The charge for Central Noble to try and win another NECC title and another NECC Tournament title and, perhaps, another elusive Sectional title, is led by Connor Essegian.
And that isn’t a bad place to be at all.
The senior guard has committed to play for Wisconsin and despite an Indiana Junior All-Star snub last season, is considered an Indiana Mr. Basketball contender this season and for good reason. Essegian averaged 24 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game last season as one of the area’s very best players regardless of class.
Back to are fellow seniors Logan Gard (8.5 points/5.9 rebounds per game) and Ryan Schroeder (5.8 points/6.3 rebounds/3.5 assists per game). Both of those seniors have played crucial roles in back to back NECC Tournament titles and sharing last season’s regular season title. Gard has established himself as arguably the top post player in the conference while Schroeder has been able to become a strong lead and secondary guard.
“We should be versatile with depth. We need to find a second and third scorer,” Central Noble coach John Bodey said.
That secondary scoring will be needed to replace Sawyer Yoder and his 13.2 points per game. While Gard and Schroeder both have the chance to fill in that role, there are plenty of more options from other returners to the lineup.
Senior Aidan Dreibelbis will see more of a role, and a lot of focus will be on how much junior Conner Lemmon and sophomore Jackson Andrews have progressed. Lemmon (3.2 ppg) is a really high caliber shooter who has displayed toughness on both ends of the court and Andrews (4.7 points/2.6 rebounds per game) is one of the most diverse talents in the NECC who is expected to help lead the defensive effort.
Six other players with little or no varsity experience have the chance to see some time, including senior Noah Shepherd. A talented sophomore class is headed up by Sam Essegian with Isaiah Gard, Braden Kirchner and Spencer Adams also having the chance to contribute at some point this season. Freshman Redick Zolman could also see some time.
Can Central Noble replicate last season’s 24-2 record? It will take a lot of work, but they certainly have the pieces and the depth to try and make that work.
A loaded team with a Mr. Basketball candidate at the forefront? How is that team not highly ranked anywhere at any time. Connor Essegian’s talent certainly has this team on everyone’s radar but the reality is that this team is deep.
From Gard and Schroeder to Lemmon and Andrews and beyond, there are a lot of successful pieces. On top of that, they are experienced and pretty well proven assets. Central Noble has the pieces in place to win, so. if they can remain consistent, they have every right to be considered favorites in the NECC, Sectional round and beyond.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Enhancing and spreading out their schedule will help. We’ve seen Central Noble be part of the class of the NECC and a top team in Northeast Indiana for a few years, but how do they succeed with a bit tougher of a schedule.
We want to see Central Noble have success against those other teams (see below’s critical game). Outside of another heavy year of NECC play, they get to play in the Tipoff Classic, face ACAC favorite Woodlan at Grace College and also battle the SAC’s South Side.
Fun games away, will Central Noble be successful on every level?
December 11 vs. Barr-Reeve at Southport’s Tipoff Classic
Central Noble builds their resume almost immediately with the defending Class 1A state champion at one of the state’s premier in-regular season events. Getting to the Tipoff Classic was crucial and now getting to play one of the best small school programs in the area means a lot.
Sure, a win here secures Central Noble a lot of attention. But better than that, there could be major momentum tied to this game. With it coming so early in the season, a big showing could have the Cougars rolling with as much confidence as they’ve had in a long time.
Ryan Schroeder, senior
The senior is that guy who pushes pace, tempo and the team can thrive off of what he does. You want to have that guy that a team rallies behind and, as a senior, he is going to be expected to play some big time leadership roles.
Schroeder is hard worker and it lays the foundation for everything that Central Noble needs to do in a gritty and physical conference.