Before we get to the Outside the Huddle All-Area Team and our end-of-year awards, Bounce wanted to take some time and take a last glance at area conferences and hand out some league-specific hardware.
Next up is the NE8.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Luke McBride, Norwell
The greatest scorer in Norwell history. Think about that. Think about how hard that is to accomplish. There have been some basketball studs coming through Norwell and none of them could reach that mountaintop that Darin Archbold once presented. McBride did and did so while not even being the main or secondary option his first season.
But this is about why he was the best player in the NE8 this season. And here is the most important reason: McBride blocked out all of the outside talk. The hate, the love, the questions, the respect, the disrespect: Luke McBride heard none of it and just went about his business while dominating the entire conference and retaining his track as one of the most feared scorers in the northern half of the state.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jackson McGee, Leo; Andrew Hedrick, Columbia City; Darrion Brooks, New Haven
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Jackson McGee, Leo
If you know Outside the Huddle, you know the drill. Who is the “best player” and who is the “most valuable” to their team are two different things in our eyes.
It made this choice a hard one because there were so many that provided important, if not critical, value to their teams.
McGee stands out because he had a constant presence as the Lions shifted into a rebuild this season after back-to-back semi state appearances. The expectations were on McGee because of how he performed in the postseason as a sophomore and he rallied to live up to them as a junior. Leo admittedly had their struggles this season and that’s not to say McGee didn’t have struggles too. But he kept his form and played to be the most consistent player he could to keep Leo churning towards being a threat in the NE8 still. McGee improved his shooting touch and was very active across the entire floor for the Lions.
HONORABLE MENTION: Lleyton Bailey, Norwell; Trey Hiteshew, Leo; Korbyn Hammel, New Haven
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Korbyn Hammel, New Haven
Very few freshmen get to make the impact that Hammel had this season. He finished the season averaging 8.7 points per game, but the important part for Hammel was that by the time the season concluded, he was among the top names on every single scouting report. To get that kind of respect as a freshman is outstanding. Hammel was important in important games, including 16 points in a win over rival Leo and 16 points and two steals in a closer than expected game opposite Norwell.
At the end of the day, people know Hammel’s name and they know the threat that he can bring as he gets older and stronger.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jake Parker, Norwell; Cohen Bailey, Norwell; Kord Fuelling, Bellmont; Stratton Fuller, Columbia City
COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike McBride, Norwell
What else is there to say? While the season at Norwell ended without postseason glory, what else is there at the Knights didn’t accomplish? McBride has the program running like a well-oiled machine. The feeder system is well taken care of, there are youth leagues that are well run and by the time players step onto the court for McBride’s varsity team, there are well known expectations and a play book of how to perform. And every team seems to find their groove to do just so. It was a dominant year inside the NE8 and there were out of conference marquee wins including over Homestead. Mike McBride, again, did all of the right things and made Norwell a perenial team to beat in Northeast Indiana.
HONORABLE MENTION: Matt Schauss, Columbia City
EARLY 2024 NE8 CHAMPION PREDICTION: Norwell
Read everything that was said above and repeat it here.
The Knights lose a senior class that have been pretty dominant in multiple sports their entire careers. Yes.
But the cupboard is hardly empty for Norwell basketball because Mike McBride and his staff have made sure that the next group is built up and that the next group is ready to play at an extremely high level.
Cohen Bailey is one to watch for after a solid breakout season this year and Ashton Federspiel can really help this team with an inside presence that Norwell always feeds off of. There will be some adjustments to be made at Norwell and many spots to be filled, but has McBride proven anything other than that he can do just that?