TERRE HAUTE —
I don’t make predictions nearly as often as I used to, but I had one several months ago that was proven correct last week.
When Gary Fears told me that Robinson would be replacing Bloomfield in the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic lineup nearly a year ago, I told him — and pretty much everybody else I talked to about the upcoming tournament — “You’re gonna love Aaron Siler.”
I’d seen the Maroons’ point/shooting guard play briefly at the 2010 state finals, as I recall, and I watched him light up a very good Marshall team when he was a sophomore the following season.
So I could say that I was not surprised by what Siler did in Robinson’s four PHWVC games — but that would be a lie. I would have been surprised by anyone — up to and possibly including Kobe and LeBron — getting 39 points against Terre Haute North’s Austin Lewis, the defender who had stopped Indiana’s leading high school scorer in regional play in March.
The where’s-he-going-to-school? questions began immediately for Siler — who can handle it and deal it as well as shoot it — followed quickly by whether or not he’s his listed height of 5-foot-11. So I made a point of talking to him after the championship game, and I can tell you he’s about as much taller than me (I’m 5-8ish) as Rockville’s Keiontre Wilkey is shorter than me (he’s listed at 5-8, but admits to 5-41⁄2). Maybe Siler doesn’t look as big because he plays in a crouch, the better to unleash his killer crossover.
And since Lewis is 6-5, obviously Siler can get his shot off against bigger defenders.
Much as I like him, however, Siler wasn’t even my favorite Maroon. And as much as I liked the Maroons, I went into the championship game last Monday thinking that Rockville might win it.
It helped, I think, that the Rox got to play a similarly strong, physical Sullivan team in the semifinals — is it time to put coach Jeff Moore’s squads forever in the reloading category instead of the rebuilding one? — but maybe that didn’t matter either.
Coach Dave Mahurin’s team has the look of a special team, a much better one that last year’s edition (that was a couple of baskets away from a state championship, remember) even though most of the faces are the same. Those familiar players all seem to be better than they were a year ago, and guys who didn’t play much a year ago — like Wilkey or Nick Waltz — have each added to the mix.
They have a team leader in Lane Mahurin whose talents are almost impossible to describe — what position does he play, for example? Or what are his best physical gifts? — but almost always translate into big plays at the right time, and right now they look to be one of the most mentally strong teams I can remember. They are smart, they are loose, they are confident, and no matter what kind of game you want to play against them, you’ll wind up playing the game they want.
In summary, I enjoyed the PHWVC like I always do, particularly the days when I didn’t lock my keys in my car. And I liked the championship game, because it included two teams that might take me exciting places in a couple of months. Here are more things I enjoyed.
• Nobody loves Goliath — Game of the week was Robinson vs. Terre Haute North, of course. It might be the best Classic game ever, although the discussion would have to include Sullivan vs. North in the 2009 championship game.
So now I’ll have to dodge Todd Woelfle for awhile so he doesn’t ask me why a game North wins isn’t the best ever.
• Fan of the week — When I arrived for the first game Thursday, South Vermillion scorekeeper Lynn Branz was already there, even though the Wildcats had a 7 p.m. tipoff. He was there ahead of me on Friday and Saturday too.
• Why the shoes? You may have heard this by now, but it’s worth repeating. The green shoes worn by Rockville throughout the tournament were in tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary School, whose colors are green and white.
• Who’s going to guard him? My favorite Robinson player of the week was actually Cory Blount, all 5-9 of him, for his defensive work on Terre Haute South’s Jeffrey Turner (five inches taller, several pounds heavier). Other stalwarts on the defensive end included Lewis and Rockville’s Joel Wittenmyer, whose exploits have already been chronicled often; Casey’s A.J. McNeil; Northview’s Travis Hakman; the entire Marshall team (with special mention for Cray Bloodworth underneath); and Linton’s Jackson Bohnert.
You’ll notice several of those guys had to deal with Siler along the way.
• Cut off the head … and the snake won’t bother you. Among the team leaders who stood out during the week were Lane Mahurin, Siler, Craig Peters of Northview, Brooks Weszely of Sullivan, Thomas Sisson of Marshall and Cade Lindsey of West Vigo. North is doubly blessed with Nate Jahn and Casey Vickers.
• How could they lose? Both Monrovia (Ross Bolton and Jeremy Gray) and West Vigo (Lindsey and Kyle Stewart) started all-lefty backcourts, and with Logan Steward returning, South could field three southpaw guards at a time (including Kevaris Gregory and Jared Wolfe).
• What language is that? Trying to measure his height was only one reason I stood next to Wilkey in the Rockville locker room. The other reason was to see if he’d agree to shorten his first name for newspaper purposes (a little tricky to spell). He disagreed, however.
“Keiontre means basketball,” he insisted, so I’ll have to remember that the three consecutive vowels come in order.
• Costly injuries — Casey was without rugged rebounder Jordan Brandenburg the entire tournament after he got hurt in practice, and Linton point guard Sam Dyar played about 30 seconds of the Classic before his own injury. I haven’t heard updates on either player since.
Turkey Run’s Jeff Woods has returned, however.
• Speaking of Linton — There were grumblings about disparity in talent in some of the games this year, but my thought on that was that there were a lot more really good teams than usual. The proof? Indiana’s seventh-ranked, unbeaten Class 2A team didn’t make it to a fourth game.
I’ve also finally come up with the professional athlete I’d compare to four-year wonder Dess Fougerousse of the Miners: occasionally brilliant former major league pitcher Joaquin Andujar, who said his favorite English word was, “You never know.” I don’t think I have to explain that one any further.
• Tough stat-keeping — It might not be a Harley and Arley Andrews problem, but when Marshall puts Taylor Maurer and Cole Rice on the bench at the same time, the Lions have five players on the court who are 6-2 and approximately the same weight.
• Biggest losers — I’ve been suspicious this winter that there’s a little less to North’s A.J. Grady than there was during football season, and Casey’s Matt McCown looked positively svelte.
• Sportsmanship — Robinson’s fans were disappointed after the championship game, but an awful lot of them stayed in their seats to salute Rockville.
And finally …
• New definition — Thanks to Steve Brett, I know what a “Greene County Officiating Kit” is. Details will be revealed privately.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at 812-231-4277 or at 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at email@example.com; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at 812-231-4321. Follow TribStarAndy on Twitter.