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Timeout boys basketball: It starts in the middle for Mustangs

Munster senior Nate Bubash. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

Munster senior Nate Bubash. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 12, 2013 2:50PM



MUNSTER — How do the Mustangs get it done year after year at Munster?

It all starts in the middle for the Mustangs. Been that way for a while under coach Mike Hackett.

It goes all the way back to centers Scott Rutkowski (2006) and Jim Phelan (2003), a couple of 6-8 bruisers who played for Hackett back when he was getting the program rolling.

Recently, it has continued with Ricky Carbajal (2011) and Nate Bubash this season.

For all the good guard play the Mustangs throw at teams (Joe Crisman, now at Loyola and Mike Schlotman, who will play at Davidson), the identity to their team, which revolves around their physical defense, starts in the middle.

This year, Bubash is picking up where Bubash left off last year. Before that, it was Carbajal who helped forge their identity.

“A requirement for us is to be able to bang and push inside and be a presence for us offensively,” Hackett said.

For Bubash, carrying on the bruising tradition with a touch of offensive flare is just fine with him.

“Being the next good center here is a nice thing,” Bubash said.

For Hackett, just being Bubash is a nice thing. He averages 15.3 points per game and six rebounds. Hackett can pretty much pencil Bubash in for those numbers before the game starts. He is also a gritty defensive player, helping to shut down Lake Central’s Tyler Wideman in a game earlier this year, holding him to eight points in a 67-57 win for the Mustangs.

“He’s real consistent,” Hackett said. “He’s never too up or down.”

Except when he was throwing in 23 points and grabbing six rebounds against Columbia City, a pretty decent team that the Mustangs beat on its floor over the holiday break. Columbia City is coached by Chris Bennett, the former coach at Valparaiso High School.

Hackett has an ideal in mind for the guy he wants to play center for the Mustangs. He is looking for rugged — at least 6-4 or so (the taller the better) — and someone who is not afraid to bang around inside.

He calls Bubash a power forward, who happens to be trapped in the center spot for the Mustangs.

Offensively, he’s not much of a back-to-the-basket player. However, he is just as effective in other ways.

He can use both hands and he has a good spin move — one that he started working on in eighth grade — that allows him to either kick ball out to a guard on the baseline for a 3-point shot, or throw one up inside.

“He is a real difficult matchup for a lot of teams,” Hackett said. “He’s real physical. He’s not a giant kid but he knows how to get himself in good position and he’s real good with his body under the basket. He also uses either hand.”

Bubash got schooled by Carbajal for two seasons. Carbajal, who is 6-6 and who now plays at Grand Valley State, was slightly modified version of Bubash or Bubash is a modified version of Carbajal. According to Hackett, Carbajal was “more explosive” while Bubash is more skilled.

“I think Ricky wore his emotions on his sleeve,” he said.

It’s true that Bubash became good because of the beatings he took from Carbjal in practice when he had to guard him.

“He went against him every day for two years,” Hackett said. “It really benefitted him.”

The last two seasons, Pat McCarthy has been Bubash’s whipping boy in practice. McCarthy said it’s as hard as it looks to guard Bubash, a player who possesses an array of offensive weapons.

McCarthy has caught more than one elbow in the face while trying to slow him down.

“He’s got so many moves,” McCarthy said. “He can go left and right equally well. It’s hard.”



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