A few times over the past few seasons, Northwestern’s boys basketball team has had the chance to play in front of a full house. The Blackford game this year was jam packed. The Western game last season was full. The excitement starts brewing early.
“During the JV games when you’re sitting there and watching everybody fill in — that’s when you think, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a big game,’” Northwestern senior Tayson Parker said. “Then you come out for warmups and you feel everything. This is going to be really exciting.”
The feeling was mutual.
For three seasons as a Northwestern Tiger, Parker thrilled the home fans as well as those from rival schools with his explosive speed, leaping ability and shooting acumen. In his first game for Northwestern, at home against Madison-Grant as a sophomore two seasons ago, the road fans didn’t know they were in for a show. Once they got a look, they were abuzz. Cell phones rose in unison when he was in position to dunk, and the oohs from the home fans were matched by aahs from the road crowd.
By this season, fans knew to expect electricity.
“One of the more memorable times was this year when went to an opponent’s gym to play and when we were warming up — so this was before the JV game — there were probably 50-75 kids there and Tayson was putting on a dunk show, and the opposition, they were rooting for him!” NW coach Jim Gish said.
“I thought how cool that was for the opposition fans to be so pumped to watch him put on a show before the JV game. Those kids had shown up an hour before a JV game to watch us warm up, to watch Tayson do his thing before the JV game. That’s something I’ve never seen before.”
That was the appetizer. The main course was coming and Parker regularly delivered.
Parker averaged a career-high 28.8 points per game this season, winning the area scoring title for the third straight season. He exploded for a school-record 50 points in a victory over Tipton.
In addition, Parker led the Tigers on the glass with 8.3 rebounds per game, third in the area. He was second in the area in free-throw accuracy at 82.5% while hitting an area-best 137 freebies and added 30 3-pointers. He tied for second in the area in steals at 2 per game, dished 2 assists per game, blocked 11 shots and took six charges.
For all that, and for leading the Tigers to a 17-win season, Parker has been named the MVP of the 57th-annual Kokomo Tribune All-Area Boys Basketball Team. The Indiana Wesleyan recruit repeats as MVP and is a three-time All-Area selection. He finished his career with 1,759 points to stand atop the NW boys program’s all-time scoring list and take second place in Howard County history.
As for those packed houses, they didn’t hurt his game at all.
“Oh, we were adrenaline junkies,” Parker said of the Tigers. “Anything that got us high, we rolled with it. Big crowds definitely helped us.”
Parker arrived at Northwestern as a sophomore. His family lived in Carroll County until he was 9 or 10, then moved to Kentucky for a year, then moved to Memphis, Tennessee. They moved back before his freshman year and he was home schooled at that time. Parker was a star player on the home school team circuit and he and his family weighed their options for him to join a high school as a sophomore.
Parker settled on Northwestern. He liked Gish and the Northwestern atmosphere. He split his days that year between home school and Northwestern, then was a full Northwestern student the last two years. In that time, he’s joined the school’s community fully.
“I loved it,” Parker said of joining Northwestern. “I’m a pretty social guy so any time there’s a time to go and hang out with friends I’ll do it. Now you realize you take it for granted until it’s taken away.”
Gish was glad to have him on board.
“I would say Tayson Parker has challenged me as much as I’ve challenged him,” Gish said. “He brought a unique personality into a program in which you see an individual that has God-given ability that is just unique, however the thing that everybody doesn’t get to see is the ability of him to take constructive criticism, take hard coaching, at times confrontation — whether it be with other people looking at the way he’s playing and jealousy.
“It’s been unique to see Tayson challenge the people around him to rise to the occasion and he’s handled all of it with such grace. His ability to bring everybody to his level has been really unique. He aspires to be the best he can be whether it be in practice or games, just the unique personality he brings to want to get better and allow coaches to coach and teammates to be teammates and him to be a player that brings everybody to another level is really inspiring.”
The appreciation flowed both ways. After Northwestern’s season ended in the sectional, Parker took to Twitter the next day to thank Gish and assistant coach Mike Brazel for their part in Northwestern’s season. Four weeks later, he talked about why he wanted to offer a public thanks.
