Boys prep hoops: AREA PREVIEW

Blackhawk Christian's Jalan Mull drives to the basket through the defense of Lakewood Park's Carter Gonzales during a January 20, 2017 game at Blackhawk Christian. (Photo by Dan Vance of the News-Sentinel)
Lakewood Park's Dylan Miller does up for a shot against the defense of Blackhawk Christian's Lucas Kroft (left) and JP Visser (24) during a January 20, 2017 game at Blackhawk Christian. (Photo by Dan Vance of the News-Sentinel)

BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN BRAVES

Things look up for the Braves if they can stay healthy and based on last year, that could be a big “if”. Senior point guard Jalan Mull, a recent St. Francis signee, is primed for a big year and has plenty of targets for his court vision. The big intangible for the Braves this year is 6-foot-9 freshman Caleb Furst, whose talent already has Division 1 coaches in the gym.

CANTERBURY CAVALIERS

The emergence of Noah Wolfe in the second half of his freshman year gave Canterbury a lot to look forward to heading into this season. Wolfe (7.5 points per game) is back to complement Cam Kreiger (14.2 points, 5.7 rebounds per game) on a team that showed some depth late last year. The Cavaliers’ triple-OT sectional semifinal loss also gave them all of the push they may need.

HORIZON CHRISTIAN JAGUARS

Junior Sydney Curry surprised many in returning to the Jaguars for a second season, but his inflated numbers of 19.6 points, 14.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game make him arguably the toughest player outside of the major four area conferences. Horizon Christian made some nice statements among their 24-win season last time out, beating Richmond, Columbia City and Leo and hanging with eventual Class 3A final four team Bishop Luers and a one-point loss to Class 1A state champion Indianapolis Tindley. Junior Ozzie Johnson (17.1) and senior Daquan Sample (15.3) both return to the high-scoring offense.

LAKEWOOD PARK PANTHERS

The Panthers have a lot to replace with both their coach (Rod Wilmont) and top performer (Keegan Fetters) leaving after the school’s first sectional title last year. Senior Carter Gonzales is the top returning scorer at 7.5 points per game and will be joined by fellow senior Isaac Schlotterback in being expected to handle the load offensively. Junior Dylan Miller showed aggression in spurts last year and will be a key part of the defense going forward.

MANCHESTER SQUIRES

Reloading continues with Manchester, which lost five seniors to graduation, but only one of its top six performers. Seniors Mason Hamby (13.6) and Koehl Fluke (11.3) scored over half of the team’s points per game from a year ago. 6-foot-7 junior Konrad Borgmann will give them an expanded inside presence and allow Hamby to work on the wing significantly as a guard/forward combo. Kam Lester and Brayden Casper will also return to a varsity team that will add many new faces. One of those new faces to watch is freshman Weston Hamby, who had a very strong sophomore summer playing for the Total Package Elite program. The 5-foot-9 guard could be a significant player for the Squires as he develops.

SMITH ACADEMY FIGHTING 54TH

Justin Booker will return as Smith Academy transitions to their first year as a fully-sanctioned IHSAA school as the smallest school in the IHSAA. Booker was the catalyst in a 10-12 team last year, averaging 15.2 points, 4.3 assists and 2.5 steals per game at the point guard position. He will work inside-out with senior forward Davion Williams (9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds per game). They test themselves several times, including their final regular season game against Class 1A power Blackhawk Christian, where coach Gary Merrell was the head man from 2001-2008.

WARSAW TIGERS

You don’t just replace a player like Kyle Mangas, but Warsaw will be expected to do just that. The biggest change will be who takes control of the ball, either Zach Riley or Jack Rhoades. A rebuilding year is ahead for the Tigers, but talent seems to always find a way to emerge for the program when they need it.

WHITKO WILDCATS

The Wildcats lost their top player, but River West returns to give them a boost in the Three Rivers Conference, where they will stay near the top again. West was one of the conference’s best players a year ago and will continue to show promise and build on his 16.2 point, 4.7 rebound averages. Opponents will need to have good perimeter defense to handle West (55 three-pointers made), the emergence of fellow senior guard Brian Collins and intriguing freshman point Brett Sickafoose. Inside, 6-foot-6 junior Spencer Sroufe will return after averaging a double-double (12.1 points, 10.5 rebounds) and will be joined by 6-5 junior Cade Bechtold.

AREA SUPERLATIVES

Most Valuable Player: Cam Kreiger, Canterbury

Best Shooter: River West, Whitko

Best Post Player: Drake Thompson, Blackhawk Christian

Best Defender: Frankie Davidson, Blackhawk Christian

Best Passer: Jalan Mull, Blackhawk Christian

Best Intangible Player: Noah Wolfe, Canterbury

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