It’s been a few weeks, folks. I’ve been on sort of a Spring Break. One without any tan lines.
But it’s time to get my fingers dancing again. Maestro play the tune please.
We are just a few minutes or days before the sun warms up and all of Da Region gets to thaw out. Put all of our parkas away for awhile and bask in the heat that makes so many of us smile. For me, I can’t wait.
The crack of the bats on diamonds all around Northwest Indiana, and of course, at Wrigley Field is just awesome. But before we all begin to sweat I would like to take the next few moments and look back at the winter of 2018-19. To gaze a bit inside the gyms of our local high schools.
Player of the Year: Valparaiso’s Brandon Newman is the best player in the 2-1-9. He is a finalist for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award. The 6-foot-5 wing led the Vikings to 21 wins and the Class 4A sectional championship game. He averaged 27.2 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. Complete stud in green, he was.
I’m not the only one with the same conviction. Purdue’s Matt Painter will be coaching Newman for the next four years. Yes, the same coach who led his Boilermakers into the Elite 8 in March losing a heart-breaker in overtime to eventual national champion Virginia.
Most years Newman would be a lock in getting my Player of the Year vote. But this is not most years.
I’m going to drive down Broadway with my trophy and hand the honor to Andrean’s John Carrothers. The 6-foot-3 “do everything” player carried his 59ers to the Class 2A state championship. His numbers -- 13.9 points, 3.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds -- aren’t dazzling or jaw-dropping. It takes a few minutes of watching him work before you realize how good his game is.
In the 59-54 win against Linton-Stockton inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse Carrothers scored 16 points and grabbed four boards before cutting down the nets.
If I was a college coach Newman would be my first pick. But I’m not. I’m looking for the high school player who did the most to help his team win which is why John Carrothers is my Player of the Year.
Have a great summer kid.
Near misses: Here is a list of Region players who were remarkable as well. Chesterton’s Jake Wadding was and is remarkable for the sectional champion Trojans. Andrean’s Kyle Ross won a state title as a sophomore and will be fun to watch the next two winters. Probably the ‘Niners best player. Munster’s Jevon Morris had a great run for coach Mike Hackett. He helped lead the Mustangs to a sectional title, something that had been missing in recent springs.
I’ll finish my best of the best list with Lake Station’s Dominique Smith. I remember watching this pint-sized freshman at the Highland Holiday Tournament four years ago and was amazed. His game got better every year after. He averaged 21.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists for the 17-win Eagles. Well done, sir.
A great group of young men who have a lot of basketball yet to be played.
Coach of the Year: This one is pretty easy. If you lead your team to a state championship then you get this honor. Period. Congratulations to Andrean’s Brad Stangel for assembling this team and finally getting over the hump.
Near misses: Here is my list of coaches who did a great job this season even if they did not make it to Indy. Hanover Central’s Bryon Clouse, Hammond’s Larry Moore Jr., Chesterton’s Marc Urban, Munster’s Mike Hackett and Lake Station’s Bob Burke.
Well done, gents.
A fond farewell: Two great coaches chose to step away from the game at the end of this season -- Michigan City’s John Boyd and Merrillville’s T.J. Lux. Boyd led Gary West Side to the 2002 state title. He attempted to get City into the upper tier but it never did happen. Lux was a true gentleman of the game, a great guy, who truly cared about his kids, on and off the court.
I wish the two of you the best as you walk into the next chapter of your life.
Part of me wants to keep writing about what was a great season this winter. But the sun is shining and the buzzer on our dryer just went off. My Speedos are ready to be worn. Can’t wait for summer.
But I’m putting my parka in the trunk just in case.