“Coach Gish was an awesome coach, treated his players amazing,” Parker said. “He honestly put us in a position to win every game — it’s just whether we executed it. Coach Gish and Brazel put hours and hours into this team, stayed up nights with scouting reports and film. It shows they take it seriously and they deserve recognition for it.”
Parker, who also excelled in track and field, will represent Northwestern basketball one more time after making the Indiana All-Star team. He is the second player in program history to make the All-Stars, joining 2000 grad Austin Parkinson.
The following are capsules on the rest of the players on the All-Area squad.
JAKE CHAPMAN, TC
The sophomore burst onto the scene and spearheaded Tri-Central’s turnaround season in the process. An old-school shooting forward, Chapman’s all-over scoring game yielded a lot of points, a lot of trips to the line, and helped the Trojans post a 15-8 record. They tripled their win total from the previous year and scored their first winning season since 2014-15.
Chapman was second in the area in scoring at 18.1 ppg and was fourth in rebounding at 7.2 rpg. He shot 71.5% from the line and his 123 made free throws was second in the area behind only Parker. Defensively, Chapman took 18 charges, fourth-most in the area.
“No. 1, he wants to score, and he can score at different levels,” TC coach Bill Bowen said. “By that I mean he can score inside, he can shoot the 3, he’s got a mid-range game and he gets to the free throw line a lot.”
Chapman moved to TC in December of 2018 and didn’t play any varsity ball as a freshman.
“He was physically ready [as a freshman] but really he made giant strides just from really hard work in the spring, summer and fall,” Bowen said. “He was physically strong enough that he could play inside and worked diligently at developing his perimeter game. He had a real strong desire to perform at a high level. He has a real high basketball IQ. He’s not a finished product yet. He’s got a lot of work to do and the ceiling is high.”
EASTON GOOD, CASS
A senior shooting guard, Good departs Lewis Cass knowing he helped set the Kings back on the right track. Primarily operating inside the arc on drives and jumpers, Good led Cass to a 13-win season. The Kings topped .500 for the first time since his freshman campaign.
“Easton obviously was an incredible scorer for many years at Lewis Cass and he sacrificed a little this year, along with several of his teammates, as far as shots he was taking,” first-year Cass coach Kyle Johnson said. “His athletic ability was incredible. He became more of a distributor and led our team in assists.”
Good guided efforts on the floor by leading the Kings in scoring, assists and steals. He wedged himself into the area stat leaders in five categories. His 16.9 ppg was fifth in the area, his assist output of 3.5 apg was third in the area and his 2 steals per game tied for second in the area. He pulled down 5.7 rpg, seventh in the area, and was ninth in the area in free-throw accuracy at 73.6%.
“He’s very effective in his pace,” Johnson said. “We had to take advantage of his athleticism and speed getting up the floor. [He’s] overcome having three head coaches over a four-year career, scoring over 1,100 points. Overcoming all those obstacles and adversity, having a senior year where he gets a Cass County championship and turns a five-win team to a 13-win team, the leadership in being able to overcome those kinds of things is huge credit to him and what he’s done for our program.”
A two-time All-Area player, Good scored 40 points in his final contest, a sectional loss to Winamac.
Good is a Miami of Ohio baseball recruit.
BEN HUMRICHOUS, TIPTON
With the size of a big man and the smooth game of a shooting guard, Humrichous didn’t do a little of everything for the Blue Devils, he did a lot of everything as Tipton posted a 19-win season.
On the offensive end, the Huntington University recruit was third in the area in scoring at 17.6 ppg while shooting an efficient 51%. He hit 38 triples and further showed his touch by connecting on 78.9% from the line, fourth-best in the area. Humrichous dished out 2.9 apg, tying him for fifth in the area with teammate Cory Vonfeldt.
“Ben had a lot of opportunity to show his ability offensively by how we played and he was able to move around a lot of different areas of the floor to score,” first-year Tipton coach Cliff Hawkins said. “He could take it off the dribble a little bit, he could post a little bit. And he offensive rebounded well so it was a tremendous year and he showed I think that he was more than just a shooter, he was a scorer in that he could do it in a variety of ways.
