From now until the beginning of the high school boys basketball season we’ll be counting down the Preseason Fab 15, a ranking of the top teams in Central Indiana. We started with No. 11 Ben Davis, No. 12 Hamilton Southeastern, No. 13 Martinsville, No. 14 Mt. Vernon and No. 15 Pendleton Heights. Next on our list:
No. 10 – Tech
A year after winning its first state championship behind a talented senior class led by IndyStar Indiana Mr. Basketball Trey Lyles, Tech’s program did not fall off the map.
The Titans went 15-9 and played for a sectional title last season, winning a two-overtime thriller against Cathedral in their first tournament game.
“I think we surprised a lot of people,” Tech coach Jason Delaney said. “I think a lot of people thought that was the end of it all (after Tech won state). But we kept it going and I think gained a lot of respect from other teams, fan bases and coaches. It shows that we are a program and not just a one-year deal.”
A key reason Tech was able to keep it going was the play of C.J. Walker. The 6-foot Walker, a Florida State recruit, averaged 23.8 points, 3.7 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals to earn a spot as a core Indiana Junior All-Star.
“C.J. has been the ultimate kid to coach the last four years,” said Delaney, who is 79-21 in his fifth season at the school. “If I’m going to start a team, the first point guard I’m going to take is C.J. Walker no matter who is available. He’s the ultimate leader and a dream to coach. He’s signed with a major college basketball program but he’s still first one finishing wind sprints and the one on the court showing the rest of the guys who to work hard.”
Two years after Lyles became the first Indianapolis Public Schools Mr. Basketball since George McGinnis of Washington in 1969, Walker has a goal of making it two in three years for the Titans. He’s one of only a handful of seniors who can claim they were a starter on a state championship team.
“That’s really big,” Walker said of his goal of winning Mr. Basketball. “I want to bring another (Mr. Basketball) jersey in here with Trey. I really want it. I feel like it’s going to come down to winning that sectional. There are a lot of Mr. Basketball candidates in our sectional.”
To win a sectional, Walker will need some help. While there isn’t a lot of returning experience and graduated seniors Donte Gladney (12.7 ppg, 4.6 rebounds), Eric Meeks (8.3 ppg), Damion Gooch (7.5 ppg) and Chris Davis (4.1 ppg) will be missed, both Walker and Delaney are encouraged by the talent on the roster.
Chris King, a 6-3 senior, has a chance to be an impact player in the backcourt. King averaged 8.8 points in five games with Tech last year after transferring from Lawrence Central. The Titans picked up another transfer from Lawrence North in athletic senior Mario Nalls, who averaged 5.8 points and 3.0 rebounds last year with the Bears. Ernest Myles, a 6-5 junior, averaged 4.4 points and 4.9 rebounds last season and should be an impact player and junior Samir J. Hayes was referenced by Delaney and Walker as a much-improved player.
“Ernest Miles is one that I think is going to have a great junior year,” Delaney said. “Chris King has all the ability in the world and Mario Nalls is going to help a lot.”
Willie Patterson, a 6-5 junior, should also have a chance to earn playing time. Others in the mix are 6-2 senior Wes Jones, 6-1 senior Jimmy Gates and senior shooting guard Devon Nance. Deshaun Watkins, a 6-1 junior, and sophomore Damion Wilburn could also factor in.
The Titans won’t be a big team but Delaney doesn’t see it as a hindrance.
“I think we can battle through it,” Delaney said. “If you look around, most teams don’t have a 6-10 guy and there about where we’re at in terms of size. Our size is athletic. All of them can play at a faster pace and defend multiple people. I really like the makeup of our team. We have 6-5 guys who can run the floor.”
Delaney said this group reminds him of the 2014 championship team in terms of cohesiveness on and off the court. They’ll certainly have more time to spend together now that the Tech is playing in the North Central Conference and will be on the road often, especially early (trips to Anderson, Michigan City and Richmond in December).
“I think going to the NCC is a breath of fresh air,” Delaney said. “You need that every once in a while. We got to play in some great showcases and things like but now we’re going to play in some big arenas and some great teams in the NCC with the history there. I think these guys will get a greater appreciation of Indiana basketball history.”
The sectional, however, will be played at Tech’s home gym. By that time, Walker believes the Titans will be a handful.
“This team plays aggressive,” he said. “They play hungry. We have some ‘no name’ guys who want to get out there and play hard and aggressive. That’s one thing I love about this team.”
Why Tech could be higher: Walker is one of the state’s best players. He’s experienced and eager for his senior season. The rest of the roster is somewhat inexperienced but Nalls and King are talented and some lesser-known players like Hayes, Myles and Patterson could be poised for breakout seasons.
Why Tech could be lower: The schedule is a bit different this year as the Titans transition into the North Central Conference. Tech will need to make it a team effort on the defensive glass.
Circle the date: Dec. 19, Cathedral. This rivalry has produced some good games in recent years and this matchup will provide an early test for the Titans.