TERRE HAUTE —
Olney, Ill., population 8,000-plus and known for its population of white squirrels, might not be the dream destination for high school basketball players in Indiana.
But the Olney Central College basketball program could be the perfect stepping stone for Terre Haute South’s John Michael Jarvis and Terre Haute North’s Thomas Anderson.
Olney has been a prime stepping stone for other athletes in the Wabash Valley. Northview’s Brady Shoemaker parlayed Olney baseball success into an Indiana State scholarship, which led to his current career in the Chicago White Sox organization. Shakamak’s Jared Rehmel also left Olney for the Division I Central Arkansas basketball program; Rehmel has since moved to the University of Southern Indiana.
Current Olney guard Austin Akers, a Northview grad, also appears to be headed for Division I basketball after a strong freshman season with the Knights. Chase Brinkley of Paris is also on the Olney roster.
The 6-foot-1 Jarvis and 6-6 Anderson, both second-team All-Wabash Valley selections by the Tribune-Star in 2010, are hoping to have similar success.
For Jarvis, Olney is a place for him to prove he belongs where he thought he belonged — as a Division I guard that can help a team with his endless shooting range.
Multiple Division I coaches thought he belonged at that level a couple years ago, and Jarvis received an offer from Indiana State during his sophomore year.
“That would be my first choice to go back to ISU because I do regret not taking that offer,” Jarvis said. “It makes me want to work harder to go get to that position again.”
Jarvis is unsure if the Sycamore coaching staff would still be interested, but he’s out to improve on things that would make him more valuable.
Jarvis showed during high school he anticipates well on the defensive end, but he plans to continue to add strength and work on his ball-handling skills.
“Go [to Olney], work hard and see what I can get,” Jarvis said. “Got to be more of a penetrator, Still have to get better on defense.”
Olney coach Mike Burris, whom Jarvis said attended almost every South home game, is thrilled to add the guard to the mix.
“He needs to get stronger, as most high school seniors do as they prepare for the college level,” Burris said. “When you talk about shooters, most shooters are one-dimensional, but that’s not the case with John Michael.”
Anderson had several four-year opportunities but Olney’s appeal became more intriguing when he heard word of Jarvis’ commitment. He also thinks Olney has the chance to be pretty good. Akers and point guard Latrol Wright were both All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference second-team selections.
“I’ve been playing with and against John Michael since like fourth grade,” Anderson said. “I know his game pretty well and he knows mine. We both went up and played with some of their guys. We’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”
Anderson, interviewed after an evening in the gym shooting, wants to diversify his game after being North’s banger in the post the last few years.
“I know I can shoot the ball, I just have to prove that I can shoot the ball,” Anderson said. “Being a little undersized, I have to be able to hit some 3s. Hopefully I can get back to playing the way I know I can.”
Anderson said a stress fracture he suffered after his sophomore year and ankle injury the summer after his junior year slowed him down enough to hurt his production in AAU seasons.
“I’d like to stay injury free for once next year,” Anderson said.
North coach Todd Woelfle said Anderson leaves “a legacy of unselfishness and sacrificing statistics for the betterment of the team.”
Woelfle expects Anderson’s game to expand at the junior college level.
“I think it will help playing with guys like Akers and John Michael Jarvis,” Woelfle said. “He’ll be an undersized four, he can pick and pop and hit the outside shot. He’ll have to improve on consistency from the outside. He’ll have to continue to add some things to his game.”
In watching Jarvis and Anderson play the last few years, their passion for the game and passion for winning was always obvious — and things that made you want to go watch North and South play.
“John Michael Jarvis just gives tremendous effort every time he gets between the basketball court lines and is tremendously cooperative, very coachable, just an enjoyable guy to be around, great teammate,” South coach Mike Saylor said.
Jarvis is South’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made and he could light it up in a hurry, hitting nine 3s in a single game once and twice nailing eight in a game for South. He could also finish the fast break with a dunk on occasion, and current ISU point guard Jake Odum threw more than a handful of alley-oops.
“He’s been a classic shooting guard. The more he augments the rest of the skills, the greater player he’s going to be,” Saylor said.
Anderson is “one of the few players to start four years at Terre Haute North,” Woelfle said. “He’s a fierce competitor, has a high basketball IQ and the coaching staff [at Olney] is confident he’ll be successful at the next level.”
Division I recruiters should definitely take notice and mark their calendars with Olney’s schedule.
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (812) 231-4356. Follow me online at blogs.tribstar.com/craigpearson and on twitter @craig_pearson.