With both the girls and boys basketball seasons well underway, here are some thoughts and notes on players and teams around Hancock County.
Coming out swinging
•Remember the name Maximus Gizzi. The freshman point guard at New Palestine has wasted little time acclimating himself to the varsity level. He leads the Dragons in rebounds (5.3), assists (3.3) and steals (1.7), and is second on the team in scoring at 11.7 points per game. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in his family, either, as his mom, Sarah Haynes, was an Indiana All-Star at New Palestine in 1994. With a high basketball IQ and exceptional ball-handling skills, Gizzi can create his own shot or make plays for others. His outside shot is still developing, but the rookie had several nice drives to the basket in the team’s first game against Eastern Hancock. He also shoots it well from the free-throw line and had 15 points in his varsity debut against the Royals. It will be interesting to see how he progresses in four seasons under head coach Trent Whitaker.
•Sydnee Perry, a standout travel softball player, also has shown her athletic ability on the court this season for Mt. Vernon, averaging 5.0 ppg as a freshman. She is also averaging 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game this season and has shown an ability to shoot with accuracy from the outside. She is second on the team with six made 3s and is hitting them at 50 percent. As she continues to get stronger, Perry will be a player to watch for several years to come.
Story continues below gallery
•Keep an eye on Greenfield-Central freshman Logan Graddy. He has played sparingly for head coach Michael Lewis but has shown glimpses of his potential, especially on defense. He is long and, like Gizzi, appears to have solid basketball smarts with a smooth looking shot and solid all-around fundamentals. On the girls side at Greenfield-Central, freshman guards Kyrstin Bond and Hannah Farrell will be players to remember, as well. Both are gaining valuable experience on a wounded Cougars squad.
After coming off the bench as the team’s sixth man last season, Greenfield-Central junior Will O’Connor is the Cougars’ obvious go-to player this year. He has increased his points per game total from 5.0 as a sophomore to 22.6 this season. He started the season on fire against Beech Grove and has yet to cool off, shooting 57 percent (13 of 23) from behind the 3-point line and 94 percent from the free-throw line (15-for-16). O’Connor also leads the team in rebounds this season at 5.0 per game and is shooting a blistering 73 percent from 2-point range.
What makes O’Connor so dangerous is his ability to score from every spot on the floor. He shoots the ball with ease and, at 6-foot-6, has little trouble seeing over shorter defenders. O’Connor can also catch fire in a hurry. He drilled four threes in the first half in a win over Indianapolis Marshall.
•Also stepping into a new role this season is Mt. Vernon senior Hannah Johnson. With the graduation of Sydney Shelton and Ariana Sandefur, Johnson has been counted on to do most of the scoring for an inexperienced Marauders squad. She is scoring 8.7 points per game and has hit a team-high eight 3-pointers.
•On the boys side at Mt. Vernon, senior forward James McCloud has increased his averages across the board with the graduation of 2016 seniors Michael Thompson and Miles Wayer.
•After spending last season on the junior varsity team, Eastern Hancock junior point guard Bryce Napier is leading the Royals in scoring at 19.3 ppg. With only five made threes this season, Napier has scored a majority of his points at the free-throw line (30 of 34). Transferring from Morristown last year, Napier was ruled ineligible to play at the varsity level. Taking a year away didn’t seem to hurt to the silky-smooth ball handler, who is also averaging 3.0 steals per game.
Same ol’ veterans
•Raegan McMurray and New Palestine, which has won five straight contests, are starting to figure out how to play with a roster filled with underclassmen. On a team filled with seniors last season, McMurray hasn’t taken a step back in an extended role this season. She is averaging 15.9 ppg and continues to get to the hole at will. Against Franklin Central, McMurray even played — and scored — in the post a few times against smaller guards. She is also averaging 6.9 rpg and 2.7 apg this season.
•Mt. Vernon senior guard Michael Ertel, coming off an impressive summer of AAU ball, is scoring the ball at a high rate this season for the Marauders. He is averaging 21.8 ppg, which ranks second in the county, and 3.8 rpg. Although it is still early, it appears Ertel has improved his outside shot from a season ago. He already has 15 made threes (47 percent) this season. The Louisiana-Monroe commit is also shooting 89 percent from the charity stripe.
•From Eastern Hancock, junior guard Addison True, an IBCA Top 100 Underclassmen last season, is benefiting from the addition of Napier at the point guard position. No longer forced to do it all on nearly every possession, True has been able to focus on other areas. He is leading the team in rebounds and assists and also leads the county with 4.3 steals per game.