With many of the same guys back now for a second or third varsity year, expectations have risen again that Leo will compete at the top of the Northeast 8 Conference.
Leading the return group are seniors Jackson McGee and Trey Hiteshew; McGee is coming off a tremendous junior season where he averaged 18.3 points per game and Hiteshew helped add offensively with 13.4 points per game. Juniors Brock Schott and Sol Richard and sophomore Nolan Hiteshew are also back to provide experience for the Lions. The Lions will add guards Colton Wallace and Grant Johnson, combo Ayden Moore and post Landon Ruoff to their core.
“It will be important for us to build good chemistry and be willing to do the little things to be able to compete in our conference and our sectional,” coach Cary Cogdell said.
While Bellmont has gone through a coaching change, you have to feel like many are not giving them enough credit for where they can compete at the top of the conference, returning three really solid guards from a team that went 12-12 overall and finished fourth in the Northeast 8 last season.
Jack Scheumann (13.8 ppg) leads the returning group and is one of the more explosive guards in the Northeast 8. His back court running mates Kord Fuelling (13.7 ppg) and Tyler James (9.3 ppg/3.5 apg) are also back in the saddle. Gavin Krull is also back to give some shooting assistance while the interior will rely a lot on the returns of Dylan Velez (5.6 ppg) and tough rebounder Job Hoffman, with Beau Baker joining the lineup as well. Guards Will Baker, Daniel Vogel and Maddux Miller will all join the varsity team this season.
“To be successful this season, we need to be mentally and physically tougher. We lost nine games by single digits last season. We need to be tougher and more conditioned to turn these losses into wins this year,” coach Payton Selking said. “We are fortunate to return six varsity players from last season, three of those being All NE8 selections. We can be very successful this season if we can share the basketball and defend for 32 minutes.”
New Haven Bulldogs
The Bulldogs will have to replace as much as anyone at the top of the NE8, but that doesn’t mean they area going to fall out of contendership at all after the addition of Ajani Washington, who averaged 14.4 points per game at Concordia last season. From there, New Haven returns just 30 percent of their scoring and 46 percent of their rebounding in part due to the graduation of Darrion Brooks, the transfer of Korbyn Hammel and the absence of Mylan Graham. However, the Bulldogs return starters JC Cottrell and James Hardy IV, who averaged 9 and 6.2 points per game respectively. Physical presence Chris Stewart, as well as Devin White and Jadrien Ezell both return after seeing some time last season.
New Haven will have the luxury have having a wealth of guys from there who could contribute and it will be worth clocking who steps up and takes those varsity minutes. Forward Korin Harris is new to the program while guards Jaquan Gray, Darion Cryer and Damarcus Wright are up from the junior varsity. Two freshmen in Tarvar Baskerville and Lavell Ledbetter could also compete for time.
“We are very excited for the upcoming season, we have a lot of potential and are continuing to improve everyday,” New Haven coach Bruce Stephens said. “We’re hoping to play fast offensively and defensively, dictating the tempo of every game. A big emphasis for us this off-season has been defense, we’ve been right at the top of our conference and sectional the last 3 years in offensive average and efficiency, but that does us no good when we’re towards the bottom in defense. Getting stops on defense, grabbing rebounds, and limiting bad fouls is something we’re hoping to see improvement on this year.”
THE OTHERS (Listed Alphabetically)
New and improved faces could really contribute to the Eagles being right in the thick of what may be a very balanced NE8 race. Matt Mulligan is one of the most watch players in the conference; he played just one varsity game last year due to his transfer from Warsaw, but is coming off a fantastic summer. Aiden Denning, who averaged 4.9 points per game last season, is known as a knockdown shooter but could be the conference’s most improved overall player with how he has extended his game. The Eagles will also return Stratton Fuller (9 ppg/4.2 rpg), Brady Hartman (4.6 ppg) and Cayden Kauffman.
Owen Marshall and Eli Krider will provide depth coming up from the junior varsity level while physical rebounder Lane Outten has transferred in from Carroll.
