By Joey Bennett
Armon Bassett is turning to more familiar leadership in his quest to end one of the most nomadic college basketball careers in memory.
Bassett enrolled at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, earlier this month, making the Bobcats the fifth school he’s been connected to since graduating from Terre Haute South in 2005 and leading the Braves to the Class 4A Final Four.
Bassett had made a verbal commitment to attend the University of Missouri while in high school, but instead went to the Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia to improve his academic standing and played the 2005-06 season there. Two seasons at Indiana saw Bassett average 9.5 points per game as a freshman and 11.4 as a sophomore, getting third-team all-Big Ten Conference honors and leading the league in 3-point field goal shooting percentage. The well-publicized departure from IU, which Bassett addressed last week to Ohio media, took him to Alabama-Birmingham for the recently-concluded fall semester.
And now he’s a Bobcat.
Bassett played for the Indiana Heat AAU team while in high school that was coached by Travis Steele, brother of Ohio Coach John Groce, and got to know the family well during that experience.
“Coach Groce is different from other coaches,” Bassett told the Athens Post. “He knows my story. Like Coach [Kelvin] Sampson can relate to people, but [Groce] actually knows what’s going on in my life. Like some personal stuff that I don’t trust many people [with].
“It’s a good decision with Coach Groce, and I feel all the way comfortable playing with him.”
Groce feels the same.
“When you look at everything he’s been through, as a coach, you’d be foolish not to do your due diligence and research it,” Groce told the Post. “We’re just focused on the fresh start that he has now and the chance he has to be here and to grow not only as a basketball player, but as a student and as a person.”
Bassett told the Post that many common rumors about his departure from IU were untrue.
“I had an option,” Bassett said. “The last phone conversation with Coach Crean, I had an option. I chose to leave. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t hear the whole story all the time, but I chose to leave.
“That was it, and no, I didn’t get kicked off the team for drugs.”
Asked why he didn’t talk about it sooner, Bassett said he thought no one would take his claims seriously.
“[Indiana] wasn’t all the way honest with the media with what was going on there,” he said. “I’m not going to go back and forth with [Crean] through the media, because he’s an established coach and people are going to probably take his word more likely than not so I wasn’t going to try and go against that.”
The UAB situation, which has put Coach Mike Davis under fire once again, saw numerous other players leave the team due to academic or other reasons the same time as Bassett.
“I just had some personal stuff going on back home,” Bassett said. “And I came there to play for Coach Davis, and I just don’t feel like he’s going to be there, for whatever reason, next season.
“Whether he’s going to another job or kind of falling out with the administration … I couldn’t wait until the end of the year.”
For now, Bassett is practicing with the Bobcats, members of the Mid-American Conference who currently have a 7-6 record — including a 12-point win over Indiana State last month.
The fall quarter ends on Nov. 22, so Bassett’s return to the court will be a few weeks sooner than if he had transferred to a school using semesters.
• • •
• Odds and ends — Northview grad Julia Whitted and the IUPUI Jaguars have struggled to a 7-7 record so far this season after making the conference tournament finals last year, but Whitted has held up her end.
The 6-5 junior led the team in scoring with 21 points in losses to Jacksonville and Missouri-Kansas City, and paced the team in rebounds with 12 in a win over Cornell and 10 in a victory against Northern Illinois.
She is averaging 12.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, as well as 2.9 blocked shots.
• Emily Maggert of Paris has started every game for the 8-6 Ball State women’s basketball team, ranking second on the team among four players in double figures with a scoring average of 13.6. Her high game was 22 points in a loss to Temple in December.
• Lade Akande of Robinson has led Butler’s women’s team to a 9-6 record, and again leads the team in scoring with a 12.6 average.
• Shakamak’s Jared Rehmel continues to shine for Olney Central College, which is now 11-4 after Thursday night’s double overtime win over Rend Lake. Rehmel led the Blue Knights with 35 points in that game.
On Dec. 6, Rehmel hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds to play to give OCC an 80-78 lead over Lincoln, which tied the score with 3.4 seconds left. Rehmel hit another three at the buzzer to give OCC a dramatic victory.
OCC Coach Mike Burris said during the Wabash Valley Classic that Kentucky Wesleyan has already made an offer to Rehmel, and that seven or eight Division 1 colleges remain very interested in the spunky guard.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at email@example.com.