BOUNCE: OTH Boys Basketball Player of the Year Connor Essegian has always been ‘that guy’

A year ago around this time, the Indiana Junior All-Stars were named and Connor Essegian was nowhere to be found on the list.

We all lamented on how big of a snub it was, at least those in Northeast Indiana who knew better. Over 365 days later, Essegian’s senior season has ended with many accolades including placing fourth in the Mr. Basketball voting and leading his team to a Class 2A state title game.

Connor Essegian didn’t just get good, he’s been that good.

And being that good has led Outside the Huddle to name Essegian our 2021-2022 Boys Basketball Player of the Year, presented by Hupe Insurance.

Essegian has had a relentless path to get where he is, even when he started garnering heavier attention as a freshman for Central Noble as they were making headway in the NECC that was starting to become a very deep and dangerous conference. It has meant staying in the gym, it has meant devoting countless hours, days and weeks to his craft and going from a kid who was just getting on the regional radar to having the chance to play Division I basketball at Wisconsin.

Where is Essegian when you want to talk to him? Probably in the gym. That is where he was when Outside the Huddle last caught up with him, to present him his Player of the Year trophy. It is probably where he is as you read this.

“It is truly what got to me where I am today,” Essegian said of his work ethic, even pre workout in an empty PAL Center in late April. “A lot of people say that, but for me and my story, it really is true. When I first started playing basketball, I wasn’t good at all. It was something I fell in love with at an early age, so it really just drives me to be in the gym everyday.”

The expectations were high for Central Noble and Essegian both for the 2021-22 season and they did not back down. The Cougars plowed their way to a third straight NECC Tournament title in January, but ultimately came up short in the regular season; a loss to Eastside squandered hopes of a regular season title. And even though Essegian is the last guy to make an excuse, an injury in that game certainly played a part. He didn’t have any excuses in the third meeting between the teams, a 50-36 Sectional title game win. The team then went on to beat Hammond Noll and defending Class 2A state champion Blackhawk Christian in Regionals before topping Carroll (Flora) at semi state to earn a trip to Gainbridge Fieldhouse and the State Finals.

They became the only Northeast Indiana area team to make the trip to Indianapolis this season. And despite a bad afternoon that saw them become a runner up, Essegian still managed 18 points and throughout the second half, reminded those watching how much of ‘that guy’ he is. For him, it was an all encompassing moment for all of the hard work from he and his Cougar teammates.

Central Noble’s Connor Essegian pulls up for a jump shot in front of Carroll’s Jake Skinner (24) in the first half of the Class 2A semistate championship at Elkhart North Side Gymnasium. (Photo by Chad Ryan)

“For me, always wanting to play on that big stage and finally get there…it didn’t come with the outcome any of us wanted…but to finally get there and just feel that moment, looking around when you first get out there and seeing all of the hard work to pay off. It was just unreal,” Essegian said.

In an area full of team first guys, Essegian is a leader on that list. But for us, pointing out how good he is as an individual is critical. From the time he stepped onto the court as a freshman for the Cougars, his scoring prowess was exciting to watch. He became the best freshman scorer the school ever saw and continued to build on that every season. Look at the record books now, all of them, and you will see Essegian after Essegian listed.

No Central Noble boys basketball player ever scored more points.

No Central Noble basketball player, regardless of gender, ever scored more points.

No Noble County basketball player ever scored more points.

And the ultimate testament to his ability to score: he now ranks 10th all-time in the state of Indiana in career scoring. Think about the talent that this state has seen on a high school level and let it sink in that only nine guys have ever done it better putting the ball in the basket.

Damon Bailey, Marion Pierce, Deshaun Thomas, Luke Brown, Romeo Langford, Brody Boyd, Rick Mount, Eric Hunter and Trevon Bluiett. That is the list of guys who ever scored more points than Connor Essegian in this state as he left guys like James Blackmon Jr., Seth Colclasure, Eric Gordon, Charlie Yoder, Shawn Kemp, Steve Alford, George McGinnis and Caleb Furst in his dust.

Essegian ended his high school career with 2,526 points.

“It is something I could never even think about being a reality. Dreaming of being on that list, even top 25, was something I always wanted to work for. To end up, when its all said and done, to be top 10 is something unreal to me,” Essegian said. “To look online and go to that record book and see my name at number 10, it is where God wanted me to be. It is a blessing that I take to heart.”

Connor Essegian is that guy. He always was, from his first day of high school basketball. Sure, he got better along the way, and became one of the best by the time he took that jersey off at Gainbridge Fieldhouse after the state finals. And good news for Wisconsin fans: he will likely continue to be that guy in the future that Northeast Indiana was honored to watch these past four seasons.

Its just good that the rest of the state finally took notice too.

These opinions represent those of  Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH

RELATED: 2021-22 Outside the Huddle Boys Basketball All-Area Team

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