“We have a group of guys that are extremely unselfish. They share a common goal and that is to win. For us to be successful this season we will need to have guys step up with the graduation of Andrew Hedrick. He was a large percentage of our offense last year,” coach Matt Schauss said. “One guy won’t be able to do that, but we can fill those holes by committee. As always, Columbia City is at its best when we get stops and finish those stops with rebounds.”
Opportunities appear to be plentiful to crack the lineup and be able to contribute at DeKalb. While the Barons return four players, there are a wealth of guys who could see quality time this season. At the forefront is the return of Caden Pettis; the 6-2 guard averaged 14.4 points per game last season and is one of the more methodical and creative scorers in the area. Braiden Boyd will return with him in the backcourt after averaging six points last season and Kiefer Nagel also returns at guard. Caiden Hinkle will return in the post.
Who else will be next up for the Barons? 6-foot-4 Christian Stenger, a transfer from Carroll, could immediately impact the inside game for DeKalb while junior Will Weber will help be a pace setter up from the JV level. DeKalb boasts a pretty deep sophomore class and coach Marty Beasley said that there can be contendership for playing time from a host of those Class of 2026 players, including Brady Culler, Myles Dobson, Bowen Minehart, Zeke Penrod, Connor Schmidt, Caden Rice and Kayden Palumbo.
“Everyone must give their best effort for the team each day and be more willing to sacrifice personal goals for team goals,” coach Marty Beasley said.
East Noble will rely quite a bit on a younger core but that is nothing new for the Knights. Owen Van Gessel (8 ppg/4 rpg) is the only senior with substantial varsity experience and will be an important leader for the Knights. He will be joined in the senior class by Mason Hankins and Braydon Collins. Back too in the lineup is the duo of Nathan Bowker (7 ppg/2.5 apg) and Kobe Ritchie (5 ppg/6 rpg). Bowker may be one of the conference and area’s biggest breakout players this season.
Ryker Quake is also up for being one of the area’s breakout players this season after a really strong shooting summer and fall. He will be up from primarily JV minutes, as will a couple more potential feature guards in Landon Swogger and Mason Treesh. Freshman Alex Scott may also be able to contribute for the Knights.
“Last year we were hit with the hug injury bug losing three seniors for almost the whole year. With that being said, we were able to play a ton of young freshman and sophomores in small minute spurts to get them a ton of experience. We took our lumps, but with love, commitment, and toughness… we could find ourselves being very competitive this year,” coach Brandon Durnell said.
The Vikings will be one of the teams in the NE8 that will see a new coach and likely a new style as Eric Thompson takes over after going 37-11 with back-to-back Sectional titles the last two seasons at Peru. The Vikings have a couple of intriguing returning pieces to build on for the new coach. Zach Nash returns after a solid junior season where his 7.7 points per game led Huntington North. Nash hit four three pointers on multiple occasions and had one of his best outings late season against Kokomo last year in a game he shot 71 percent from the field. Skilled lead guard and shooter Ethan Zahn also returns for his junior season after averaging 5.3 points per game last season. Asher Chipchosky will also return with quality experience and several key moments including a game winner last season opposite Bellmont.
Norwell will likely not be the dominating team that they have been in the past few years but the Knights still have some pieces that will really help them keep a tough pace in the NE8. Ashton Federspiel is back to bolster the inside after averaging 5.1 points per game last season. Cohen Bailey (8 ppg/3.4 rpg) will be the top returning scorer for the Knights, while the next McBride up, Adam McBride will also return after some experience last season.
Two seniors who did not play last year could be a significant boost for the Knights in Cade Shelton and Trace Moser. Shelton is a very solid athlete at Norwell and success inside The Castle runs in the family. Juniors Kaedyn Quintanilla and Owen Wallis will also join the varsity team.
“We lost a lot of guys to graduation, and we are a little inexperienced at the varsity level. We have an older group of guys that have had good success at both the varsity and JV levels, and that have been competing against really good players every day in practice the past few years. We are excited to see how our team grows and develops over the course of the season,” said coach Mike McBride.
BOUNCE’S NE8 PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
2. New Haven
4. Columbia City
5. East Noble
8. Huntington North
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