Next five guys up for Central Noble have punctuated state finals run

Carroll’s Austin Kuns (13), left, tries to get in the way of Central Noble’s Conner Lemmon (15) during the first half on Saturday, March 19 at Elkhart North Side Gymnasium. (Photo by Chad Ryan)

While Central Noble has been headed up by Mr. Basketball candidate Connor Essegian, who draws a lot of attention from oppositions and interested media and fans, the Cougars are far from a one-trick pony.

This season especially, we have been wow’d by the breakout of Logan Gard. Always a solid hand, Gard has become of the best post players in the area and has really turned his game into a multi-dimensional thing.

Essegian and Gard are at the forefront as Central Noble prepares for Saturday’s state title game in Class 2A opposite Providence. But as Outside the Huddle spoke to Central Noble coach John Bodey this week, it was important to discuss and highlight the next five guys up, heavily featured in the rotation alongside Essegian and Gard.


The third cog in the “big three” Central Noble had coming into the year, Schroeder has not disappointed. He plays like he is always going to outwork everyone. Every recent state champion in the area has had that gritty, intangible guy to be successful. Ben Skowronek for Homestead, Michael Pulver and Jacob Boyer for Blackhawk Christian; this type of guy is needed if you want to get your hands on the big trophy.


“Ryan Schroeder is a basketball guy, he makes winning plays. He has done that for three years. I still go back to his sophomore year, we are playing Prairie Heights at our place and we had just beat them in the conference tourney final. We are down five with like a minute to go and he dives on the floor for a ball, we are trapping them and there is a loose ball and he dives on the floor after it and gives us a possession. He always makes the right pass, gets the deflection, the steal. Against Carroll (Flora), Connor was covered and he looks diagonal across the court and found Ryan ready for a three and Ryan put us up seven. He just makes winning plays.”


Shepherd isn’t big or flashy, but defensively he changes the game a lot. He can guard anyone on the perimeter and has the speed and lateral quickness to not let guys get past him. As long as Shepherd is keeping those guys in front, it forces tougher shots and lower percentage shots, which allows players like Gard and Essegian to work more comfortably inside around the rim.


“Probably our best on the ball defender. He may play 10-12 minutes a game, but when he is there he is harassing the other team’s ball handlers. He’s had several games he has frustrated the ball handlers for the other team.”


Designated in the minds of many as a shooter first, Lemmon is another guy who just personifies grit. Noticing a trend now for the Cougars? Lemmon can dig deep and rarely is going to end a night not dripping in sweat because of how hard he goes. And that shot? Well that aim can be pure, just ask John Bodey….


“He’s one of those guys, you leave him open to help on Connor, he will make you pay. He’s a really good shooter, shoots high 30 percent from three and he’s even got a little driving game now where he will drive it and hit the runner in the lane or drive it and finish at the rim. He just keeps getting better.”


A basketball family guy, Andrews has seen his father have success and win a state title as an assistant on the girls side at Central Noble. He has become perhaps the next man up when Central Noble retools next season after losing arguably its best class ever after Saturday. As a possible heir apparent, Andrews continues to be the ultimate student of the game and has grown significantly in his trustworthiness and decision making during the 2021-22 season.


“The bad thing for Jack is he had the foot injury, he’s been sick a couple of times, he had an ankle injury. Jack has fought a lot this year just to be on the court and I think he’s only missed one or two games. It has been a constant fight but he wants to be on the court. He is a gym rat and he is going to do what it takes to get on the court. Jack is one of those guys, he is a good ball handler, gets us going in our offense and then we usually put him on the team’s second or third best offensive player. He did a really good job with Lewis Jones at Blackhawk. He and Conner Lemmon did a really good job staying attached to him and not giving him anything.”


Length and heady defensive play has seen this sophomore find his role in the Central Noble lineup. Essegian has started to carve out his own place; he doesn’t play like his brother and he doesn’t try to fit that role. Instead, Essegian digs down into what makes his game better. Down the line, he will be required to be in a bigger offensive role, but right now he has prided himself on making a defensive difference for the Cougars.


“He’s been good defensively for us, but the job he did on the Sefton kid in the Blackhawk game, it just made it difficult on him. He busted through screens and didn’t get screened and just got in position where it was tough on Sefton.”

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