NEW PALESTINE — Every home has a foundation.
New Palestine sophomore forward Gavin Hausz, pronounced “House,” is becoming just that — a reliable base — for a beat-up Dragons team on the verge of findings its rhythm.
At 3-10 this season, with four losses coming by five points or less, including a 61-57 defeat at home to Mooresville on Saturday, New Palestine is inching closer and closer towards becoming a consistent winner.
Story continues below gallery
And after struggling to find his touch in the team’s first five games (17 total points), Hausz, mixed with steady junior guard Jalen Qualkinbush, who unfortunately suffered an ankle injury last Friday, has been as dependable as any Dragons player this season.
In the team’s last eight games, the 6-foot-3 Hausz has scored 108 points (13.5 points per game) and has hit 21 shots from behind the 3-point line. His 26 threes this season ranks in the top 100 in the state, according to maxpreps.com.
That play came at the right time, too, as then-leading scorer and rebounder, senior forward Cody Long, went down with an ankle injury during the New Palestine tournament over winter break. Now, with Qualkinbush out, who leads the team in scoring at 10.5 ppg, Hausz (9.6 ppg) will be a main target for opposing teams.
Dragons first-year head coach Trent Whitaker, who has been around the program for several seasons, said Hausz, who did not play varsity as a freshman, finally caught up to the speed of the game.
“He has confidence in himself and has the scorer’s mentality at times,” Whitaker said. “At the same time, teammates are looking for him. They have a little bit of trust in Gavin at this point.”
The sophomore sharp-shooter began to find his groove with back-to-back nine point games against New Castle and Franklin Central in the middle of December. Then, in the second game of the aforementioned Dragons’ tournament, Hausz dropped a career-high 20 points against a strong Decatur Central squad.
He wasn’t done there. Hausz was even better in the team’s next game against Delta, knocking down five 3-pointers en route to a new career-high (21 points).
Want consistency? The sophomore, who said he enjoys watching shooters like Steph Curry of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and James Blackmon of Indiana University, has scored in double figures in every game (six) for New Palestine in the month of January.
“I think it was mostly confidence,” Hausz said of his increased production. “(My teammates) are always looking for me, and I think they’ve gained confidence in me, too.”
His play, of course, would be not possible without teammates like Qualkinbush, who was a quiet catalyst for New Palestine on both ends of the floor before his injury.
“Jalen is a kid, he just finds a way to score,” Whitaker said. “When he’s open, he will knock it down. He is a competitor.”
Added Hausz, “I feel like he always finds a way to get to the rim.”
His minutes will be hard to replace, but Whitaker has been blessed with one of the deepest benches in the area. Senior guards Caleb VanderWal, Logan Duffy and Duke Blackwell are all capable outside shooters and will need find ways into the lane, as well.
Senior forwards Jaret Rightley and John McKay have provided nice contributions inside with Long’s absence. Both are averaging more than four points and four rebounds per game this year.
However, Whitaker said he is hoping both Qualkinbush and Long would be back around the second week of February, right in time for both to get acclimated to the court again before postseason play.
The pair, mixed with Hausz and the amount of close-game scenarios New Palestine has encountered this season, should make the Dragons a tough-out in the state tournament.
“We have the pieces, hopefully we can get a couple guys back and can shoot the basketball,” Whitaker said. “It boils down a lot of times to effort for this team. We are not very competitive going 80 percent. Our schedule has definitely been difficult but, come tournament time, hopefully it will pay off.”
Points: 9.6 per game
Season High: 21 points against Delta
Last Eight Games: 13.5 per points per game
From Deep: 26 3-pointers this season (team-high, top 100 in state)
Favorite Players to Watch: Steph Curry, the “old” Kobe Bryant, James Blackmon Jr.
Up Next: New Palestine vs. Roncalli on Friday at 7:30 p.m., New Palestine at Franklin on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.