So making New Year’s Resolutions is hard.
Bounce doesn’t stick to them. I mean, eat healthier? Pass. Work out more? Meh. Learn a new trade? Hard pass.
What makes them easier? Making them for other people. See that way, I don’t have to live up to anything. I just show up, do my job and expect others to do the impressive work. That way, they win and I win by making it a resolution.
So here are my top 5 resolutions for area prep basketball teams or players in the new year.
1. A STATE TITLE
This is a no-brainer, right? Of course I want a state title for our area. But we haven’t had a lot of those lately unless your name is Blackhawk Christian.
The Braves, as well as Central Noble, have to be heavy favorites on the boys side in Class 2A, while Homestead looks to be a challenger in 4A. On the girls side, Homestead and Columbia City in 4A, Garrett in 3A and Fairfield in 2A are all state powers as 2021 came to a close. And yes, there are plenty of other contenders mixed in there too from the Leo boys to Norwell girls and beyond.
But is a state title in the cards for our area? There has not been a champion on the boys side not named Blackhawk Christian since 2015. We had back to back area champs in 2017 (Homestead) and 2018 (Central Noble) on the girls side, but haven’t put a team in the state finals since.
Bounce wants a state title. Well, more than one would be great, but lets get one at least. Of course, its a little pressure resolution since all of these teams are already pressuring themselves to get to this moment at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Fingers crossed.
2. UNPRECENDENTED MR. AND MISS BASKETBALLS
Our area had Mr. Basketball last season with Caleb Furst. The last girls Miss Basketball for the area came in 2017 with Karissa McLaughlin.
But could we have both in the same year? There has to be a real chance.
Ayanna Patterson is a UConn commit, a likely McDonald’s All-American and has to be considered an overwhelming frontrunner for Miss Basketball, in what would give the Homestead girls their second of those honors in six seasons. On the boys side, Fletcher Loyer and Connor Essegian are considered by most among the top contenders for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball with players like Jalen Jackson and Aidan Lambert putting early claim to Indiana All-Star status.
The last time our area, as we see it, saw both Mr. and Miss Basketball was 1996 when it was won by Warsaw’s Kevin Ault and Huntington North’s Lisa Winter. 22 years later I want to see it again.
3. CONFERENCE EXPANSION
This is a topic that hasn’t even been discussed. But here I am to break it wide open.
Why? I want area teams like Warsaw or the forever independent Blackhawk Christian to be considered in one of the big 4 area conferences; SAC, NE8, ACAC and NECC.
But really, beyond that I want a bigger ACAC.
Seven teams is just not enough for a conference. Adding teams wouldn’t ruin some of the things that are so great about the ACAC, but expanding the conference could add more fun. Wouldn’t next winter’s (2023) 100th boys ACAC Tournament be made better with more than 7 teams and the weird bracket that makes up?
The ACAC should have at least eight teams if not up to 10 total. We don’t even have to rebrand the conference because of all the history the ACAC has. But we also have to admit that the Allen County Athletic Conference is named oddly and Adams and Jay counties probably feel slighted. But keep it the ACAC, I am on that side. Just give me more teams.
Is this going to happen in 2022? Absolutely not. It may never happen. But in the quest for some balance, and admittedly with some OCD, I want the ACAC to expand. And if other conferences working in the likes of Warsaw or BC sent some teams the ACAC’s way, the better.
Pipe dream here, but hey isn’t that what this column is all about?
4. A NEW HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
If you’ve read columns lately, you know I want this.
The SAC Holiday Tournament is gone. It isn’t coming back. But does that mean that we couldn’t find new ways to do things.
One, I have always wondered why the Northeast 8 doesn’t do a conference tournament. While the NECC and ACAC have to have weirder brackets to make their tournaments happen, doesn’t an 8 team conferecne just naturally lend itself to a conference tournament? Yes, tournaments in recent years at Huntington North and Columbia City have kind of involved the NE8 in a lot of ways on the boys side. But a true NE8 tournament is something I would really like to see.
If that doesn’t happen, can we get an 8 boys team and 8 girls team tournament with the top teams each year?
I have used other examples in the past, but what about a Westview/Northrop boys game or a Snider/Jay County girls game. We could get some fun stuff if we took the top area teams each year and had them go at it.
But only if they have as good of a hospitality room as Wayne used to have for the SAC Holiday Tournament. Sorry Gary Raber, I am making you be in charge of my dream tournament.
5. MORE CROSSOVER PLAYERS
I want to see less kids focus on one sport. It’s the great debate right? Focus on one or play multiple; what is better for kids as athletes?
We’ve lost girls basketball players in recent years who just want to focus on volleyball, which is disappointing. Meanwhile players like Garrett senior Morgan Ostrowski or graduated 2021 all-area Lakeland player Bailey Hartsough shine by being high level volleyball players that made the transition to basketball.
What about some of these football players I constantly want on the court? Yeah I joked about OTH football Player of the Year Laban Davis doing it but there are some big time guys I honestly thought should be playing basketball to see if they could succeed there as well as they did this fall on the football field.
For every Landen Livingston who just takes the chance and plays hoops as a D1 football commit, we are missing out on the Rowan Zolman’s of the world.
For that matter, getting high end basketball players on the football field is good too. Could you have imagined Jalen Jackson or Connor Essegian catching passes on a football field this past fall?
We get to see some crossovers but I want more.
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