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. 5 Pike,No. 6 Park Tudor, No. 7 Carmel, No. 8 Lawrence Central, No. 9 Fishers, No. 10 Tech, 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. 4 – Cathedral
Scoring doesn’t figure to be a problem for Cathedral this season. The Irish have one of the best backcourts in the state and a team that should be more cohesive than it was last year in a 13-10 season.
“Last year we had so much inexperience and new guys coming into the program,” sixth-year coach Andy Fagan said. “Those guys who had experience last year I think will have a much better idea how to compete early and how to stay focused the entire season.”
Cathedral had 6-3 senior Eron Gordon (24.1 ppg, 3.4 rebounds) for only 11 games after he was finally declared eligible in court after his transfer from North Central. Gordon, who remains uncommitted for college, is a potential contender for IndyStar Mr. Basketball.
“We basically had him for one month,” Fagan said. “From the end of January through the tournament. He’s a dynamic scorer and we don’t ever want that to change. Think the biggest thing we want him to be is a more complete player and do a great job at the end of his attack to make the right reads. That’s something he’s done significantly better. He’d never played with most of our guys last year except for that one month. He trusts our guys a lot more and has a better feel of what they are capable of doing.”
Gordon is certainly a likely Indiana All-Star and teammate Jordan Walker could also put his name in the ring. Walker, a 6-2 senior guard and Morehead State recruit, also transferred from North Central for his senior season. He averaged 14.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a junior.
“There was some uncertainty last year initially as far as what his role was going to be,” Fagan said of Walker. “Now he’s playing with a much higher level of confidence. He knows exactly what he’s supposed to do. I think anybody who thinks he’s not a legit candidate (for Indiana All-Stars) is going to be missing the boat on him.”
Joining those two in the backcourt is 6-foot junior Tra Landers, who has offers from Ball State and Buffalo and interest from a number of other Division I programs. Landers figures to see most of the time at point guard.
“This will be his second full year at point guard and we really expect a lot,” Fagan said. “He’s a playmaker, whether that is scoring or creating for his teammates. We go as he goes, a bit. He has that type of personality. He’s a good defender and he does everything really well.”
Other projected starters are 6-2 senior Matt Paligraf (6.0 ppg) and 6-3 junior Austin Kendrick (3.4 ppg, 5.4 rebounds). Matt Schultheis, a 6-1 senior, has a chance to play a bigger role. The junior class also includes 6-5 forward Danny Goggans, 5-9 guard Tony Johnson, 6-3 guard Donyell Meredith and 6-6 forward Jack Myers, also a standout baseball player.
Jarron Coleman, a 6-4 forward, is a sophomore who played major minutes last year (5.6 ppg, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists).
James Franklin, a 5-10 freshman, will also be a factor. Emil Ekiyor, a 6-3 sophomore, could also be in the mix.
Fagan expects this team to be one of the quickest in the state. Cathedral doesn’t have a typical low-post player but should make up for it with athleticism and speed across the board.
“I feel like we’re a very dynamic team offensively,” Fagan said. “We have a number of guys who can score in different ways. We feel like we can get out and play in transition and we can get back to being a really strong defensive team. Last year we struggled defensively. That was tough. We played zone in the sectional game (a double-overtime loss to Tech), which I’ve never done since I’ve been here. I think we’ll be back to being an elite team defensively. We don’t have a lot of size but we do have big, physical guards.”
Cathedral is in Sectional 10, along with Tech, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central and Warren Central. A tough road, but one the Irish are capable of navigating.
“One of our strengths will be our depth,” Fagan said. “When we bring guys off the bench, we shouldn’t miss a beat.”
Why Cathedral could be higher: The Irish are strong and athletic at the guard spot. Gordon, Walker and Landers will produce. This should also be a more cohesive team defensively than it was a year ago.
Why Cathedral could be lower: Cathedral could be exploited a bit inside. The Irish will need to play better defense to win a loaded sectional.
Circle the date: Dec. 12, vs. Lawrence Central. A good early-season test against a sectional rival is part of the Forum Credit Union Tipoff Classic at Southport.