I had a conversation with a high school basketball coach in the area the other night who insisted that the overall talent is down — “way down” — from where it was a year or two ago.
I’ll admit, it’s a thought I’ve had. But writing about a dropoff in talent around here sort of comes off like a spoiled kid whining about “only” getting a Mercedes for Christmas. We’ve been incredibly blessed the last few years to see a ton of talent come through the high school ranks.
As colleague Matt Glenesk pointed out the other day on Twitter, there are eight Indianapolis-area products currently leading their respective college teams in scoring: Eron Harris (West Virginia), Gary Harris (Michigan State), Terone Johnson (Purdue), Zavier Turner (Ball State), Yogi Ferrell (Indiana), Kelsey Barlow (Illinois-Chicago), Kellen Dunham (Butler) and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown).
That’s not to say there isn’t talent now. This year’s IndyStar Indiana Mr. Basketball race should be one of the best in recent years, with Park Tudor’s Trevon Bluiett, Tech’s Trey Lyles and Marion’s James Blackmon Jr. leading the way. The Indiana All-Star team should again be very solid. But the overall depth among teams probably isn’t what it’s been.
Looking ahead to next year’s Mr. Basketball race, it’s difficult to pick out a clear favorite or two. Part of the reason is that Jalen Coleman has transferred from Cathedral to La Lumiere, which makes him ineligible to win the award at a non-Indiana High School Athletic Association school. Coleman was the leading scorer as a sophomore for Cathedral and helped the team to the Class 4A state championship.
Brownsburg’s K.J. Walton is putting together a junior season that could put him in the conversation. Others candidates could be East Chicago’s Hyron Edwards, Columbus North’s Josh Speidel, Michigan City Marquette’s Ryan Fazekas, Corydon Central’s Bronson Kessinger and Fort Wayne Carroll’s Chandler White to name a few. It seems like a wide open race in 2015.
It’s still hard for me to say the talent is “down” though. Maybe it’s just been “up” for so many years that we’re spoiled. When Smith-Rivera was playing with Georgetown the other night at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Butler, I was reminded of the 2011 regional. Remember that lineup?
North Central had Smith-Rivera, Ronnie Johnson (Purdue), Patrick Ingram (Trinity Valley C.C.), Darius Latham (Indiana football); Pike featured Marquis Teague (Kentucky/Chicago Bulls), Josh Gentry (Cal State-Fullerton), R.J. Hunter (Georgia State), Turner (Ball State) and Johntae Alexander (Kentucky State); Center Grove was led by Jonny Marlin (Indiana walk-on), Andrew Smeathers (Butler/Mount St. Mary’s) and Joe Reed (IPFW); and Hamilton Southeastern was led by Harris (Michigan State) and Zak Irvin (Michigan), who would go on to win Mr. Basketball the following two years. HSE also had Jacobby Bledsoe (UMKC) and Randy Gregory, now an all-Big Ten defensive end for Nebraska.
Yeah, we’re spoiled.
Persons still rehabbing
Kokomo senior guard Tayler Persons, a Northern Kentucky recruit, continues to rehabilitate from a torn anterior cruciate ligament to his left knee suffered during a football game in late August.
Persons, a standout guard who was named to the IndyStar Indiana Junior All-Star team last year, said he still hopes to make it back before the end of the season.
“If everything keeps going good, I will be able to come back,” he said in a message.
Kokomo is 4-5 going into weekend games against New Castle and Carmel.
Franklin Central senior Jalen Bell, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, suffered a sprain to his left knee and not a tear as coach John Rockey initially feared. Rockey said the 6-1 Bell could be back in six weeks or sooner, possibly in time to play in the sectional. Franklin Central is 8-3 going into Friday’s Marion County tournament semifinal against Warren Central (8-4) at Southport. Warren Central has made it at least to the semifinals of the county in four of Greg Graham’s six seasons as coach. The Warriors haven’t won it since 1999-2000. … Park Tudor (9-1) was held to by far its lowest offensive output this season in a 56-51 win over Lawrence North in a Marion County quarterfinal on Tuesday. Bluiett was “held” to 17 points and 13 rebounds. Park Tudor, which plays North Central (5-5) in the second semifinal game today at Southport, is averaging a state-leading 89 points a game. … Vermont recruit Ernie Duncan became Evansville Harrison’s all-time leading scorer with 26 points in a 70-42 win over Evansville North on Tuesday. … A football recruiting note: Perry Meridian running back Jaquan Keys has committed to Indiana State, quarterback Conner Smith to Valparaiso and tight end Collin Timmons to the University of Indianapolis. All three are seniors. …