From now until the beginning of the high school boys basketball season we’ll be counting down the Preseason Fab 15, a ranking of the top teams in Central Indiana. We started with No. 14 Mt. Vernon and No. 15 Pendleton Heights. Next on our list:
No. 13 – Martinsville
A surefire sign that Martinsville has arrived as a team to watch this season: Its inclusion in the annual Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle.
The Artesians earned an invite for the first time in 25 years on the strength of a 17-7 season and several key players returning. A trip to New Castle in December – where it won the Hall of Fame Classic in 1990 – is a signal that the program is on the way up.
“Knowing you are playing in the Hall of Fame gives you something to shoot for in the summer when it’s the middle of July and you don’t want to be there,” third-year Martinsville coach Kip Staggs said. “It gives you something to shoot for in the weight room. It’s an honor. It’s great for our school, our community and our program. It was 25 years ago when Martinsville was No. 1 in the state that it last had this opportunity.”
Martinsville played in the sectional championship game each of the past two years, losing both games to Brownsburg (including a 61-57 nail-biter last year). The team’s leading scorer and playmaker, Gannon Myers (16.6 ppg, 5.1 assists, 47 percent 3-point shooter) is gone to graduation. But other than the loss of Myers and starter Trey Deaton (3.6 ppg, 4.2 rebounds), there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
It begins with 6-8 senior Keegan Northern, a University of Indianapolis recruit. Northern, an inside-outside threat, averaged 13.4 points and 5.0 rebounds as a junior and should improve on his 3-point shooting (23-for-71) from a year ago. Northern had interest from several Division I programs before deciding on UIndy.
“With Keegan, when we first started with him, we had him in the post,” Staggs said. “We kind of lived and died with him being in there and said he’s going to learn by fire. Then we moved him out to the perimeter a little more. This year we look at him to play inside and out and cause some matchup problems. He’s athletic enough he can go in both areas and be a positive factor on the floor.”
Northern put on 15 pounds from last season, which should allow him to better handle the rigors of going in the post. Northern said he’s ready to help wherever he’s needed.
“I feel like this is our best year since coach Staggs has been here,” he said. “We know how he runs his program and how he wants us to play. ‘Play hard’ is our motto. Everybody has bought into that. We feel like this is our season to do big things.”
Another key returner in a big senior class is Zach Anderson. The 6-3 guard averaged 12.1 points a game last season and was one of the area’s best 3-point shooters (52-for-111).
“He’s probably one of the best shooters in the state that people don’t know about,” Staggs said of Anderson. “He’s starting to do more than just shoot threes. He’s starting to get to the basket and defend better. His game is improving.”
The third returning starter is 6-foot senior guard Logan Ratts (5.5 ppg, 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists). Staggs said Ratts is arguably the team’s most improved player.
“He really came on in the second half of last season,” Staggs said. “He’s not afraid to guard people. He sets the tempo for us in the full court. He shoots a high percentage but he doesn’t shoot a lot. He’s a smart basketball player and he’s also smart off the court.”
Tim Bowlen is another senior who helped the Artesians from the 3-point line last year. Bowlen, a pitcher and second baseman on the baseball team, averaged 3.2 points as a junior and shot 39 percent from the 3-point line (17-for-44).
“We’re looking for (Bowlen) to expand his game,” Staggs said. “He made some big shots for us at the end of last year. He can run some point, but his strong suit is shooting.”
Other seniors who can help are 5-11 guard Wyatt Stroder (3.7 ppg) and 6-5 forward Josh Bertelson (3.8 ppg, 3.1 rebounds). Gavin Vehling, Dylan Bales and Mason Ferguson are other seniors who played mostly on the junior varsity team last season.
“I think we have the nucleus to be a nice team,” Staggs said. “Like everybody, you have to have good chemistry and stay injury free. I think we have multiple guys who can score. We can post guys up, we can move them around. We have guys who can shoot the three but also get the ball in the post. I think that will make us difficult to defend. I also think we’re smart basketball-wise and we can change on the fly a bit because of our experience level.”
Jonathan Collier, a 6-foot sophomore, and junior guard Levi Chandler are among the underclassmen who could see time. A strong freshmen class includes 6-5 Tyler Stead.
The seniors, however, will lead the way.
“It was heartbreaking to lose two years in a row to Brownsburg in the sectional championship but it’s motivated us to work hard to not let that happen again,” Ratts said. “We’re going to run. We’re going to be in the best shape possible and not let people outrun us up and down the floor. We were underdogs the last two seasons but now we’re the team on the schedule that people want to beat.”
Why Martinsville could be higher: Seniors all over the place. The Artesians know who they are and will be hard to guard with several solid outside shooters.
Why Martinsville could be lower: This team has been close but hasn’t gotten through the sectional. For all the experience returning, Myers will be difficult to replace.
Circle the date: Dec. 12, Center Grove. The Trojans will provide a good early-season test prior to the trip to New Castle.