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. 15-11
No. 15 Jaxson Gould, Warsaw
One of the most eye opening Class of 2023 players in the area last season, Gould has earned the respect of his peers with his play. He plays very efficient basketball and makes the most of the time he has the ball in his hands. He shot 50 percent from the field and 82 percent from the free throw line last season. Gould scored 16.6 points per game and scored over 20 on seven different occasions, including 4 of his last 5 games and a career best 32 points in a season ending loss to Elkhart.
A highlight of how Gould plays is his excellent lateral movement. He is strong side to side and incredibly strong a lot of the time, making him a lock down defender and also a hard to contain offensive player, especially off ball as he is able to free himself to roam around at will. The fact that he has a high basketball IQ and knows when and where to move helps as well. He also averaged 5.2 rebounds and 2 steals per game last season.
No. 14 Jakar Williams, New Haven
This is a really exciting year to see how Williams can combine his court vision and physicality. In previous seasons, the Bulldogs have used Williams in a point guard role a lot, which is a sight to see. He’s usually one of the most physical presences on the court, but as a point guard you can really see how nimble and intelligent he is controlling the basketball; he averaged 4.2 assists to go with 11 points per game last season. Continuing to lead the Bulldog basketball team has helped immensely with his mobility in that area and will also help him in the post.
While Williams has not been used as a “true post” much at New Haven, the insertion of more guards to the Bulldog lineup means that we could see him used all over the floor this season. He won’t step out to shoot much but did shoot 61 percent inside the arc, including five games shooting 75 percent. He was a perfect shooter twice last season going a combined 9-of-9 against Adams Central and Heritage. Williams also averaged 6.2 rebounds per game and will be the top returning player on the team in rebounding and assists.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JAKAR WILLIAMS
“Jakar Williams is going into his fourth year on varsity and his experience and leadership will help determine our success.” – New Haven coach Bruce Stephens
No. 13 Austin Cripe, West Noble
Don’t let the fact that the Chargers were in the middle of a loaded NECC last season distract you from the fact that Cripe was one of the very best players in that loaded conference. He comes into his junior season as one of the state’s biggest potential breakout stars. Put all of his other successes aside and Cripe can just flat out score and it doesn’t really matter if its summer, winter or who the other team is. He averaged 18.3 points per game in 2020-21. In the process, he shot 56 percent from the field, 41 percent from three point range and 78 percent from the foul line. Only four times last season was he held to single digit scoring.
There isn’t much hesitation in Cripe’s game and you don’t see that enough from player this age. He works hard and he plays as if he can take it to any defender. That competition driven work from Cripe makes him standout nightly. He is great at closing defensive gaps, making opposing players work to find anything resembling a good shot. His defense is almost criminally underrated as he averaged 2.4 steals per game and has the toughness to play inside-out on the defensive end.
COACH’S QUOTE ON AUSTIN CRIPE
“Austin Cripe was our leading scorer and rebounder last season. He has worked extremely hard this offseason to improve his body and become stronger. He can really shoot it, but an underrated part of his game is his play-making ability. He finds the open guy and that allows him to be a really efficient scorer. He has stepped up into a leadership role and we’re excited for him. He just loves the game and all of that makes him a pleasure to coach.” – East Noble coach Ethan Marsh
No. 12 Luke Saylor, Heritage
When Luke Saylor gets hot, there really isn’t anything you can do to stop him. The problem with that for Heritage opponents? He gets hot often and his shooting is next level. Healthy again after some injuries that hampered his summer, Saylor had five games where he shot over 50 percent from long range last season and had 13 games where he hit multiple three pointers in a game. He really has developed his game beyond that though last season as a sophomore and beyond. As teams keyed on his shooting, Saylor has found the knowledge to weave his way to the rim around defenders and really isn’t shy about contact even with his slighter frame.
Effort goes a long way sometimes and Saylor has been able to demonstrate that in droves. He is a solid on ball defender that never gives up if someone gets by him or even if a team gets on the break. It isn’t beyond Saylor to chase opponents down, back tap the ball or secure a blocked shot. Saylor averaged 19.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.5 steals per game last season, flexing the diversity of his game along the way.
COACH’S QUOTE ON LUKE SAYLOR
“Luke is an extremely skilled basketball player. Luke shoots it at a high level, can score it at the rim and from the mid range. Luke’s court vision is what sets him apart from other players. He sees openings that others do no and makes passes that are on time and on target. Luke has good defensive instincts as well, he has an eye for the ball and anticipates passes, and he also is a solid rebounder. Luke is coming off of a wrist injury that kept him out for the summer, he has been working hard to get himself ready for the season. More than anything Luke is a great teammate and leader.” – Heritage coach Adam Gray
No. 11 Aidan Lambert, Snider
Lambert demands respect and how can you not like that? He spent his summer diversifying his opportunities and playing above the rim, wowing audiences wherever he was playing. He showed some signs of that flash last season and is really going to be one of the most watched this season in the SAC because of his highlight reel playmaking and dunking. Lambert floats, basically everywhere on the court, and its not just for those dunks. He is sneaky as he moves, not loud or heavy and finds gaps off ball that many others aren’t working to protect. Kudos to him and his ability to read those openings, which is how he finds such great success.
Lambert averaged 14.5 points per game last season, adding 4.9 rebounds per game. As teams started to key in on him in the second half of the season, Lambert became a better passer because of the aforementioned IQ he has for gaps on the floor. He gets everyone else involved, as seen by his six assists against South Side and seven against Marion. Don’t expect for him to be a player that lets up in any aspect of the game at this point now that he knows what successes he can drive with his ferocity in the game.
COACH’S QUOTE ON AIDAN LAMBERT
“Aidan continues to soar to new levels. His defense has sparked his offensive play over the summer and in the preseason, and with that intensity, we have a chance to be pretty good. Aidan is a willing passer, can really shoot, and is an excellent driver and finisher. We’re looking forward to Aidan competing with a relentless intensity, as he takes on the challenge of guarding opponents’ top wing.” – Snider coach Jeremy Rauch
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