The gym was quiet. Providence’s basketball team had just beaten host Silver Creek on its home floor for the second time in less than a month.
The Pioneers held a two-point lead with 15 seconds left, and in the wake of a stop on the defensive end, senior Juston Betz stepped to the free-throw line. He calmly knocked down two shots, icing the game and quieting a once-raucous crowd. As the final buzzer sounded, the 6-foot-3 guard promptly made his way to the handshake line before jogging to the locker room.
Betz is a standout for the Pioneers, but you’d hardly know it from his humble demeanor. In the first meeting with Silver Creek, much like Tuesday night’s win, it was Betz who knocked down a free throw in the waning moments to seal a victory for the Pioneers. His on-court heroics, though, pale in comparison to the senior’s off-the-court accolades.
In addition to service at church and school clubs, activities and leadership roles, Betz was honored as a Lilly Endowment Community Scholar last month and received a four-year academic scholarship from the foundation, good at any in-state school. Betz is one of four winners from a pool of 218 applicants in the Southern Indiana area and one of 142 scholarship honorees statewide.
“The Lilly is something very special because it’s from a foundation called the Eli Lilly Foundation,” Betz said. “They try to help out people all throughout the state that they think are achieving good things, through service, through academics and through leadership.”
A New Albany native, Betz attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help before enrolling at Our Lady of Providence.
“When I came in as a freshman, I was a little kid – a little immature, as most freshmen are,” Betz said. “But the teachers do a great job of making sure you’re shaped as a man, both academically and through your morals, so they keep you in line. It’s disciplined, but they also want you to achieve great things beyond Providence. They prepare you for life just as well as they do for college.”
Betz’s potential on and off the court was evident at a young age, his mother Rose said. His maturity was always a step above the norm as he grew, she said, aided by three older siblings, who, like Rose, attended Providence.
“Everything he does, he wants to give it 100 percent, with academics and with just being involved and really trying to help out,” Rose said. “I’ve never really had to discipline him. He’s just taken charge on his own. It’s been amazing.”
Betz developed those core values from the get-go, according to his sister, Mary Ashley.
“He’s always been like that,” she said. “He hasn’t really grown into it, because he’s been like that. Our whole family has been like that, but Juston especially. He’s always been the grown-up of the kids.”
Athletic success is something that has never escaped the Betz family. Juston won a state title as a centerfielder on the baseball team last season. Mary Ashley was a member of the school’s first state championship-winning team – girls soccer in 2011 – and Juston’s cousins, Jacquie and Marissa Hornung, are three-time and two-time state champions, respectively, with the volleyball program.
Betz has guided Providence to a 14-1 record with seven games remaining on the regular-season schedule. Class 2A’s No. 2 Pioneers have won nine straight games and are 4-0 against sectional opponents. Betz leads the team in points, rebounds and assists.
The senior said he plans to play basketball at a prestigious academic school next year and has garnered interest from several area colleges, such as Rose-Hulman, Bellarmine and Hanover, Providence coach Andrew Grantz said.
“One thing that constantly impresses me is whenever he does interviews after good games,” Grantz said. “He always praises his teammates and talks about how much better they made him. … He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached. But he also realizes that it’s more than just him. He’s willing to put in that work for the betterment of the team.”