It is awfully rare for this frog to prognosticate a full calendar year into the future, but I thought that this would as good of a time as any to do so.
While Justin Kenny and Dan Vance held down the fort at the Summit Athletic Conference Holiday Tournament a couple of weeks ago, Shooter was there too - hiding in the shadows watching and wondering why Athletic Director Gary Raber didn’t have any of those Airport Expressway crickets in the hospitality room.
Shooter got to see an awful lot of good basketball over those four days and a lot of teams and players made last impressions, good and bad, on this green skinned columnist. But at no point do I think, even after medals were won and nets were cut down, that I saw anything that gave me those basketball goosebumps quite like the Wayne boys. Yes, Shooter certainly means the 4-6, 0-3 in conference Generals.
Wayne went 1-1 in the tournament, topping Concordia and testing eventual runner-up Homestead. But the dunks, dimes and downtown delights that Shooter bore witness to would make most casual fans think that the Generals were the team to beat that week between Christmas and New Years. Their win over Concordia was their first in the tournament in three years and it showcased a wide array of future stars for the fans out at Wayne that Monday. See Wayne, while very talented, is still very young. Most of their roster is made up of juniors and perhaps their best player — and certainly their most athletic — is just a sophomore.
That sophomore, Craig Young, is one that has been on Shooter’s radar because of his exploits, not only on the hardwood, but in the track and field genre of the spring when I’m usually sitting pond side with a Mai Tai. After the Concordia game, there was a thought that Young should be in consideration for a spot in the prestigious Fabulous Five before his senior season and by halftime of the Homestead game a day later, Shooter was pretty sure that maybe it was time to start talking about Young being part of the Fabulous Five next fall.
The diversity in Young’s game is stunning to me. Rarely do you see a kid who could be put at any position on the floor and expect them to succeed. In an area where sophomores like Keion Brooks Jr. and Sydney Curry have gotten attention by the handfuls, overlooking Young is already a vital mistake.
Having Young at the forefront during the 2017-2018 season is what makes Wayne, quite possibly, the team to beat in the SAC just one year from now if Shooter’s crystal ball is on point.
With Young stands a junior class to rival any individual class at any school in a long time. A lot has been said about Kylon Jarreau, just an explosive and diverse scorer that Wayne succeeded without during the holiday tournament because of injury. But with Jarreau stuck on the sidelines, players like Darien Causey and Anthony Phillips stepped out of the shadows with the entire city watching at the end of 2016.
Causey has developed the reputation among opposing coaches as “the shooter” when they are playing Wayne and that is something to be proud of. Every time that Wayne’s offense ran to perfection against both Concordia and Homestead that week, you could hear coaches Austin Thoms and Chris Johnson yelling out to their teams to not lose the shooter. Drawing that kind of respect makes Causey that much more dangerous.
Phillips showcased some of the better passing skills of the conference’s point guards, running the show with poise and threading the needle with some pretty skip and bounce passes to get Young, Causey and sophomore Damarea Dial open looks.
The architect of this entire thing, coach Aaron Rehrer, has set this up by biding his time at the bottom of the conference after the three Mitchell brothers graduated in 2014. He built up young kids from feeder programs and has put Wayne in the drivers seat of the future. And that was Shooter’s biggest takeaway from the area’s biggest showcase.
North Side won that tournament, players like Homestead’s Jack Ferguson stood out, but at the end of the day, Shooter has started 2017 with only the future of Wayne basketball at the forefront of his mind.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Shooter at firstname.lastname@example.org