Area players look to ‘D’ up As high-powered as area offenses can be, a good defender can make all the difference

Highlight reels get the oohs and ahhs; the big three or the monster jam – those are the Twitter fodder.

And Shooter likes them as much as the next guy. I watch local news highlight shows and couldn’t stop watching Summit City Sports’ highlight reel last week of all the Jaylen Butz/Keion Brooks Jr. dunks for North Side against Concordia.

They are fun. Heck, shooting the ball is in my name,

But if there is one thing that really gets Shooter’s blood flowing as a basketball purist, it is an in-your-face, active and nonstop work ethic strong defender. And we don’t talk about them much, which is truly sad to this amphibian. So I finally felt like enough was enough, and before the boys season wrapped up like the girls has started to, Shooter needed to make sure everyone knew who my favorite defenders are to watch hone their craft.

One of the guys that Shooter respects most locally when it comes to his take on defense is Total Package Elite AAU coach Chase Sanders, who was a pretty gosh darn good defender in his own right during his time playing for Homestead in the mid-2000s.

“It (defense) was an emphasis since I started the program (Total Package Elite). I always told guys they would have the green light within their role, because I knew we would score, but getting stops was key to our success,” Sanders told me earlier this week. “I also wanted to bridge the gap between AAU and high school and show coaches that if done the right way it can be beneficial to overall develop of players.”

It is a way of thinking that gets Shooter’s mind racing. Imagine if every single coach thought this way! So in no particular order, here are Shooter’s favorite defenders: <br>

<center> Brandan Johnson, North Side</center> <br>

When I saw Johnson play as a freshman, I knew he was going to be the toughest on-ball defender by the time he graduated from North Side. With a year still to be played, he will only rise more. I don’t know that any defender I have seen shows how to angle their body more against an opposing offensive player and to force that offensive player to do what he wants as a defender.

“I mainly attribute (my defense) to effort, heart and will to defend. Defense is more of a ‘I will defend’ type of thing, and I take pride in doing that,” Johnson said. <br>

<center> Jordan Bridges, Carroll </center><br>

A name we don’t hear about as much as some Carroll players, Bridges has broke into their starting lineup in many ways because of his defensive pressure, something that Carroll coach Marty Beasley’s players have been known for. Bridges comes from that Total Package Elite program that features an onslaught of high-level defenders that includes, but is not limited to, Snider’s Mike Barnfield, Homestead’s Jack Ferguson and Parker Manges and Lakewood Park’s Keegan Fetters.

Bridges is capable of guarding multiple positions on the floor, and it is that diversity that makes him one of the toughest matchups for players during this second half of the season and he cracks the Carroll lineup more consistently. <br>

<center> Jake Archbold, Homestead </center><br>

The transition from middle school basketball to high school basketball is insanely hard. To jump immediately to a starting varsity role is rare. But that is what Jake Archbold did in a span of months from being a guiding light at Woodside Middle School to opening the season as a Homestead Spartan, a sanctuary for top-notch defenders, guarding Huntington North’s best player in Hunter Hollowell. Archbold has consistently played defense looking like anything but a freshman as he’s given most team’s toughest matchup. Archbold is a blue-collar defender in the purest sense, outworking everyone on the floor most games, never taking a trip off no matter who the matchup he draws is.

“At the middle school level, I was able to use the speed and strength to beat them to the spot and not let them past, but at the high school level the players I’m guarding have quick moves and have the strength advantage on me,” Archbold said.

“So the more I develop lateral quickness and get in the weight room, the more comfortable I’ll be guarding the quicker stronger players.”

If what we have seen so far from this Homestead youngin’ isn’t him being comfortable, I fear for offensive players in the coming years when he finds that sweet spot. <br>

<center> Keegan Fetters, Lakewood Park</center> <br>

Another Total Package Elite product who can guard so many positions is Fetters, who stars as a score first guard but certainly moonlights as an unlikely post defender who can block a shot just as good as top post players Malik Williams and Jaylen Butz. Fetters rarely gets the top offensive player of the opposing team and that’s because he’s so good in a role where he’s allowed to play helpside defense and, in a way, defend all of the positions on the floor.

“He has a great feel and timing when his defenders goes up or when a teammate gets beat he rotates in helpside and pins shots off the glass,” Sanders said of one of the stars of his AAU program. <br>

<center> Deangelo Stroud, Snider </center><br>

Even with good defenders, few in the area have shown a desire to pressure opponents off the ball like Stroud. If this Snider senior is on you, he is on you and it doesn’t matter if you have the ball, if it’s a pass away or across the court. Shooter is fan of an old saying about “playing in your opponents shorts,” and that is Stroud to a T. He doesn’t give his opponent an inch and that enthusiasm has helped Snider come up with some big stops in big games on the perimeter. <br>

<center> Davontae Kinnie, North Side </center><br>

We all know North Side likes to get out on the break. Launch a pass ahead to Butz, bounce it off the glass to Brooks. It all starts with the kid they call “Debo.” Kinnie gets in passing lanes faster than anyone else and is downright aggravating when stripping the ball from opponents.

Kinnie may not be “the best,” but his is certainly the most efficient when it comes to the city’s top defenders. <br>

<i> This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Shooter at nssports@news-sentinel.com. </i><br>

<center> Prep basketball </center>

<center> BOYS </center><br>

TODAY’S AREA GAMES

Bellmont at East Noble, 7:45 p.m.

Churubusco at Lakeland, 7:30 p.m.

Northrop at Blackhawk Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Snider at Bishop Dwenger, 7:30 p.m.

South Side at Jay County, 7:30 p.m.

Garrett at Fairfield, 7:30 p.m.

Homestead at Canterbury, 6 p.m.

Lakeland Christian at Lakewood Park, 7:30 p.m.

Leo at DeKalb, 7:30 p.m.

Norwell at Columbia City, 7:30 p.m.

Woodlan at South Adams, 7:30 p.m.

FRIDAY’S AREA GAMES

Bowman Academy at North Side, 8 p.m.

SATURDAY’S AREA GAMES

Adams Central at Leo, 2:30 p.m.

Bluffton at Heritage, 2:30 p.m.

Carroll at Van Wert (OH), 2:30 p.m.

Canterbury at Fremont, 1:30 p.m.

Wayne at Norwell, 1:30 p.m.

Huntington North at New Haven, 2:45 p.m.

Indianapolis Cathedral at Bishop Luers, 3:30 p.m.

Lakeland Christian at Smith Academy, 6 p.m.

Lakewood Park at South Side, 7:30 p.m.

Lawrence Central at Bishop Dwenger, 3:30 p.m.

Southport at Snider, 2:30 p.m.