With a heavy turnover to graduation, some may think that Blackhawk Christian may have a drop-off. But, until the Braves actually have one of those – and with two returning starters from a state champion teams – you have to consider them among the best in the area again as we head into a new season.
“We are looking for a great combination of returning vets and a healthy dose of young talent hungry to get their turn at the varsity level,” said Blackhawk Christian coach Matt Roth.
The returning vet part starts with 6-foot-9 junior Kellen Pickett, who is a clear Indiana Junior All-Star candidate. Pickett is a future Division 1 player and has become an often unbeatable force inside. Pickett is widely considered the best post and one of the top players in the area after averaging 13. 9 points and eight rebounds per game last season.
Back too in the starting lineup is senior Isaac Smith, who hit 79 threes last season while averaging 9.1 points. Smith is a high volume shooter who will help spread out the floor significantly.
Aiden Muldoon was a quality piece off the bench for the Braves a season ago and will now be tasked with controlling tempo at the point guard position. He averaged three points and 1.6 assists last season. Will Guthrie will return to add to the depth potential inside while Brennan Miller is another quality shooter that saw some varsity action last season.
Roth and Blackhawk Christian will see their potential depth come from the junior varsity level in a program that traditionally does a good job of developing their lower level players. Guards Bryce Sefton, Luke Mansfield and Ben Gray will have the chance to be part of the varsity rotation, as will forwards Christian Webster, Jaeden O’Neal and Jackson Hauser.
“We will need to improve shooting the there and managing a rotation throughout the early season,” Roth said.
They did win a state title a year ago.
A lot of things can fuel that and did, but the reality is that they still are defending state champions with a top tier center and having someone Pickett’s size with Pickett’s skill set can be a great equalizer when times get tough.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
A lot was lost to graduation and guys like Josh Furst (Purdue) and Gage Sefton (Grace) are not easy to replace immediately.
Until we see how these secondary guys are able to affect winning, then we just have high expectations for the Braves because of their historical relevance and their two returning starters.
November 28 at North Side
Blackhawk Christian’s early season does them no favors but game one is going to be a real litmus test. North Side is strong, but also lost some critical pieces to graduation and injury.
So it is a great test for both teams but it is also throwing guys like Muldoon and Guthrie to the wolves immediately with massively expanded varsity roles.
Without a conference to compete in, Blackhawk Christian can take their time developing for a postseason run, but you still have to be intrigued at how competitive the defending state champs can be from the first tip of the season.