1. Valparaíso (19-5): The expectations of the Vikings are high. Senior forward Mason Jones (18.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists), a Ball State recruit who was an Indiana Junior All-Star, is an elite player. Sophomore guard Jack Smiley (6.8 points) showed his skills and potential last season and should continue to make progress. Senior forward Connor McCall and senior guard Derrick Brooks are also returning.
2. 21st Century (23-5): Most of the Cougars’ core, who lost in overtime to Lafayette Central Catholic in a semi-state, are returning. Senior guard Ashton Williamson (19.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 11.4 assists, 4.0 steals), a Division I prospect who was an Indiana Junior All-Star, is a standout player. senior guard/forward DJ Moss (14.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.2 steals, 2.9 blocks) and senior guard/forward Quintin Floyd (15.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals ) also belong to the talented triumvirate of the team. Senior guard Roy Cast and second forward Lemetrius Williams are among the other returns for the Cougars. Coach Larry Upshaw said: “We play with a chip on our shoulders all year long and just one moment can take us away from it.”
3. Munster (22-5): The Mustangs are bringing back four starters from the Northwest Crossroads Conference and the section champion. Senior forward Brandon Trilli (21.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists), a Northern Michigan recruit who was an Indiana Junior All-Star, is a top-flight player. Junior guard David Cundiff (9.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists) gives them an outstanding one-two. Junior guard Nolan Kinsella (8.1 points) and junior forward Jermaine Coney (4.1 points) also started last season.
4. Chesterton (29-1): Mr. Basketball finalist Travis Grayson graduated to the State Finals after the Trojans’ unbeaten run. But the dynamic junior duo of striker Justin Sims (9.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) and guard Tyler Parrish (10.2 points) is back. Senior guard Owen Guest (4.5 points) gives them three returning starters.
5. Hammond Central (16-8): Wolves are bringing back 11 players and should be buoyed by the memory of a semi-final defeat by Munster. Senior guard Jordan Woods (17.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 3.8 steals) is a high-level player. Senior guard Kenneth Grant (13.2 points, 5.1 rebounds) and junior guard Matthew King (11.4 points, 4.1 rebounds) are also back. They are to be strengthened by young striker Daniel Garza (7.7 points, 4.8 rebounds), who comes from Bishop Noll.
6. Crown Point (17-6): Senior guard AJ Lux (17.7 points, 4.4 rebounds), a hard-shooting Bellarmine recruit, leads the Bulldogs. They’ll look to produce complementary players around him, such as senior forward/center Keaton Buuck (4.7 points) and senior forward Connor Cotton. Coach Clint Swan said Crown Point will be focused on defense, so defense and rebound are particularly important.
7. Michigan City (16-9): Dynamic senior guard Jamie Hodges (23.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.9 steals) is already the Wolves’ all-season and career all-time leader. Junior guard/forward Allen Briggs (8.5 points) also returns. Trainer Tom Wells said the athletic Wolves are “not so tiny anymore” up front.
8. Sea Station (21-4): Senior guard Willie Miller (18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 3.4 steals, 2.5 blocked shots) headlined what coach Bob Burke called a “special” class having a “special season” tracked. Senior guard Adam Eastland (13.0 points) and senior guard Armoni Gonzalez (11.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.4 steals) also return for the Eagles, whose only section title came in 1941. As they advance from 2A to Class 3A, they move up on mix senior guard Travis Randolph (10.9 points, 5.2 rebounds), who joined from River Forest.
9. Bishop Noll (11-13): Junior guard Jaedin Reyna (14.4 points, 5.1 assists), whose few Division I offers include Illinois, joins the Warriors after transferring from Chicago’s St. Rita. With seven seniors advancing from 2A to Class 3A, the Warriors are bringing back three starters from the section championship team: junior guard Angel Alvarez (12.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.8 steals), junior guard Caleb Parks (6.1 points) and senior forward Xavier Zukley (4.3 points). Coach John Dodson said 6ft-9 newcomer Metrell Harbin “will play a big part”.
10: Carry (17-9): Kamari Slaughter traded to state champions Indianapolis Cathedral. But the Indians still have many talented and young but experienced players, highlighted by Garrett Clark (6.4 points). The second twins Michael Wellman (6.2 points), a guard/forward, and guard Sam Wellman (4.1 points) also started. Senior guard Jaelon Hollies and junior forward Jaelyn Johnson are also returning for second-year coach Bryon Clouse.
Lukas Balling, Marquette, senior, guard/forward; Garrett Clark, Portage, sophomore, guard; David Cundiff, Munster, Junior, Guard; Brandon Escobedo, Lake Central, senior, forward; Quintin Floyd, 21st Century, Senior, Guard/Forward; Jamie Hodges, Michigan City, senior, guard; Mason Jones, Valparaiso, senior, forward; Matthew King, Hammond Central, junior, guard; Kyle Kirkham, LaPorte, senior, guard; Jason Kobe, Marquette, senior, guard/forward; AJ Lux, Crown Point, Senior, Guard; Connor Melchi, Boone Grove, senior, guard; Willie Miller, Lake Station, senior, guard; DJ Moss, 21st Century, Senior, Guard/Forward; Dominique Murphy, East Chicago Central, sophomore, forward; Tyler Parrish, Chesterton, junior, guard; Jaedin Reyna, Bishop Noll, Junior, Guard; Justin Sims, Chesterton, junior, forward; Jack Smiley, Valparaiso, sophomore, guard; Brandon Trilli, Munster, senior, forward; Luke Van Essen, Iliana Christian, senior, guard; Darrin Weaver, Merrillville, senior, guard; Cam Webster, Kankakee Valley, junior, guard; Ashton Williamson, 21st Century, Senior, Guard; Jordan Woods, Hammond Central, senior, guard.