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. 10-6.
No. 10 Andrew Leeper, Homestead
Is it possible that we haven’t seen the best of Andrew Leeper yet? He continually shows flashes of brilliance with his defensive ability and his work around the rim, but there seems to be even more to be uncovered about his game. That has exciting principles for the season ahead for Leeper and the Spartans. Leeper has been one of the standouts of the Class of 2022 since his early middle school years because of how much higher his athleticism is than a lot of his peers. Leeper is able to do a lot of things on the court and with maximum effort, he is a high end rebounder (one of the area’s best) and a tough person to stop from eight feet in.
A season ago, he averaged 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game but his production will be looked at to increase with the graduation of a couple of players who handled more of the offense last season. With the attention in the area and state still focusing on Homestead, Leeper will be handed added pressure. He had a strong summer and handled increased pressure there well so indications are that he can do so. His 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting against Snider last year showed just how efficient that Leeper is on his best days. His next 17 point game came on 7-of-7 shooting against Concordia. Leeper is strong inside finisher whether it is a highlight reel dunk or by utilizing good spin moves to find space in the mid range or a soft roll at the rim.
No. 9 Luke McBride, Norwell
In his first two seasons, McBride has scored 785 points and is well on his way to the 1,000 point mark. There aren’t many players in the area that can score with the smoothness that McBride has established in his career. He has a sweet touch from long range and continues to get better attacking the rim. Last season, he really started showing much more of a diverse offense than he had showcased previously and it made teams make snap moment changes. Fortunately for McBride, the son of two coaches, he has a high end IQ and adjusting to him is not very easy.
McBride can be a near elite defender and he has the ability to take over the point guard role as well as the off guard with good ball-handling and excellent vision. You could probably call McBride an above average facilitator to add to his high end three-point shooter tag. He is a versatile player that could become a pass first guard or playmaking slasher depending on the team’s needs. McBride has composure and confidence. He averaged 21.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per. game last season.
COACH’S QUOTE ON LUKE MCBRIDE
“Luke has worked hard to improve his game, and we are looking forward to seeing his leadership take a big step this season! He has established himself as one of the top players in the area, and we look forward to seeing what our team can accomplish this season.” – Norwell coach Mike McBride
No. 8 Caedmon Bontrager, Leo
Bontrager has been absolutely unguardable in the past with Lakewood Park. After a brief detour to Elevation Prep, the center is now with the defending Class 3A runner up with a handful of guys he has grown up playing with. It leads to the thought that Bontrager won’t miss a beat when it comes to the connection with his teammates. In just eight games with Lakewood Park last season, Bontrager averaged 21.8 points and 10.3 points per game. There aren’t many, if any, players in the the area that can be relied upon to get you a double-double quite like Bontrager. Bontrager is a very intelligent and efficient player who has always made the most of his opportunities to control the space around the basket from six feet in.
He has started to venture out more and more and add a better shot to his arsenal. Bontrager is always moving, always grinding to try and get better and that kind of mindset fits in perfectly in Leo’s system. He has been an absolute game changer in the past and he will always have that potential going forward. His length and frame, combined with that effort, makes him a great defender to control the paint and protect the rim. That said, he is a strong on ball defender outside of the interior and presents a tough challenge to any player he may switch onto.
COACH’S QUOTE ON CAEDMON BONTRAGER
“Caedmon is a good addition to our team. He is long and a very good athlete. His ability to go inside and outside makes him a tough match-up. He has the ability to defend, rebound, pass, and score in a number of ways. We really like his versatility.” – Leo coach Cary Cogdell
No. 7 DJ Allen, Leo
Allen has certainly strengthened his defensive prowess and that showed as he, at points, handled a Mr. Basketball runner up during the Class 3A state finals last season. The Rutgers football commit has built up his body since last season and that change in his frame is very noticeable. Because of that, expect his defense to just get stronger as it will be harder to push him in the paint. His defense and leadership, combined with an expectation of success based on the last couple of years of basketball and football, makes Allen a guy that Leo will rely on significantly.
Allen never stops and anyone who has had to deal with him on the court or the field will tell you that. Because of that resolve, Allen has been able to push back against some of the best in the area and in the state. He averaged 13 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season. One thing about Allen that will immediately jump out while watching him is his length and how he uses it. His length and quickness both allow him to be great at closing out and his ability to close the distance and make outside shots for the opposing team challenging is a great asset.
COACH’S QUOTE ON DJ ALLEN
“DJ is a good leader with an excellent motor. His ability to defend well without fouling is his greatest basketball asset, but he also brings rebounding and scoring. We will need him to be more vocal in his leadership this year with the loss of six seniors.” – Leo coach Cary Cogdell
No. 6 Brauntae Johnson, North Side
It has been a long time since a freshman has shined so brightly anywhere in Northeast Indiana. The kid known as Tae Tae has become one of the most natural athletes in the area and has the basketball chops to make that athleticism really shine. An All-Area player last season as a freshman, Johnson posted single digit scoring just twice in his freshman year and was able to score in a variety of ways to reach 17.3 points per game. Almost as good as that, his motor to make things go for North Side from the point guard position allowed him to build his IQ and court vision to the point that he posted 5.5 assists per game.
Johnson is the real deal on the basketball court and it shouldn’t be forgotten even after he has established himself as the top Class of 2024 football player in the state. He has a knack for changing speed and direction on a dime and on the basketball court that means that defenders are often completely off balance trying to even keep up with him. Johnson remains the total package on a basketball court as he can do everything above average. As he continues to try and do all of those things on elite levels, Johnson will be one of the best players in the area for years to come and could end up being the best player in the almost 100 year history of North Side basketball.
COACH’S QUOTE ON BRAUNTAE JOHNSON
“Tae is just such a good all around player. He can score, rebound , pass, play defense and he is a great kid. He makes us go from the point guard position.” – North Side coach Gary Andrews
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