Until the high school boys basketball season starts, we’ll count down the Preseason Fab 15, a ranking of the top teams in Central Indiana. We started with No. 13 Martinsville, No. 14 Mt. Vernon and No. 15 Pendleton Heights. Next on our list:
No. 12 – Hamilton Southeastern
One year after having one of the best outside shooting teams in recent years and reaching a regional final, Hamilton Southeastern struggled mightily with the 3-pointer last year. The Royals shot just 28 percent from the arc, a big reason they finished 9-17.
“We just didn’t shoot the ball well,” HSE coach Brian Satterfield said of his first losing season in 14 years at HSE. “I think it’ll be a strength of this group. We have guys who are capable of doing it.”
HSE’s success will begin with 6-6 junior Zach Gunn, who already seems like a grizzled veteran as a two-year varsity player. Gunn played a key role on that 23-win regional team two years ago as a freshman, averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds as he shot an outstanding 45 percent (44-for-98) from the 3-point line.
Gunn, who has offers from Butler, Indiana, IUPUI and Saint Louis, saw his role change dramatically as a sophomore and averaged 18.0 points and 10.2 rebounds. As he became the team’s No. 1 offensive threat, he saw his 3-point shooting drop to 32 percent (50-for-157).
“I want to make guys around me better,” Gunn said of his goals for his junior year. “I’ll play in the post more and try to get to the basket more. But the biggest thing is to make guys around me better. That’s the biggest key to being successful.”
Satterfield said Gunn will again be the team’s top offensive threat, but there are more weapons around him this season.
“He’s going to be the guy we lean on,” Satterfield said. “He’s our best player and we’ll have things go through him. But I don’t think (teams) will be able to key on him like they did last year. He’ll find the open guy and they’ll be able to step up and be able to help him out.”
Despite an up-and-down season, HSE knocked off Westfield and Zionsville in the sectional before playing Carmel close in the championship and losing, 51-44. Gone from that team are graduated seniors Chris Ford (9.6 ppg, 2.5 rebounds), Tyler Janney (4.6 ppg, 2.9 assists) and Ty Scholl (3.7 ppg, 2.7 rebounds).
Other than Gunn, the only other difference-making player from last year’s team is 6-3 senior Greg Miller (6.8 ppg, 2.5 rebounds). But other seniors who could step into a bigger role are 5-11 point guard J.D. Bembry (3.0 ppg, 0.8 assists) and 6-5 forward Jaylon Tapplar (played junior varsity).
“(Tapplar) is looking to shine in his role and make a statement this year,” Gunn said.
Brennan Schofield, a 6-8 sophomore, should also make an impact after averaging 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds in a freshman season that was slowed by injuries. Schofield already has Division I offers from IUPUI and St. Francis (Pa.).
“When Brennan was healthy last year, he gave us some good minutes,” Satterfield said. “The good thing is that he’s been in the weight room working on his strength and quickness. His footwork is getting better.”
The junior class is filled with players who could earn time. Austin Holzum is a 6-1 guard who saw time last year and averaged 1.5 points, 0.9 assists and 0.8 steals. Conner Rotterman (6-1 guard), Jack Davidson (5-10 guard) and Brock Burns (6-4 forward) all played some varsity as sophomores. Other juniors with a chance to earn time are 5-11 Jack Habegger, 6-foot Trevin Trabue, 6-4 Aaron Shank and guard Nick Bowman.
That is a lot of names. Satterfield said there could be some mixing and matching, depending on the opponent and the success of those players.
“We’ll have some size,” Satterfield said. “Our chemistry, we’re trying to develop that. It’s just getting there in the mix and finding guys who work well together. That may take a little while.”
A couple of freshmen – 6-foot guard Noah Smith and 6-6 Aaron Etherington – could also factor in.
“Noah has been distributing the ball really well and Etherington has been doing everything he needs to do,” Gunn said.
There are many questions for this HSE team and roles still to be defined. Satterfield admits he’s curious to see how it unfolds. But he likes the potential of this team, particularly its depth.
“it will be interesting to see how they do when you turn the lights on and go play on Friday and Saturday night,” Satterfield said. “You have to get out there and compete. We have guys who can do it, we just have to get some things figured out.”
Why HSE could be higher: There is plenty of talent on the roster, starting with Gunn. He shouldn’t have so much on his plate as he did a year ago. HSE was 4-13 last year in games decided by 10 points or less, a number that you figure has to improve.
Why HSE could be lower: There are a lot of roles that aren’t yet defined. Outside shooting was a problem last year.
Circle the date: Dec. 12, at North Central. A December stretch of Pendleton Heights, North Central, Fishers and Park Tudor will be difficult.