LOUISVILLE, Ky. – There is a freshman athlete from Fort Wayne that is going to be on the campus of Notre Dame very soon and the Fighting Irish Nation is going to become enamored with him due to his athleticism, drive to succeed in and out of the realm of sports, tremendous representation of the university, and the personality and intelligence of a kid you'd allow to date your daughter.
Yes, Notre Dame fans will love Jaylon Smith. However, if any of them happened to be paying attention to the Indiana All-Star series this past week, they'll quickly discover that Fort Wayne has produced another hard-to-believe young man in V.J. Beachem. And for those that are curious as to whether or not Smith will contribute immediately on the football field, they need not be concerned about whether Beachem will make an impact on the basketball court. He will.
“V.J. is an excellent basketball player,” Indiana All-Star guard Bryson Scott said. “He's one of the best players in the state, if not the best. He does everything.”
The Indiana All-Stars beat its Kentucky counterparts in the first of a two-game boy's basketball series on Friday at Freedom Hall in record fashion (114-60), and there wasn't a bigger force behind the Hoosiers' demolition than Beachem.
“He's just…” Indiana coach Scott Heady said shaking his head when asked to talk about Beachem. “He's just steady. He just kind of let's things come to him.”
Beachem let a lot “come to him” in helping the Hoosiers to the largest margin of victory in series history. How good was the former New Haven High School standout?
Well, he was perfect. Literally.
Beachem hit every single one of his nine shot attempts, including four 3-pointers, en route to a game-high 22 points. He also grabbed six rebounds, dished out a couple of assists, made a pair of steals and swatted two Kentucky shots. He did a little bit of everything, which left his teammates very impressed.
“Let me tell you this,” Indiana assistant coach Kevin Leising said in regards to Beachem, “we give a Most Valuable Teammate Award, tonight V.J. was our leading scorer, and he was voted (the award) by his teammates. We can all argue who the best player is, but to be the leading scorer, and let's talk about that, a lot of times if you are the leading scorer, you aren't going to be voted the best teammate.
“It's not the best player,” Leising continued, “it's the best teammate. He's a combination of best teammate and leading scorer.”
Beachem's game is quintessential 2013. He stands 6-foot-8 with a reach that is probably a few inches shy of 7-feet, but he has the skill set to score anywhere on the floor from with 25 feet.
“V.J. (and Mr. Basketball Zak Irvin) could bring the ball up the floor,” Heady said. “If we had to put them at point guard, they have no problem with that. And that is why they are going to Notre Dame and Michigan. They are 6-foot-7, very athletic, have a high basketball IQ, and they are going to be pretty successful.”
The Indiana victory was the ninth consecutive for the Hoosiers, and 16th out of the past 17 contests.
Scott seeks more tonight
Similar to its two games against the Indiana Junior All-Stars earlier this week, this Indiana group wanted to make an immediate impression at the defensive end against Kentucky.
The Hoosiers never allowed Kentucky to lead in the game, and scanning the statistics following the blowout, it would be difficult to point to an area where Indiana didn't play well. However, that doesn't mean that the Hoosier players are going to rest on their laurels in the series finale tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (girl's game at 5:30 p.m., with boy's to follow).
“Coach Heady didn't want us to take a play off,” former Northrop standout Bryson Scott said. “It didn't matter if we were up 20 (or) 30, it didn't matter, we wanted to go hard.”
Indiana scared the bejesus out of the Kentucky's shooters (31 percent overall and 10.5 percent from long range). The Hoosiers, who aren't necessarily the biggest or strongest group around, used incredible effort to pound their opponent on the glass, as well (51-23 rebounding advantage).
Scott finished with 14 points and five rebounds, but said tonight's game will be even more impressive for Indiana fans.
“We want to go harder tonight because it's our home state,” Scott said. “We want to go out there and compete harder than we did tonight. We've got to do this again.”
Irvin contributed 14 points and three assists in the victory, while Devin Davis (10 points, 10 rebounds), and Clay Yeo (12 points) also chipped in.
(Boy's) INDIANA 114, KENTUCKY 60
Zak Irvin 14, Bryson Scott 14, Devin Davis 10, V.J. Beachem 22, Michael Volovic 0, Mike Crawford 8, Collin Hartman 6, Clay Yeo 12, Basil Smotherman 5, Blake Simmons 8, Michael Schlotman 0, Darius Latham 9.
Dominique Hawkins 13, Ken-Jah Bosley 9, Omar Prewitt 5, Jack Whitman 2, Derek Willis 18, Tyler Jones 1, Devonte Grundy 0, Stuart Jackson 4, Jordan Majors 2, Rusty Troutman 6.
Miss Basketball injured
In the girl's game, Indiana had about as an impressive showing as a losing team could.
The Hoosiers opened the game playing scared (ultimately finishing with 27 turnovers) and trailed by scores of 9-0 and 17-4 before finally settling down.
To add to the Hoosier problems, three minutes into the game, Indiana Miss Basketball Stephanie Mavunga banged knees with a Kentucky player and had to spend the rest of the night on crutches with her knee wrapped in ice.
Her availability for tonight's game has yet to be determined.
Over the course of the final 35 minutes of action, however, Indiana played well and trimmed their deficit to just two points in the final minutes, but ultimately fell, as Butler University recruit Ashton Feldhaus (6 of 8 from long range) drained a series of critical 3-pointers for Kentucky.
Not only did Indiana have to play without its Miss Basketball, but South Side High School forward Ariana Simmons missed the game due to her high school graduation. Simmons will play tonight.
(Girl's) KENTUCKY 84, INDIANA 78
Makayla Epps 17, Larryn Brooks 11, China Dow 11, Ashton Feldhaus 20, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers 11, Jessica Hardin 2, Whitney Hartlage 3, Michaela Hunter 2, Taylor Porter 4, Logan Powell 3, Beth Rates 0.
Stephanie Mavunga 2, Ally Lehman 10, Bridget Perry 19, Katie Curtis 5, Taya Reimer 10, Celeste Edwards 0, Andrijana Cvitkovic 1, Caitlyn Tolen 0, Jenn Anderson 0, Jill Morrison 8, Rhagen Smith 9, Dakota Weatherford 9, Taylor Lutz 5.