The Preseason Fab 15 is back! Stay tuned as we count down the top 15 teams in Central Indiana until the beginning of the season. In case you missed it, Brebeuf Jesuit started the countdown at No. 15.
On to No. 14:
How far can a strong sophomore core lead Lawrence Central? A relentless schedule, especially early, could make it tough on the Bears improve on last year’s 10-11 record.
But following a strong finish last season, including a surprising win over host Warren Central in the sectional, gives Lawrence Central plenty to build on for seventh-year coach J.R. Shelt.
“I think we can shock a lot of people,” said senior point guard Devin Heath-Granger. “We have a lot of people coming back from last year. We’re going to be young but we have a lot of talent. If we play as a team we should do really well.”
The Bears lost some key players to graduation, in particular guards Davonte Harris (a team-leading 14.7 ppg last year) and Alan Willis (7.8 ppg). But the backcourt still appears to be a strong point, led by sophomore Kyle Guy. The 6-2 Guy, who already has offers from Indiana and Indiana State and interest from a number of other high-major programs, averaged 13.4 points and 5.5 rebounds as a freshman.
“He has a great feel for the game,” Shelt said of Guy. “He has a great passion for the game. The closest I can think of to his passion and love for the game is (former Lawrence North star) Mike Conley. He’s not that type of athlete, but he is that type of basketball player. He has that inquisitive nature about him.”
Shelt said Guy was almost too of a “pass first” guard when he first cracked the lineup as a freshman. As the season went on, he became more of a go-to scorer.
“I told him that if we’re going to win, you have to shoot the ball,” Shelt said.
Guy said he’s added about 10 pounds to his frame from a year ago, which he believes will allow him attack the basket with more success and regularity.
“I feel a lot more controlling with the ball,” he said. “I can get past people easier now. My rebounding is better too because I’m not getting pushed around as much.”
Heath-Granger, a 5-10 senior point guard, adds more stability to the backcourt. Heath-Granger averaged 7.2 points a game as a junior, but his primary responsibility is to distribute the ball.
“He’s a true point guard who can pass the ball,” Shelt said. “He’s an unselfish player. It helps when you have a point guard that thinks like a coach and the players respect. He’s not afraid to get into kids and tell them what they are doing wrong, while also telling them what they are doing right.”
Another sophomore guard, 6-foot guard Mekhi Biffle, will move up to the varsity team and Shelt expects him to pay immediate dividends. Biffle played with Guy in middle school and is a outstanding shooter with deep range.
“I don’t think many people know about him yet,” Heath-Granger said. “Kyle is going to see a lot of double teams so hopefully Mekhi will get some open shots because of that.”
Another player with varsity experience is Abdul McGraw, an athletic 6-1 senior who averaged 4.7 points and 2.2 rebounds last season.
“He started some games for us last year,” Shelt said. “He’s really athletic and a great kid and great teammate. He’ll definitely help us.”
Nash Griffin, a 6-3 forward, is also part of Lawrence Central’s outstanding sophomore class. A kicker on the football team and a soccer player, Griffin averaged 4.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 10 games after coming up from the junior varsity team last season.
Shelt also expects 6-5 junior Glen Calvin, a wide receiver on Lawrence Central’s football team, to play a major role this winter. Jeremy Patton, another 6-5 junior and tight end on the football team, could also help in the frontcourt.
“We can shoot it, pass it well and handle it,” Shelt said of the makeup of his team. “If (the opponent) plays two bigs, they are going to have to guard us. (Size) is a concern but it’s not like there are any Greg Odens out there right now.”
Shelt said the young Bears gained confidence from last year’s sectional win over Warren Central, even though they lost the following night to Tech. It carried over to this summer, where they played well at Xavier team camp.
“We made it to the championship game over there and the kids really had some swagger about themselves,” Shelt said. “My expectations are always high, but I think that raised their expectations. Once you have that belief, it can take you a long way. They’ve been a fun group, working their tails off.”
Lawrence Central, which ended a 14-year sectional dry spell in 2012, has its sights set even higher this season. The sectional is again loaded, with Tech returning most of its team, along with Cathedral, Lawrence North, Roncalli and Warren Central.
“We want to win a state championship this year,” Guy said. “I feel like if we don’t get there, it’ll be a disappointing season.”
Why Lawrence Central could be ranked higher: Guy will be a marked man this season, but if Biffle is ready to play at a high level, it will make it difficult for opponents to focus in solely on Guy. The Bears need to emerge from a brutal early season schedule with their confidence intact. Lawrence Central will still be dangerous even though its record might not be stellar.
Why Lawrence Central could be ranked lower: There doesn’t appear to be a ton of depth and the core of the team is young. So was last year’s team, but Harris and Willis helped provide leadership as seniors. There isn’t a lot of size, but that’s not an issue unique to Lawrence Central.
Circle the calendar: Dec. 11, vs. Lawrence North. This game is moved back in the calendar a bit from recent seasons. This game comes on the heels of a game with two-time defending state champion Carmel on Dec. 7.