In the paint, Humrichous was second in the area with 9 rpg and blocked an astounding 135 shots on the season (an average of 6.1 per game).
“What he did for us defensively was fantastic too because he could guard and stay in front of people but more importantly he became an outstanding shot blocker for us this season so we were able to pressure offensively a little bit more because of his ability to be behind and make some plays defensively for us if we got beat. He had quite an impact on the game defensively.
“Sometimes I’ve seen [players who are] good role models but not as good a leader, or good leaders but not as good a role model. He is the complete package of what you want the face of the program to be about.”
Humrichous is a two-time All-Area player.
KYLE SANDERS, WESTERN
The constant presence on the floor for the sectional champion Panthers, Sanders added an enriched driving game to his shooting prowess and matured into an all-around shooting guard as a junior.
“He really added to his game,” Western coach Mike Lewis said, noting Sanders’ ability to get to the line. “His pull-up game was really, really good the second half of the season. He spent a lot of time in the weight room and he really added to his game. You could see as he took off the second half of the season, we took off too.
“That’s something he worked really hard at, really hard to change his body so he can finish through contact. It makes him that much more difficult to guard because you have to guard him at all three levels of the court. He puts a lot of pressure on other teams’ defense and obviously I think he’s a really tough cover.”
Sanders finished the season fourth in the area in scoring at 17.3 ppg, led the area in 3-point accuracy at 43% and connected on the second-most triples in the area at 52. He led the area in free-throw accuracy for the second straight season, this time at 87% with 94 makes in 108 attempts. He added 3.7 rpg.
“Beyond just the stats that people are going to see in the paper, he’s an unbelievable worker,” Lewis said. “I don’t think there’s one time in three years that he’s had a bad practice. He’s always locked in. He’s the best leader I’ve ever coached.”
Sanders is a three-time All-Area player. He made the third team as a freshman and the second team as a sophomore.
EVAN MONIZE, EASTERN
In his junior season Monize enjoyed a big leap in production and became the most consistent Comet on the floor.
“He didn’t complain if he didn’t get the ball a lot, he just tried to do the best he could whenever he got it,” Eastern coach Mike Springer said. “He’s really an undersized post guy so he used his quickness inside around the basket and was really good with both his right and left hands. His quickness helped him a lot. Evan’s a very good athlete, not an overly strong kid but he’s able to finish around the rim.”
Operating primarily in the paint, the 6-2 forward took his game right at opponents, leading Eastern in scoring at 11.9 ppg and also in rebounding at 5.6, eighth in the area. He was efficient inside, hitting shots at a 56.1% clip, seventh in the area, and was a disruptor on the other end with 12 blocks, sixth-most in the area.
“He’s a three-sport athlete and he understands being physical from being a football player so that’s not a problem to him and he’s kind of a fearless kid in the sense that he doesn’t back down, he goes right after people and again that was kind of our team — we were really undersized but the group as a whole went after people.”
JACKSON RICHARDS, KOKOMO
A natural wing, Richards was a catalyst and facilitator for the Wildkats. As the season wore on, he moved to the point guard role and made an impact there while still finding ways to score on drives, mid-range and outside.
“He was the guy that had to do that for us the most, had to get in there after some ball movement, get in some lanes and draw help and made a decision. He was fantastic at it,” Kokomo coach Bob Wonnell said. “He was kind of thrown into that situation in the middle of the season and he thrived in it. He is a playmaking guy. He doesn’t have to beat you with scoring, he can get into the lane and create good shots.”
The Wildkat junior was was second in the area in assists at 3.8 apg and 10th in rebounding at 5.4 rpg while ranking among the area leaders in scoring at 11.8 ppg.
“Jackson’s a very good all-around basketball player,” Wonnell said. “He can create for you on the drive, he can score, he can guard probably 1 through 4, and most nights we would put him on our opponent’s best perimeter player.”
TORIC SPIRES, TAYLOR
The all-action small forward did as much as he could to keep Taylor afloat, taking responsibility offensively and defensively with a hand in everything for the Titans. Spires was sixth in the area in scoring at 15.6 ppg and tied for 11th in rebounding at 5.3, leading Taylor in both categories. He also hit a team-high 39 triples.
