Outside the Huddle and Bounce are counting down who it feels are the top 50 individual boys basketball players in northeast Indiana heading into the 2022-23 season.
Today, we unveil five of the best in the area at positions No. 40-36.
No. 40: Isaiah Malone, Prairie Heights
Malone had an extremely good season, averaging 14.5 points and 7.6. rebounds while really making the fans outside of the NECC aware of his presence. It helped that he was able to shoot 48 percent from the field as his height and length made him a really tough matchup inside. He is a high motor guy that really excels at the defensive end as a rim protector and shot altering post, averaging 3.2 blocks per game. Malone really succeeds when he handles pressure in a composed way and plays a great yin to Chase Bachelor’s yang. He blocked four or more shots on seven occasions in the 2021-22 season.
No. 39: Jackson Andrews, Central Noble
A healthy Jackson Andrews is a very, very dangerous threat and has every chance to be one of the best players in the NECC by the time the season ends. Unfortunately, that healthy part has evaded him in big stretches of his career so we have yet to really see the best Jackson Andrews to this point. As a junior, he will look to build on his 4.6 point, 2.6 rebound and 2.3 assist averages. The son of a coach, Andrews is very heady in the game and makes good decisions and reads with ball that will allow him to be a great combo guard for the Cougars that can drop into most roles that he is needed for.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JACKSON ANDREWS
“Jack is coming off of a solid sophomore season, but during last season Jack was hindered with injuries and illness. We are excited to see Jack get a healthy junior season. Jack brings good ball skills and a high basketball IQ to this team,” – Central Noble coach John Bodey
No. 38: Lleyton Bailey, Norwell
Bailey is a natural leader and he has shown that as a quarterback on the gridiron but also in developing into Norwell’s basketball’s QB running the point. He just sees things really well and better yet, he sees them through defenses as he is rarely bothered while being hounded with the ball in his hands. He averaged 3.2 assists per game to go with his 12. points and was a 41 percent shooter from long range. Bailey is a true grit guy, not settling for being a perimeter passer. He will get to the paint and make decisions amongst the physicality, very good at drawing fouls and getting to the line where he hit 85.7 percent last season.
COACH’S QUOTE ON LLEYTON BAILEY
“Lleyton is tremendous worker, and he has a real toughness about him that you want in a point guard. We are excited to watch his leadership grow this season, and we look forward to seeing him help our team have a successful season this year.” – Norwell coach Mike McBride
No. 37: Preston Ross, Bishop Dwenger
Ross excels at being the clean up man inside, wrangling a lot of loose balls off misses or even turnovers. Expect Ross to always be in the scramble for the ball within 10 feet of the rim. Ross averaged 6 points and 6 rebounds per game last season but is one of the best true post and tenacious posts returning to the area. There is no denying Ross’ motor and he has proven to be a pivotal role player for the Saints in the past, although he will have to do a lot more this season while just enhancing his roles inside as the Saints don’t have much size. He can score and pass around the basketball because of how good his motor is.
COACH’S QUOTE ON PRESTON ROSS
“Preston is back for his third year as a varsity player. While defense and rebounding have always been his strength, we are looking for him to step up offensively for us. He is very capable of averaging a double double this year. He will need to take on a leadership role this year.” – Bishop Dwenger coach Matt Kostoff
No. 36: Monte Smith, Wayne
While Bounce doesn’t put a ton of weight into the summer and fall ball compared to last season’s tangible varsity time, here is where we make a bit of an exception. Monte Smith, arguably, made the biggest leap since last season ended in the area and any argument against that isn’t a good one. Smith is a multi-tool combo guard who has zero issue taking control of the game. He gets to the rim and finishes well, playing above the rim in some instances. He is like the Energizer Bunny as he just keeps going and going and going with seemingly no end in sight. Smith averaged 8.6 points and 1.5 steals per game last season but those numbers no doubt go up as he has become one of the most must see players in the area in the last five months for his skill, energy and leadership on the court.
COACH’S QUOTE ON MONTE SMITH
“Monte had a great spring/summer. he gained so much confidence and it bleeds over to the Wayne mens basketball program. Monte is what makes us go; he is selfless and mature beyond our belief.” – Wayne coach Byron Pickens
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