It has been quite a journey for Coach Gary Andrews.
In 2018, the man who has captured state and national titles in girls’ basketball ventured back to Fort Wayne to take over the North Side boys’ program.
He thought he was taking over a machine that former coach Shabaz Khaliq had built. Instead, the talent scattered when Khaliq moved on, leaving a roster largely devoid of talent and experience.
Three wins in two years wasn’t what Andrews expected. But back-to-back double-digit victory campaigns have helped lay the groundwork for the Legends to return to relevance in northeast Indiana and beyond.
With a deep and experienced roster, North Side looks to be the most complete squad in the area entering the 2022-23 season.
Will they stay there? Time will tell.
“Our strengths and our depth and athleticism,” Andrews said. “We should be able to play good defense.”
Football standout Brauntae Johnson is back after leading the Legends in scoring last year at close to 19 points per game. Johnson was a force in all aspects, averaging close to 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals a contest as well.
North also returns its second-leading scorer in forward Jordan Green. The senior is a versatile athlete who notched averages of 13 points, 7.2 rebounds and and 2.1 blocks last season.
Andrews’ squad will need to replace Rodney Woods, who graduated last year. Brashawn Bassett (9.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.6 apg) is back and has the confidence of his coach after a rocky few years, but Bassett will miss some time early with an injury.
Center Jordan King, one of the best offensive linemen in the area, is back to man the middle. While not a huge scoring threat, King can be utilized as a space eater on defense and a guy who can clean up on the glass on both ends. He averaged a little over three points and three rebounds a game last year.
A trio of additions could pay off huge for the Legends. Quarterback Bohde Dickerson has elected to play hoops this winter after excelling on the football field as a senior after transferring from Bishop Dwenger. Junior Jaxson Fugate, a transfer from Garrett, averaged close to seven points and five rebounds a game as a sophomore with the Railroaders, while move-in Eugene Young, a junior 6-foot-5 forward, brings his talents up from Indianapolis Pike.
“Tae will be hard to guard and Jaxson and Eugene really help improve our talent level and they are good kids and good students,” Andrews said. “We should be able to get the ball down the floor quickly and score in transition.”
The Legends should have considerable depth with the likes of seniors Bravon Bassett (5.3 ppg), Michael Dye and Ivan Hood, as well as junior Javion Davenport.
While the talent is there, the Legends will still need to figure out how to play together as they mesh in Dickerson, Fugate and Young. There will likely be growing pains early on in the year, but if the roster stays together mentally and handles adversity well, North will be better as the year goes on.
“We should have a good season if we can stay healthy,” Andrews said.
While every other top team in the area lost key pieces from a year ago, North Side has returned the bulk of its production and added pieces. Johnson, Green and the Bassett boys are all a year older and more developed.
The Legends started the year 0-5 last year, but finished 10-6 and fell to Snider by a single point in sectional play.
On paper, North is the best team in the area. But how does this squad handle adversity? With the season starting off with road tests at Cathedral and Blackhawk Christian, that adversity could strike early on.
Jan. 20 at Homestead
Is North Side for real or not?
We will get indications either way before this mid-January showdown, but this one is huge in taking on the two-time defending league champions.
The expectation is that the November and December growing pains for this group will begin to pay dividends in the new year. This showdown, along with the matchup with up-and-coming Wayne on a few weeks before, will be benchmarks on whether this North squad is for real or just a paper tiger.
Bohde Dickerson, senior
Coach Gary Andrews has not been able to stop singing Dickerson’s praises, even referring to him as perhaps North Side’s second-best player overall.
Dickerson is a natural leader and he commanded the respect of his teammates on the gridiron despite being in his first season with the Legends.
That leadership needs to translate to the court, particularly with a team that appeared rudderless and without direction on the floor at times last year.
Dickerson’s contributions in the box score will be big for North, but it is the senior’s leadership skills that will be of paramount importance as this team goes through the ups and downs of the season.
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