Boys prep hoops preview: 8 players you should know
JADON DANCE, CONCORDIA LUTHERAN JUNIOR
For the Cadets to get back out of the conference cellar, they will need more athletes like Jadon Dance, who could be a breakout area player now that he has some varsity experience under his belt. Dance showed flashes of some real skill, leading the Cadets offensively most games early on, but tailed off behind classmate Adam Gottschalk.
“He is what we call an early bloomer in terms of his physicality. He was almost as big as he is now coming up in 7th and 8th grade and even his freshman year,” said Concordia Lutheran coach Austin Thoms. “So we moved him to the point guard position five or six games into the season last year, and he really hasn’t played that position at a consistent level, at a high level, for a long period of time.”
“With some of his maturity, his understanding, his shot selection and his valuing the basketball… , he’s grown a lot,” Thoms said. “With his size and versatility, we are excited to have him back.”
Dance’s enthusiasm for the game is something that will push him back to the forefront again as Concordia tries to use this year as a stepping stone into the future. He deep game and mid-range game stayed strong his sophomore year, but he could really add a new dimension if he is mentally prepared to get to the basket in a conference with less of an interior presence than a year ago. He has the body, athleticism and skill set to do so if he can handle the physicality mentally.
ANTHONY PHILLIPS, WAYNE SENIOR
Any team with a lot of offensive firepower needs someone to distribute the ball or else it becomes a firestorm of who can get it to shoot it first. Phillips is the perfect weapon for a Wayne team that has kids all over the court who can score. His court vision is on par or above the best point guards in the Summit Athletic Conference, and he showed it off best during last season’s SAC Holiday Tournament.
“Not going to look at statistics and say, ‘Whoa, look at this’, but that’s the glue,” said Wayne coach Aaron Rehrer. “He played the best game of his life the last game of season against Homestead. Wasn’t because he scored 10 points, he just ran the show, knows the offense like the back of his hand, he knows where everyone is supposed to go, he communicates.”
“Just a leader,” Rehrer added. “He is our glue guy. Everyone is going to look at Craig and the other guys, but he’s the glue of this team for sure.”
The toughest part will be defending Phillips. If you guard him straight up, he has the ability to throw three quarter court skip passes right by you or use his speed to blow by you for a layup or to collapse the defense. If you play too far out, he is just dangerous enough to make you pay with his mid-range jumper. You have to be confident in your own game to even have a prayer of breaking his down.
WILL GEIGER, NORWELL SOPHOMORE
Geiger quickly became perhaps the most integral part of Norwell’s transition year when Coach Mike McBride moved from Churubusco to take over last year. Geiger had little to know problem transitioning from middle school basketball to the varsity level, especially on the glass, where he pulled down 13 rebounds in one of his more impressive performances in a win over ACAC champion Woodlan.
“He was physically ready, more than anything, but as time progressed, he continued to grow mentally,” said McBride. “As a freshman playing varsity, it’s sometimes not the physical part but the mental part. I would say he surpassed what would be any expectations from us or anyone else.”
Geiger also continued to develop into a solid scorer for the Knights, scoring 21 in a loss to Bishop Luers and staying consistent at the top of Norwell’s score sheet, something he will top more nights than not as a sophomore.
CARTER GONZALES, LAKEWOOD PARK SENIOR
Gonzales has huge shoes to fill as the most experienced returning player from a sectional team led by a premier scorer. While Gonzales’ offensive output was the team’s third best most of the season, it was his physical stature that made him a problem in the Lakewood Park lineup.
He will have to be more featured this year on offense and raise his 7.5 points per game output. Part of that will come from a likely raised field goal percentage. He shot 40 percent from the field last season but his shot is crisp and with more featured touches, he should find his range more often in games.
MASON GARLAND, CHURUBUSCO JUNIOR
Not many 6-foot-1-inch kids could make the impact playing a forward position like Garland could, depending on his play time. Garland can score from anywhere on the court and could probably play any of the five positions if not limited by his size.
Look for Garland to give other players fits, especially those who see him as an unknown. He will be able to do the intangible things defensively to harass opponents either on or off the ball. He could very well lead Churubusco in steals, but also in often-forgotten but important categories like pass deflections and loose balls.
ISAAC FARNSWORTH, SNIDER SOPHOMORE
Finding a shooter who can also be tenacious on defense was great for the Panthers, who were gifted Farnsworth as a transfer from Lakewood Park. He shined at times last season against a tough schedule, and his demeanor and aggression made him an SAC type presence without playing in the conference.
“He’s been an asset to our program since day one,” said Snider coach Jeremy Rauch. “Natural leader, communicator on the floor, one of the most versatile players we have. [He] can play any position on both sides of the ball.”
For those who expect to be able to capitalize as easily on Farnsworth mistakes as last year, things won’t end well. His freshman mistakes will be cut down on considerably as he is given more room to maneuver under Rauch’s watch.
MITCHELL WILSON, COLUMBIA CITY SOPHOMORE
Even with experience ahead of him, Columbia City was at their best last year when Wilson found his range in games. His three triples against Churubusco highlighted the diversity in his placement. Wilson is capable of knocking down shots from the corners, wings or at the top of the key, making him a kid that you can’t lose on defense. He also showed in the sectional opener, a win over Bellmont, that he has the ability to take over games in the Northeast 8, scoring 21 and losing his defender at will. This year, his experience will be key for a team looking for new leadership.”
“Last year, we had guys like Parker Hazen that really was our leader and someone that we really relied on in tough situations,” Wilson said. “This year, I feel like I will have to step up and be more of a leader and that type of person.”
The transition this year will also be that Wilson will also have to handle more of of a ball handling role against certain defenses and potentially point guard role at times with the graduation of Jordan Bechtold.
“Mitchell’s basketball instincts and skill level are what separates him,” said Columbia City coach Brett Eberly. “And he loves to play. In fact, we have to make sure he takes time off.”
KHAMANI SMITH, NORTHROP FRESHMAN
A varsity freshman is always intriguing, especially on the boys side where it is more rare. With a team like Northrop, who lost their four best players and have a wide opening at the core of their team, Smith could really turn some heads. His long framed worked well for him at Lakeside Middle School. And while it won’t have the same impact on the high school level, his rebounding effort could be a difference maker.