There is a certain type of player that just seems to fit within the NAIA's Crossroads League. Players who can shoot well, protect the basketball and defend with a high degree of intensity fill the rosters within the conference.
It just so happens that three guys who played together at the same high school and showed those abilities caught Coach Ty Platt's eyes and have become players at Huntington University.
Juniors Stephen Jones and Shane Merryman are joined by sophomore Tyler Ault on this year's Foresters team. All are products of Carroll High School and each has seen significant playing time in the non-conference portion of Huntington's schedule.
The Foresters head into tonight's Crossroads League opener at Saint Francis with a 3-3 record. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“It is unique to have three guys from the same high school team,” Platt said. “All three have played a lot of basketball together. They are familiar with each other and know each other's strengths and tendencies.”
That familiarity has benefitted the Foresters through the first six games of the season. When Stephen Jones transferred to Huntington from Siena Heights last offseason, it gave Platt three solid players from the same high school, each with different attributes.
Jones has proven himself to be an adept passer while at 6-foot-0 showing a propensity to grab rebounds, ranking second on the team with 5.5 per game.
Ault is one of the best pure shooters on the roster, while Merryman leads the team in scoring at 19.5 points per contest while averaging a team-high eight rebounds.
“It is definitely a big asset when you have guys who know when to expect a pass from the other player and when they are going to shoot,” said Platt about his trio of Carroll products. “That can only be a good thing and it is only going to get better.”
Next year, the Foresters will add another high school combination in Columbia City's Drew Benedict and Daniel Woll. But Platt points out that he does not intentionally attempt to recruit players from the same school.
“I don't care if our players are from all over, I just want the right guys to play the Forester basketball way,” Platt said.
Huntington is trying to find its way early this season while battling a difficult non-conference slate and some injuries.
Sophomore guard Ryan Boester saw his first action of the season last weekend at the Grace College Classic and is expected to play tonight. Platt hopes the DeKalb product helps cut down on his team's turnovers, a problem area for the Foresters through the first half-dozen games.
A victory over one of the Crossroads League favorites tonight would go a long way.
“Saint Francis is a real test for us, they have played a lot of basketball with each other,” Platt said.
Platt knows all about the advantages of players having spent a lot of time on the court together, he has a trio of those guys on his roster.