The Knights should be very good once again with everyone back from its roster that won 22 games last season. Last season, they won the Northeast 8 with a 6-1 record in league play.
This senior-laden group is led by Luke McBride, who averaged 19.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. McBride can score at all three levels and knows how to get his teammates involved. He’s a three-year starter that has seen it all which should help the Knights late in games or during a deep postseason run. He’s joined by Lleyton Bailey, who is a hard-nosed point guard and improved as a scorer and passer last season. He upped his scoring to 12 points per game and pushed his assists numbers to 3.2 a contest. Cohen Bailey and Gavin Hoeppner both got experience last season and give the Knights some solid depth in the backcourt. Jake Parker is a real problem in the low post and averaged over 10 points per game last season. Brody Bolyn returns as the team’s leading rebounder at 5.1 a game, and Luke Graft is another option in the frontcourt at 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game and has show the ability to put up points in bunches.
The Eagles made a big leap in year two under head coach Matt Schauss. Columbia City finished above .500 for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
Andrew Hedrick returns as the Eagles’ top player after he averaged 16.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in 2021-22. Hedrick’s assists numbers did dip last year but expect all of those numbers to increase as he’s one of just a few with serious varsity minutes.
“We will be led by Andrew Hedrick, who will elevate the game of each of his teammates. He’s a special talent who will prove that he’s one of the best, if not the best, players in the area,” Schauss said. Hedrick’s style of play will allow others to get open and knock down shots.
Seniors Rhet Wilson and Clayton Scott are the only other returners for the Eagles. Wilson played more than Scott and averaged 2.8 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. But look for both to have an increased role and provide some senior leadership this team will need.
The rest of the roster is made up of newcomers, including sophomore Stratton Fuller and juniors Brady Hartman, Aiden Denning, Kam Hoag and Tyler Crosson.
The Lions are coming off a three-year run that has featured a couple of deep tournament runs. Leo has won three straight sectional titles, two regional championships and one state finals appearance in the last three seasons.
For more postseason success to occur this season, it starts with juniors Trey Hiteshew and Jackson McGee who are both back after being key contributors and hit critical shots to keep their team alive in last year’s semistate game against Mishawaka Marian.
“Our program won’t have a lot of players with varsity minutes other than Trey Hiteshew and Jackson McGee. Those two gained a lot of big game experience last year but will need to step into bigger roles,” Leo coach Cary Cogdell said.
Hiteshew is a player any team would love to have. He can put the ball on the floor and finish near the rim. He’s also a strong defender that can shut down opposing guards. McGee is a knock down outside shooter, but he’s also worked on his inside game as well. During the summer, he displayed a willingness to battle in the paint and grab some rebounds. Sophomore Solomon Richard will be another guard the Lions can rely on to handle and distribute the ball. In the post, Luke Shappell might be the most ready to play while Eli LaGrange, Brock Schott and Tyler Nehls will battle for minutes. Schott has a lot of size and athleticism and it was on display during the football season.
The Bulldogs hope to have a turnaround season after finishing 11-13 last season. One area they must improve to turn it around is on defense. New Haven allowed nearly 68 points per game. It scored 67.7 points per game so offense wasn’t the problem. It gets plenty of offense from senior guard Darrion Brooks, who averaged 19 points a contest. He also hauled in 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. JC Cottrell and Joseph Robertson both logged significant varsity minutes and look to improve. Mylan Graham is also back and is coming off a fantastic football season. James Hardy will patrol the paint and Mathias Garcia will help with ball handling duties. Darrion Woods, Devin White and Korbyn Hammel are all newcomers that are expected to contribute.
“We are excited for this upcoming season. We are going to have a different look this season, we have some experience coming back with senior Darrion Brooks and JoJo Robertson, along with Mathais Garcia and junior Jeremiah Cottrell,” New Haven head coach Bruce Stephens said. “We also are excited to see some production from new guys in our program like junior Devin White and freshman Korbyn Hammel. Obviously, graduating Jakar Williams was a loss for our team inside, but James Hardy had a good summer working towards filling the inside presence for our group and the team collectively worked hard all off-season to come together and play as a team.”
