues to add muscle in the weightroom. What I love about Ajani is his competitive nature and his ability to make everyone around him better! He does not like to lose! Ajani is a great young man and it is fun to watch him grow on and off the basketball court.” – Concordia Lutheran coach Phil Brackmann
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