Although spring basketball has been full motion for a while now, June will bring some change. Players will have very little going on with their summer teams and teammates as they slide back to their high school programs for a month full of shootouts and tournaments before returning to their summer teams for July.
The full slate of June games is always fun and it can give a sneak peek at what to expect next winter. With such a high volume of seniors graduating in the Class of 2022, next basketball season should look very different across the area.
Here are some people and teams that are worth keeping an eye on throughout June.
AJANI WASHINGTON AND COLE HAYWORTH, CONCORDIA
The Cadets are in great shape from top to bottom with a complete host of returners next season. But their stars are in the cage for two more years and that has to be exciting.
Ajani Washington was really good as a freshman and then broke out last summer quite a bit. Lets just say what he did in the summer of 2021 translated to the high school court. He opened the season shining against Leo, even in a loss and his big offensive games helped Concordia be in the SAC title conversation late in the season. Washington’s defense doesn’t get enough love and he has been showcasing it at a high level this spring with Indy Heat Red. Watch him rise above the rim on defense and things are almost slow motion he looks down on a blocked shot from above. Its impactful and a bit beautiful.
Hayworth was a breakout player last season and had games where he looked almost unstoppable around the basket. He provides an inside-outside punch with Washington, but at the same time he can also step out and create for himself. If the Cadets are a SAC contender, it will be because this duo works so well off each other.
KENNEDY FUELLING, NORWELL
Norwell didn’t have a huge letdown season in 2021-22 with more youth than they’ve had in a while. A big part of that comes in Fuelling, who should be on everyone’s radar as a potential breakout star during her upcoming junior season.
Read that word again: star. Fuelling has played two different roles in two different seasons for the Knights but expectations are going to be sky high for her this coming winter. She can fill up a stat sheet and before 2022-2023 is done, we could be talking about her as the best player in the area.
With Norwell teammate Skyla Tomasek going to be coming off a surgery this summer, there will be more of an onus on Fuelling to lead this team mentally and physically.
JACKSON MCGEE AND TREY HITESHEW, LEO
How about another set of Class of 2024 guys? When we talk about shifts, Leo is going to have a big one this season. The guys that were part of the state finalist team in 2021 are all gone now and there are big shoes to fill. The Lions haven’t had to lean completely on post control the past two seasons, but they have had a lot of it and it has been a nice backbone.
This is going to be a guard oriented team now and McGee and Hiteshew were able to get their feet wet this past season as sophomores. White Hiteshew saw the bigger role early in the season, it was McGee who was important in the second half of the year, getting a lot of starts down the stretch and hitting some big shots even into the semi state game.
Now they will start together in the backcourt with a strong ability to stretch the floor, even if it is for each other and themselves. Both can knockdown shots, but they have an ability to get to the rim with Hiteshew being strong enough to bully himself there and McGee possessing a smoothness to slip through defenses.
McGee has shined on a solid Indy Heat Red team so far this spring and Hiteshew has brought a new edge to Team Focus. Getting them back on the court together in June is going to give us a great idea of what Leo can do moving forward.
Last year, Northrop was going through a bit of an overhaul into June with one of their new star sisters still on the shelf. This will be a full month of activity this summer that will really allow the Bruins to try and settle in, something they had to still do a lot of once the season came around last year.
Saniya and Nevaeh Jackson are fantastic and we all know that; they’ve been energetic leaders of every court they’ve been on the last few years in school or AAU. So while we want to see them because its fun, there are others we want to see how they grow. Riley Pepple is one of those; she blended in pretty seamlessly after transferring to Northrop during the school year last Fall but I want to see if she can stand out and not just blend in now. Pepple has huge potential to give Northrop another big defensive and scoring threat if she plays intense.
And of course, the addition of reigning OTH All-Area player Destini Craig is huge. Craig is a fantastic presence inside and out and she really could be the missing link.
Back to Wells County and residents of The Castle. And why? Because the Norwell boys have a huge weight to carry now as they once again will be looked at as frontrunners in the NE8 and in the area when the new season comes around.
They are loaded up top with a senior-to-be class that have been cutting their teeth for three years and are now ready to carry that full load. At the top, we don’t question that. The Luke McBrides, Lleyton Baileys, Jake Parkers of the world have proven a lot and they can win a lot of games.
June will show us about the Knights’ depth. Last June, the majority of their key guys didn’t get much time at all in shootout season because of their baseball responsibilities and Norwell’s deep run in the state tournament. But it did provide us with a glimpse of what else the Knights could have behind their power at the top. We want to see more of that displayed this June too. One guy to keep an eye on specifically that Bounce has seen this spring: senior-to-be Gavin Hoeppner. After plying his trade on JV last year, Hoeppner could be a major varsity asset this season. He has a quick first step and can be a lights out shooter from everywhere on the court. And trust me when I say EVERYWHERE.
ANNIKA DAVIS, BISHOP LUERS
Get in your time machine and go back to Davis’ gigantic freshman year at South Side. It was something to behold, but the casual fan may have lost sight of Davis due to her being relegated to JV last season due to IHSAA rules after a transfer to Bishop Luers. Well, Davis is now going to back fully in sight and you should take notice immediately if not sooner.
She got an invite to the IBCA Top 100 Underclass workout without being a varsity player last season so that should speak volumes. A steady combo guard with an ability to explode physically, Davis was ranked 19th in OTH’s Preseason Top 50 because she was going to be that good. A year away from a heavier spotlight probably only made her hungrier after spending this spring with OPS.
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