The first season under head coach Marty Beasley was a learning one. Beasley’s system takes time to get right, and once it does, it’s tough to beat. Luckily, Beasley has several guys back that know his system and the Barons have a really good chance at finishing above .500 for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
“We feel like we will be more athletic, quicker, and hopefully more skilled. We must be able to shoot the ball better from three land than a year ago,” Beasley said. “We don’t have much size therefore we need to be more physical and work extremely hard on limiting second chance opportunities.” DeKalb’s Alex Leslie and Caden Pettis are both back and average more than seven points per game. Leslie isn’t afraid to battle inside too. He averaged 4.8 rebounds per game. Donnie Wiley is the top returning big man and scored 5.6 points and 3.1 rebounds a contest last season. Parker Smith is another guard that can help with the frontcourt depth for the Barons. The newcomers for the Barons are Caiden Hinkle, Kiefer Nagel, Braiden Boyd and Quentin Penrod.
The Braves finished with a solid 13-11 record a year ago despite going 1-6 in the Northeast 8. Its lone win was over Columbia City and five of those six losses were by single digits. Bellmont has a few players back from last season including junior Jack Scheumann, but as a team, it will be looking for its “toughness,” according to head coach Jonathan Fuelling. Scheumann leads a talented junior group after he scored 12.6 points, four rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Classmate Andrew James scored 7.6 a game last season, and senior DJ Kitson put up 3.3 points and 2.5 boards a contest. Senior Trent Geimer returns and the newcomers are juniors Kord Fuelling, Job Hoffman, Dylan Velez and sophomore Gavin Krull.
The Knights graduate five seniors from last year’s team and will have a lot of new faces in roles this season. Max Bender returns as the team’s top scorer and best defender. Bender wasn’t asked to score a lot last year but is capable of knocking down a shot from outside and getting to the rim. Owen Ritchie gave East Noble some much-needed outside shooting last season and is capable of heating up in a hurry. He shot 40 percent from distance and will need to add to his game to keep defenses honest this season. Hunter Kline is poised for a breakout season. He battled injury throughout the course of last season but showed flashes over the summer that he can score at all three levels and has improved as a defender. Owen Van Gessel missed most of last season with an injury but has the toughness the Knights will need to compete this year. Carver Miller and Carter Savoie both logged some varsity minutes last season but will be in new roles this season. Savoie and freshman Mason Treesh will share the point guard responsibilities. Guards Landon Swogger and Mason Hankins fill out the rest of the Knights rotation.
“We are super excited for this group! We did graduate five seniors, but we still have a solid group of seniors and leaders. We have a lot of guys who have grinded and waited for their turn to contribute. We are excited to play a faster style that fits more with what I am trying to do. We will be better defensively this year. We are excited to see who wants to step up and take the reins offensively,” East Noble coach Brandon Durnell said.
If you thought some teams in the conference graduated a lot from last year, Huntington North has everyone beat with nine lost from graduation.
“The Vikings graduated nine seniors from last year’s team who all contributed in a vast number of ways. Leadership, commitment, toughness, work ethic and statistically everything went with them. Vikes will be young, small and inexperienced except for Aric Hosler who received varsity minutes last year. It will be a year of adjustment and hopefully improvement throughout,” Vikings head coach Craig Teagle said.
As a junior, Hosler averaged 10 minutes a game and scored two points a contest last season. The Vikings have five more seniors who are all new to the varsity level. Lawson Doyle joins Hosler in the backcourt while Levi McElvaney, Ethan Hubartt and Cole McCarver all play in the frontcourt. They’ll be joined by junior Asher Chipchosky while junior Zach Nash and sophomore Ethan Zahn look to give the backcourt some depth.
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