“In the middle-to-late part of the season … when he decided he was going to go inside there weren’t too many people that could match up with us,” Taylor coach Dennis Bentzler said of his squad’s offense. “The last six, seven games of the season we played much better because of his ability to play inside out. His inside presence made a big difference for us in terms of how people guard us.”
Bentzler pointed to a stretch of seven games from Feb. 6-28 where Spires averaged 20.4 ppg.
“When he was playing his best basketball we were a much better team,” Bentzler said. “We played more team basketball, he was willing to go inside and post and do the little things — rebound the basketball and get us on the break. That made us hard to guard at times.”
NOAH WOLFE, TIPTON
A senior forward, Wolfe’s determination and willingness to be flexible in how he was deployed gave the Blue Devils a great complement to Humrichous and made the team even more potent.
Wolfe was seventh in the area in scoring at 14.2 ppg and fifth in rebounding at 6.2 rpg. He added 2 apg. Defensively he took 15 charges, fifth-most in the area.
“The two of them I thought really brought great leadership to the team,” Hawkins said. “Noah’s strong suit was his intensity and his will to win. Noah’s probably 6-2, but it didn’t matter if the guy guarding him was 6-6 or 6-5 and quick, his will to win always propelled him to do a solid job for our team on the offensive and defensive end. Defensively he often took one of the hardest players on the other team … kind of a shutdown kind of guy. When we went small offense, he’d go inside, when we went to bigger guys, he’d go out to the perimeter.
“Most of his offensive game was his determination to finish shots. The thing I like about Noah is he always attempted to keep going. Say he had a situation where something wasn’t going right for him, he didn’t back away and not do anything. If he wasn’t shooting, well he’d back in. If he needed to cut he’d cut into open areas. Most of it was his effort inside to make plays happen.”
Wolfe is an Indianapolis golf recruit.
BOBBY WONNELL, KOKOMO
Specializing in shooting from outside the arc, the sophomore wing showed that his game had grown in his second season by finding more ways to do damage in 2-point range while being just as dangerous as ever from 3-land.
Wonnell hit 48 3-pointers. He paced the Wildkats by averaging 13 ppg, 10th-most in the area. He added 3.1 rpg, 2.1 apg and was third in the area in free-throw accuracy at 81.5%.
“I think from freshman to sophomore Bobby improved tremendously,” Bob Wonnell said. “Defensively he got a lot quicker, he was able to guard different players. Offensively he started to drive a little more, started creating a little more as a ballhandler. His shooting is what most people know about him. His ball-fake, his triple-threat game was more effective this year.
“I think you saw him drive to the basket and score more. Last year he was catch-and-shoot. I betcha 65, 70% of his points [as a freshman] came of 3s. I think he diversified that. One thing Bobby does as well as anybody is take one or two dribbles and take a pullup jump shot. Bobby is very good from going 100 miles per hour to zero and shooting that mid-range shot.”
AARON ATKISSON, CARROLL
The senior guard led the Cougars to their first winning season since 2012-13 with a mix of scoring, playmaking and defensive stops.
Atkisson led Carroll in scoring at 11.1 ppg, rebounding at 4.2 rpg and steals, where his 1.8 spg ranked fifth in the area. In addition, he dished 2.8 apg, which tied for seventh in the area, and took five charges.
“Aaron meant a lot for our team this season. He brought toughness and the ability to score,” Carroll coach Bodie Bender said.
Bender noted Atkisson’s versatility allowed him to defend multiple positions with assignments ranging from the post to the perimeter.
“I know for us a lot of times we would ask him to battle and guard the post when he was giving up 5 or 6 inches to that person,” he said. “Also, [offensively] he gave us another ball handler on the floor when our point guards needed a break or got in foul trouble.
“I really just want to thank Aaron for what he has done for our program. His leadership will help reform and reshape this program as we move forward.”
TREYDEN CURTIS, PERU
The leading scorer on a 16-win Bengal Tiger squad, Curtis feasted by putting defenses in bad positions when the ball in his hands. He scored the third-most points of any area player at the line with 114 freebies and was fourth in the area in assists.
