The table was set. Valparaiso basketball coach Barak Coolman aligned the upcoming season schedule with highlighted December appearances in the Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle and Tipoff Classic at Southport.
The Vikings would return eight of its top 10 players from a 20-6 team that won a Class 4A sectional title. The centerpiece was senior guard Brandon Newman, a core Indiana Junior All-Star who averaged 25.0 points and 9.1 rebounds last season.
Then came the news Friday the 6-4 Newman would transfer and play his senior season hundreds of miles away at a prep school: Montverde Academy in Florida. It did not catch Coolman off guard. He had been in conversations with Newman about his decision to attend prep school or stay at Valparaiso for two months.
“The decision was not something he took lightly,” Coolman said Saturday. “We started talking about it when the opportunity was presented for him. Nothing was set in stone but he was exploring his options. We were set up to have a strong team with Brandon returning. It is never fun to see a player move on, especially such a special kid like Brandon. Valpo basketball will be fine. You can’t lose an Indiana All-Star and not be different, but we also want what is best for Brandon. He felt like this was the best decision for him.”
Newman, who has scholarship offers from Creighton, Indiana, Ohio State, Purdue and Xavier, among others, told Nathan Baird of the Journal & Courier the decision to attend Montverde — which has fielded players like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in recent years — was based on preparing himself for the college game.
“It’s wanting to be prepared for college, wanting to come in right away and make an impact and be ready for college, on and off the court,” Newman said. “Know how to manage time, take care of myself. And I’ll get to play the best kids in the country on a daily basis. That will only have to make me elevate my level of play, to play well consistently.”