After watching Park Tudor run through the Marion County boys basketball tournament last week — an accomplishment the program wasn’t able to accomplish even while reaching three state championship games and winning two in the Yogi Ferrell era — it might seem like the Panthers are destined to dominate Class 2A for eternity, or at least until coach Ed Schilling decides to do something else.
It’s hard to argue. At 13-1, Park Tudor is clearly one of the best teams in the state regardless of class and should return nearly its entire team next year, including standout junior Trevon Bluiett.
A challenge to Park Tudor’s 2A throne could be on the rise on the Eastside, at Scecina. It probably won’t happen this season, but first-year coach Rob New is in the process of building a program that could eventually rival Park Tudor.
“The goal is to get it going for basketball like it has been for football at Scecina,” New said.
Scecina, off to a 9-4 start, has won just two basketball sectional titles, in 1978 and 2003. New has enlisted the help of his former high school coach at Wapahani, Ron Hecklinski, and former Wapahani teammate Joe Bradburn, who serve as assistants.
It’s a bit of a role reversal for New, who has been an assistant for both Hecklinski and Bradburn. Hecklinski was the longtime coach at Anderson, while Bradburn made stops at Yorktown, DeKalb and Huntington North.
“We’ve done a lot together over the past 30 years,” New said. “They’ve been great at kind of allowing me to do my thing, while also offering suggestions. I take some from both of them and try to put my fingerprint on it. We all decided we wanted to try and do it together and it’s been a lot of fun so far.”
New said Scecina has completed upgrades to its gym and locker rooms and will look to improve its weight room in the near future.
“We’re trying to chip away at it, little by little,” he said.
On the court, the future looks bright. New, who was a standout at Huntington University, inherited sophomore guards Zach and Josh Rutland. While many of the other players lacked varsity experience coming into the season, New uses 11 or 12 players in a given night.
“We’ve probably done a little better than people anticipated us to do,” New said.
Scecina lost 68-45 to Tech in the quarterfinals of the City tournament and will be tested further in coming weeks with games against Guerin Catholic, Park Tudor and Tech again.
“The ultimate goal is to win the sectional,” New said. “We’re really happy with where we’re at, though you never want to be satisfied.”
Scecina was bolstered further this week when 6-7 sophomore Gary Bonds returned to the school after spending a semester at Warren Central.
Winning with Walker
Junior standout Trey Lyles is the centerpiece, but the difference between Tech last year or even the beginning of this season is the emergence of freshman point guard C.J. Walker.
The 5-11 Walker looks his age, maybe even younger, but plays with the confidence and composure of an upperclassman. The left-hander reminds me of former North Central standout and Purdue freshman Ronnie Johnson at that age.
Walker can make the big shot, as he showed in a December win over Cathedral, but his best asset is he makes the players around him better.
“He’s exactly what this team needed,” Tech coach Jason Delaney said. “He’s such a smart player. He brings up everybody else’s IQ and gets guys where they need to go.”
Carmel looks tough
It’s it too early to think repeat for Class 4A defending state champion Carmel? The Greyhounds (12-1) have won eight games in a row, including an eight-day stretch with wins over Cathedral, Kokomo and Pike.
The common denominator from last year’s team to this one is senior guard play. Michael Volovic (17.2 ppg, 4.8 assists) and James Crowley (14.9 ppg) have filled the roles of Ben Gardner and Sam Curts. Then there is 6-6 junior Zach McRoberts (11.1 ppg), who leads the team in rebounds (7.3) and steals (1.9).
Mental toughness is hard to quantify, but Scott Heady’s team has it. No team will want to see Carmel in its bracket in March.