Its a year of change for boys basketball in Fort Wayne. Familiar names will be replaced by not-so- recognizable ones.
Players such as Northrops Bryson and Brenton Scott have graduated and moved on to Purdue and Indiana State. Graduation has also decimated the rosters of Northrop and Class 3A state runner-up Concordia.
There also wont be V.J. Beachem from New Haven (now at Notre Dame).
And Bishop Luers goes from an experienced team to a young one, with the Blackmon family moving to Marion, led by coach James Blackmon Sr., senior and Indiana recruit James Blackmon Jr. and sophomore Vijay Blackmon.
(The SAC) will be a little easier without James and the (Scott) twins not being there, but there is still a lot of good competition, and you cant sleep on anybody, said Wayne senior Justin Mitchell, one of the returning star players.
The SAC may not be easy, but it will definitely have a new look. The Scott twins led Northrop to three straight SAC tournament titles, and the two older Blackmons helped the Knights to regular-season conference championships in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
This is something that we knew was coming, Northrop coach Barak Coolman said. We have some guys who have been waiting their turn in a way. I dont really know whos going to be able to handle it, and who isnt. Thats the unknown for me. It may take a couple of games to really get that figured out.
You lose six quality seniors, including the Scott twins, it cant help but look different. We are going to have a totally different style.
It was the same void when Deshaun Thomas graduated from Bishop Luers in 2010 and moved to Ohio State.
Concordia used its experience last year to finish as the 3A state runner-up, but the loss of seven players, including four of five starters, will put a lot of pressure on another remaining star player – senior D.J. McCall, an IUPUI recruit.
Obviously the roster is going to be different this year, but we have some young guys who need to step up, McCall said. The guys who left last year, I can really relate to them as a senior now and take on the challenge of being a leader on and off the court. Those seven seniors taught me a lot.
Just call it a changing of the guard (or other positions).
It puts more attention on Mitchell, McCall, Carrolls Chandler White, Homesteads Caleb Swanigan and New Havens Steve McElvene.
D.J. is going to have a lot on his shoulders and most of it will be in the realm of leadership, Concordia coach Josh Eggold said. They are going to double and triple team him all the time. He is going to have to learn to find kids who can shoot the ball for us and create spacing and give him room to work.
Even SAC champion North Side lost its leading scorer in Dwight Richards (16 points). The difference being that the Redskins return the other four starters and six of their top seven players.
We have been blessed with a lot of individual talent in Fort Wayne, North Side coach Shabaz Khaliq said. It makes for a lot of good games. There are a lot of enjoyable games for fans. It can be tough for coaches because teams despite their record can be competitive. Unfortunately we run into a tough 4A regional. The state champs have come out of that regional the last two years.