The sophomore guard was eighth in the area in scoring at 13.7 ppg, added 3.1 rpg, led the squad with 3.2 apg, and was 11th in the area in 3-point accuracy at 37%. Peru’s team had a lot of balance, but Curtis’ impact stood out when he wasn’t on the floor.
“Everybody was so close that it was hard to tell [Curtis’ importance] until he either had a really standout game — which was a lot — or when he wasn’t there if he got injured or sick and we really missed him badly,” Peru coach Eric Thompson said. “He was our leading scorer and one of our top defenders, one of our top assist-getters, was just kind of the glue to our team.”
“[Curtis] had a high shooting percentage but he just knew the right time to shoot and when to drive to the hole and how to draw the fouls. People were having to play their sixth, seventh and eighth men at times because he was able to use his body well and get to the line and hit a majority of his free throws, and that allowed other guys to get open also.”
NATHANIEL LIDDELL, WESTERN
Western’s designated driver was a disruptive force for opposing defenses. Liddell wielded a lot of influence without having to be the focal point offensively. His ballhandling freed other guards to hunt offensive looks while his crisp drives and transition play meant he got a lot of shots off right at the rim. The end result of both of those attributes was that the sectional champion Panthers were second in the area in field-goal percentage at 47.4.
The junior guard averaged 9.1 ppg and 5 rpg (including a team-best 31 offensive boards) while shooting a blistering 58.2% from the field.
“He’s able to put pressure on the rim,” Lewis said. “He’s a special athlete and when he’s aggressive, it really opened up things for our shooters outside. He was an excellent defender too … did a great job of getting into the passing lanes and keeping point guards out of the paint. When you saw the confidence level go up in the second half of the season, it took us to another level. There were nights when he was the best player on the floor.
“He draws a lot of attention at the rim and he’s a willing passer. He’s a guy we were looking for to change the complexion of how people guard us because you have to be aware of his downhill threat. I think he’s just scratching the surface of what he’s going to be.”
HAYDEN MAIBEN, MACONAQUAH
The leading scorer on a balanced Brave team, Maiben gave Mac another outside threat to work with Brayden Betzner, and gave the Braves another passer, as well as a steady presence at the line.
The sophomore guard was 11th in the area in scoring at 12.1, added 3.7 rpg, 2.2 apg, was eighth in the area in 3-point accuracy at 37.5% and was sixth in the area in free-throw accuracy at 75.9%. He hit 42 triples as part of Mac’s outside emphasis. The Braves hit a whopping 179 3s.
“I’d say he’s offensively one of our more versatile players,” Maconaquah coach Tim Maiben said. “He looks to score inside on the drive especially, but very capable of hitting the 3. He did a good job of getting to the line for us. With us being a smaller team, one of the reasons why we were able to shoot just as many free throws as our opponents this year is because of him and not always settling for the outside shot. I think defensively he learned a lot as far as he probably wasn’t always guarding the toughest guy on the other team, but being in the gaps and playing good help-side defense.
“He was second on our team in assists and did a good job of finding that open guy, creating offense for others as well. You put that with other guys who can shoot as well and we can be definitely dangerous in games.”
MATHEW ROSS, PERU
The runaway area leader in rebounds, Ross averaged a double-double. The Bengal Tigers went 5-1 in games where he reached double figures in scoring and rebounding, and he had a run of 10 straight games where he pulled in double figures on the glass.
“He just has a nose for the ball and he’s very long,” Thompson said. “He did a great job of his timing and he’s even more athletic than what he’s aware of. He was able to get double-doubles on the rebounding side sometimes with two guys blocking him out most of the night. He was able to do a lot of good things on the offensive glass to get putbacks.”
A 6-4 sophomore forward, Ross averaged 10 ppg and 10.7 rpg and was third in the area with 19 charges taken. He was ninth in the area in field-goal accuracy at 55.4%, and combined with teammate Daunte Majors to lead the Bengals to the best shooting percentage in the area at 49.8.
“[Ross] did a really good job of choosing wisely on his opportunities and honestly we wish that he would have shot a little bit more, but as a sophomore he was kind of feeling his way through,” Thompson said. “If he keeps working the sky’s the limit for this young man. He’d take shots right around the basket all the way to 15 to 17 feet consistently.”