Priority No. 1 for trying to slow down Southport starts with No. 50.
Joey Brunk, the guy who wears that jersey number, is getting accustomed to that reality.
“We know it’s coming,” the 6-10 Brunk said of the pack-it-in philosophy opponents have utilized against the Class 4A top-ranked Cardinals. “We practice against it a lot. If we get the ball inside, we can kick it out for open shots. We can play inside out.”
Brunk, a junior, took only six shots in a 54-47 win over previously-unbeaten and Class 2A No. 1 Park Tudor in Wednesday’s Marion County tournament quarterfinal. He was double-teamed, even triple-teamed, at times.
“I think the more I see it and get used to it, the better decisions I make (passing),” Brunk said. “I still have a long way to go but I’m getting better at it.”
Southport (12-0) hosts Pike (8-2) in a Marion County tournament semifinal at 7:45 p.m. Friday. Ben Davis (9-3) faces Warren Central (7-6) in first semifinal at 6 p.m.
Thanks to Brunk and teammates like 6-3 sophomore guard Paul Scruggs and senior guard Malik Bennett, Southport is drawing a crowd these days, including college coaches. Butler’s Chris Holtmann, Purdue’s Matt Painter and Michigan State assistant Dane Fife and Ohio State assistant Greg Paulus were among those in attendance on Wednesday.
Brunk has mostly put recruiting on the backburner during the high school season, but has attended some games. Most recently, he took in a doubleheader on Saturday, visiting Indiana for its game against Ohio State and returned to see Butler host Xavier.
One aspect of the process that has changed recently, as it relates to Brunk and other Butler recruiting targets, is the removal of “interim” from Holtmann’s title as coach.
“I have a really good relationship with coach Holtmann,” said Brunk, who is averaging 17.6 points and 8.5 rebounds this season. “I talk to him frequently. I know he’s there now (for the future). He had me there a couple times when he was interim coach so I have a good relationship with him and it continues to get stronger.”
Mike Landis sat with Holtmann for part of Wednesday’s game. Landis’ son, Perry Meridian graduate Max Landis, was recruited by Holtmann and played two seasons for him at Gardner-Webb before transferring to be closer to home at IPFW, where he’s now a junior for the Mastodons.
The elder Landis said Holtmann’s recruiting style works because he is genuine.
“The first time I talked to him it was like I was talking to my best friend,” Landis said. “He was genuine and honest and everything that he told us in the recruiting process was true. He’s just the kind of guy who is really easy to approach and his family is the same way. I love the guy to death and not just because he got the Butler job.”
Regardless, Butler will face still competition for Brunk, who also claims offers from Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, New Mexico, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Purdue and Xavier. That list could grow depending on how he plays this summer and how long he allows the recruiting process to play out.
• IUPUI commit out: T.J. Henderson, a starting senior guard at Scecina and IUPUI recruit, has been sidelined for the past two games with a fracture in his right foot. Jay Henderson, his father, said Henderson had surgery and will visit the doctor again in the next few days to assess his progress.
Scecina (10-3) is ranked No. 5 in Class 2A and has the top seed going into the City tournament next week. The Crusaders will host a quarterfinal game on Thursday.
• McDonald’s All-American nominees: Several local players were nominated as McDonald’s All Americans on Wednesday. The final rosters of 24 boys and 24 girls will be unveiled on Jan. 28.
A look at the local nominees (boys): Ryan Cline, Carmel; Jalen Coleman-Lands, La Lumiere (formerly Cathedral); Sean McDermott, Pendleton Heights; Nick Rogers, (formerly Traders Point, now at prep school in Florida); Derrik Smits, Zionsville; Tahjai Teague, Pike; K.J. Walton, Brownsburg; Grant Weatherford, Hamilton Heights.
Lamina Cooper of Lawrence North and Brittany Ward of Pike were nominated on the girls’ side.
Follow Kyle Neddenriep on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep