When it comes to vivid basketball terms, nothing beats “The Three.”
At its core as a shot, it's a downtown momentum changer capable of extending domination in a flurry or chopping leads to nothing in a similar matter of seconds.
But for Fort Wayne fans, “The Three” holds another level of meaning.
“The Three” best players, in a deep local talent pool, are pointed in three directions for future fame, directions with brand recognition and fan loyalty.
There's Bishop Luers junior James Blackmon Jr., returning from a knee injury, playing to regain the form that earned a scholarship offer to Indiana University.
There's Northrop senior Bryson Scott, all muscled up and vowing never to take a day off as he rolls toward Purdue University.
And there's New Haven senior V.J. Beachem, all lanky limbs and laconic smoothness, prepping for his future time at the University of Notre Dame.
Does it get any better than this? The Three players, heading toward the traditional Big Three schools (no offense, Butler), leading the city's hoops fortunes?
Actually, it does get better. There are a number of other terrific players who'll be lighting it up, including Northrop's Brenton Scott, Norwell's Josh VanMeter, Homestead's Nick Gamble, Carroll's Chandler White and Concordia's Marq Rogers, to name a few.
As for “The Three,” they also have something to prove outside of their highlight moves and scoring titles.
A verdict on which one of “The Three” ends up as the city's best depends on where he takes his team when all is said and done. Each has unfinished business:
– Blackmon went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament on Feb. 4, knocking him out of the homestretch and Luers out of contention. After Blackmon was injured, Luers lost three of its last five, was knocked out of the sectional by Adams Central (which has no big-name recruits, incidentally) and finished 14-9. Luers started the season 11-3 before a slide that seemed to begin even before Blackmon's injury.
Blackmon will aim to re-establish his stock as a future IU player, and his program's place as a relevant Summit Athletic Conference and state contender.
– Scott helped lead Northrop to its best record (21-4) since the early 1990s, and the Bruins won SAC tournament and sectional titles. But Northrop fell to Homestead in the regional, a loss that continued to sting after the season.
Scott has a sometimes capricious personality on the court, occasionally allowing officiating or opponents to get under his skin. Playing under control so his ample skills can shine should be a focus. He and his brother, Brenton, who will play at Indiana State in the future, headline a team that should be considered the area's best.
– Beachem's first season at New Haven after moving over from the former Harding High was a decent one. The Bulldogs finished 17-4, a six-win improvement over the previous season.
But three disappointing games frustrated the Bulldogs: a lethargic 78-49 loss at Norwell after starting the season 9-0, a tough-to-take 73-69 loss at Homestead and a low-scoring 49-36 loss to Jay County in the sectional.
Beachem will want to make coach Al Gooden's second season at New Haven one that includes trophies.
While “The Three” operate in the natural spotlight of their IU, Purdue and Notre Dame connections, the best teams keep maintain the delicate balance of great players and teamwork.
Who'll mold their talent and desire to fit their teammates and produce a championship team? Which team will have the staying power, the dynamics and the drive to be the last one standing?
We start with “The Three,” but it'll be more than a little fun and fascinating to see where we end.