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Greg Jones

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Vikings rebuild faster than expected

Rob Irwin knows a little something about building boys’ basketball programs.

So the veteran coach isn’t about to get caught up in the 4-1 start of his Huntington North team, which includes wins over NHC powerhouses Homestead and New Haven. The second-year Vikings coach acknowledges, though, that the rebuilding project is ahead of schedule.

“Fortunately, our older kids have bought in and progressed maybe faster than expectations … whether that translates into wins right now, we will see,” Irwin said. “Right now it has, but whether it does the whole season, I don’t know. But what it is going to take to play here has been established by some good kids. We are a little bit better than I thought we would be.”

Irwin isn’t about to get ahead of himself or let the team do the same.

“It’s early, and we have some tough teams coming up … so we are going to have some games that are going to be really tough,” Irwin said of games against Richmond tonight and the Carroll Shootout next week.

Irwin, who is 216-183 in 19 years of coaching, has had prior success at Carroll and Whitko and took over a Huntington North program that has also enjoyed past successes but not recently.

“When I got here, the basketball program needed to become – there had been some turmoil – settled down,” Irwin said. “Everybody knew what was expected and what it took to play here. Right or wrong, this is the way it is going to be right now. Everybody has done that and done it without questioning me.”

The key to the team’s early success has been rebounding, defense and shooting.

“If we don’t shoot the ball like that against Homestead and New Haven, we don’t win,” Irwin said. “I know everybody could say that, but we have shot the ball pretty extraordinary right now. We have done that three times now where we have been in the high 50s (shooting percentage) and low 60s, and then been in the 60s from 3. That’s the thing that has been unusual. But we are taking really good shots, and we have guys who can shoot it.”

Huntington North has shot 48 percent (94 or 194) from the field, including 50 percent (41 of 82) on 3-pointers. Kyle Platt has led the offense, going 10 of 13 (76.9 percent) on 3-pointers. He is 20 of 44 (45.5 percent) from the field overall. He leads the team with 13.8 points per game.

Also, Konner Platt has hit 58.3 percent (14 of 24) from the field and 53 percent (8 of 15) on 3-pointers, Keaton Irwin, Rob’s son, has hit 53.8 percent (14 of 26) from the field and 47.6 percent (10 of 21) on 3s, and Caleb Landrum has hit 48.8 percent (20 of 41) from the field and 55 percent (11 of 20) on 3-pointers.

In what he insists will be his last coaching stop, Irwin likes what he sees in the current team but is really excited to see what the younger players can do, especially at the freshman and middle school levels.

“It makes a big difference when they want to be in the gym,” Irwin said. “We have guys who want to play.”

Greg Jones is the high school sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by email gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648.

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