Stephanie Dowell/Post-Tribune Junior Luke Harangody of Andrean shoots goes up under the basket around senior Jordan Armstrong of Muncie Central in the first half of their All-Star game at Pendleton Heights June 21, 2005.
Updated: December 12, 2012 6:49AM
GRIFFITH — I am going to sound old and wistful here.
High school basketball doesn’t mean much anymore when evaluating super elite players. That realization hit me hard when I stopped by Griffith to watch an old-fashioned coach, Gary Hayes, take his team through some early season drills on Saturday.
Hayes has a couple of solid freshman twins, Anthony and Tremmell Brown, both 6-4, who are pretty good players. Or, more accurately, players with good potential. The Browns haven’t played a varsity game, yet they were the object of envy and desire for a bunch of coaches and schools in the area. It’s a small world out there for local basketball players. I watched them play in the Purdue University Calumet all-star game last year and they looked like the kind of players you’d want to have on your team. I can understand the low hum of excitement from coaches about them. They are athletic, skilled and devoted to the game. They already have logged hundreds of hours of practices and even more game experience for a couple of baby-faced students.
Here’s the thing, though, with almost every high school player you’re watching now: Most of their time on the court actually playing games comes in the summer and offseason with their AAU teams.
What you see in-season is only a snippet of what really goes on in the basketball life of a high school baller.
That’s why it’s much easier for kids to pack up their belongings and head for prep school or a basketball factory to try to chase their dream of playing at the next level. They are used to the year-round lifestyle that basketball has brought them.
Leaving high school basketball in Indiana to develop your game is slowly eroding the value of the coveted state title. The idea that it means everything to compete and play games in the Indiana state basketball tournament — the stuff that dreams were made of a half century ago — just doesn’t resonate universally with modern players today.
Sure, it’s still a big deal to most of them, but it’s just not a huge deal to all of them, which is how it used to be. I can cite dozens of players — Barry Stevens at Merrillville, Milos Kostic of Bishop Noll and Nick Peller of Munster — are just a few off the top of my head that left their home high schools for something better. None are great players. Peller ended up at Auburn as a walk-on after attending IMG Academy in Florida.
I’m not making judgments on the players that come and go out of their own self-interest or bemoaning the deterioration of Indiana High School Basketball tournament.
I’m quibbling with the definition of greatness. Just exactly what makes a great high school basketball player great now?
The greatest high school basketball player I ever covered — and I started in 1997 — was Luke Harangody, who averaged 23 points and 18 rebounds his senior season. Every single time I watched him play — and I watched him at least a dozen times — he brought it hard. He was always the object of the other teams attention and he consistently managed to get points and wear down other teams despite the double and triple teams.
Harangody, though, hardly qualified as the player with the best college potential that I covered — at least according to coaches. E’twaun Moore, Angel Garica, Rob Hummel and Scott Martin were better prospects. They had more upside — better hops, that “third gear” or more athleticism.
Already, college scouts have labeled Davon Dillard, a sophomore at Bowman who hasn’t played a varsity game, a game changer. UNC, Kentucky, all the big schools are interested.
Me? I want to wait and watch him play at least once for the Eagles.
Same with sophomore point guard Hyron Edwards, a solid player as a freshman who turned into a bona fide big time prospect when IU and Purdue offered this spring after he went crazy in an AAU game.
Me? I’d like to see him do it consistently game after game for East Chicago before I take that leap of faith.
Of course, that’s my problem. I don’t spend my summer hours watching these guys light up some of the best players in the country on the AAU scene. That’s where you learn about the “next gear”, “projecting” and “athleticism.”
I guess I’ll have to take that class someday. I’m just not quite ready to go there yet.