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Tri-Central playmaker Jake Chapman puts up a shot during the Trojans’ 52-42 victory over Frontier on Feb. 9 at Sharpsville. Chapman scored 26.3 points per game, which ranked No. 1 in the area and No. 9 in the state. He is the KT All-Area Most Valuable Player.

When Tri-Central basketball standout Jake Chapman takes the floor, he is not waiting to settle into the action. From the opening tip, he is ready to go full throttle.

“In my opinion, mindset is probably one of the biggest parts of the game,” Chapman said. “If you don’t come out aggressive, you’re not going to play good.”

Chapman’s relentless motor fueled a big season. The 6-foot-3 junior guard/forward scored a robust 26.3 points per game, which ranked No. 1 in the area and No. 9 in the state. He poured in a career-high 42 points vs. Frankton and produced seven other games with 30 or more points.

More than just a scorer, he ranked No. 3 in the area in rebounds (8.0) and No. 5 in steals (1.9). He also dished 2.4 assists.

Add it all up and Chapman is the Most Valuable Player of the 58th-annual Kokomo Tribune All-Area Team.

“I’m very blessed to be able to be the MVP,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of good players around the area. A lot of this comes from my coaches, my dad and my trainers. I want to thank my teammates too because they knew to get the ball to me and we worked around that a lot.

“I’ve worked very hard for [success]. To be the MVP, it’s a great accomplishment.”

A crafty and efficient scorer, Chapman shot 53.4% from the field and 72.6% from the free throw line (both eighth best in the area). His all-action style led to 219 free throw attempts, by far the most in the area.

“I can score anywhere from the floor and I expanded that from my sophomore year,” he said. “I didn’t shoot very well from the 3, but I knew the games I wasn’t hitting, I was able to pull up mid range or drive to the hoop, and I can get to the free throw line. I get fouled a lot. That’s really good for my game.”

Chapman attended South Newton through the eighth grade and Shelbyville to start high school. He moved to Tri-Central midway through his freshman season, but limited eligibility kept him on the junior varsity. He made his varsity debut as a sophomore and quickly produced. He averaged 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds and made the All-Area first team.

Chapman’s arrival has boosted the Trojans. They won only 11 games combined in the three seasons before he joined the varsity. They then went 15-8 in 2019-20 and 11-12 this season.

“He is a great kid and an easy kid to coach,” TC coach Bill Bowen said. “He has a tremendous work ethic. He wants to get better every day. You’ve heard people say this for a long time, but when your best player is one of your hardest workers, that’s a great combination.”

Chapman’s junior season highlights included reaching 1,000 career points in just two seasons. He has 1,025 points in 46 games, a 22.2 average.

He has set some big goals for next season including averaging 30 points and also upping his rebounds and assists, winning the sectional and making the Indiana All-Star team.

“It’s a process,” he said. “Something that Coach Bowen says all the time is trust your process. I believe in that.”

Chapman credited Bowen for pushing him and his trainers. He works with Jordan Delks of Compete Training Academy, and has also worked with former Kokomo Wildkat Alan Arnett, who is currently playing in The Basketball League for the Indy Express.

FIRST TEAM

OWEN DUFF, CARROLL

Duff was one of the driving forces behind the Cougars’ breakout season, which included a school-record 18-game winning streak, a share of the Hoosier Heartland Conference title and a 21-4 record.

The 6-3 sophomore guard was the rare combination of explosive scorer and efficient weapon. He was third in the area with a team-high 16.8 ppg while shooting an impressive 55.6%, fifth in the area in field-goal percentage. He routinely attacked the basket, but kept defenses honest with 36% 3-point shooting. He drilled seven triples during a 34-point outburst against Tri-Central.

“He is so smooth,” Carroll coach Bodie Bender said. “When he gets to the rim, he’s so slitherly, and he’s so deceptive about how he gets to the rim. When we needed a bucket, like at the end of quarters, he could get us a bucket.

“On the other end, I think he is underrated defensively. He can guard multiple spots — he could guard the point and he could guard the post a little bit.”

Duff also averaged 4.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.1 steals.

Duff is joined on the All-Area team by classmate Jake Skinner. They give the Cougars a pair of cornerstones for the next two seasons.

“They’re a coach’s dream,” Bender said. “They’re great kids, they’re competitive, they’re coachable kids and they want to be challenged.”

NATHANIEL LIDDELL, WESTERN

Liddell was consistent and efficient in his senior season. He averaged 10.3 points, hitting a clean 51.8% of his attempts, ninth in the area and one of the top percentages of any full-time guard in the area. He was also ninth in assists at 2.7 and added 3.6 rebounds.

“He was someone who was not going to step outside his game,” Western coach Mike Lewis said. “He was always going to try to find the best shot for him that’s the best shot for the team. An extremely special athlete that was able to expand his game each year. Nathaniel’s such a good teammate that there’s times as a coaching staff we had to press him to do more offensively.”

The staff didn’t have to prod Liddell into imposing his will on defense. Lewis said Liddell had one of the toughest jobs on the team because he was always assigned to guard the best opposing player.

“That dude’s a lockdown defender,” Lewis said. “When the ball is tapped and you’re on the other team and you get the ball first and you see he’s guarding you, you know you’re in for a long night.

“He makes it so difficult to get clean catches, he pushes you so far up the floor you’re not in position to do anything with it. You look at other teams’ best players, they really struggled when they had to go up against him for extended periods of time.”

Liddell is a repeat member of the All-Area team.

MATT ROSS, PERU

After a breakout sophomore season, Ross accentuated his positives, expanded his game and delivered even more as a junior to lead the Bengal Tigers to a 16-8 season. He was fourth in the area in scoring at 16.6, led the area in rebounding at 11.3, hit 51.4% of his shots, and led the area with 40 blocked shots.

Peru coach Eric Thompson said Ross “does what you ask plus some.” He said as Ross and fellow Peru leader Trey Curtis went, so went the Bengals.

“He’s a very good position player and he anticipates well. He could read and take what the defense gave him — that’d be rebounding offensively and scoring,” Thompson said. “He did a really good job of adjusting. When we played Maconaquah for the third time … they were double and triple teaming him inside and we were able to move him to the outside and he was able to hit 3-pointers and open things for other guys.

“He did a great job of anticipating two or three passes ahead to be in position to score for us. Depending on who was guarding him he could dribble past them too — he’s quick enough. We’re fortunate to have him and he could play both spots [inside or outside].”

Ross is a repeat member of the All-Area team.

KYLE SANDERS, WESTERN

Sanders’ glittering career ended with a school-record 1,310 points after the senior guard averaged double digit scoring all four years. Sanders was seventh in the area in scoring at 14.3 and added 3.0 rebounds. He led the area in free-throw accuracy for the third straight season, this time at 87%, and was third in 3-point shooting at 40.8% while hitting 53 triples.

Most importantly, he led Western to back-to-back 17-7 seasons, helping the Panthers get back on track with three straight winning seasons after three straight losing campaigns. Western was 9-0 against Tribune-area teams this season and won the Hoosier Conference.

“Beyond the recognition of scoring 1,300 points [Sanders] has really set a standard for what we want our program to be through his work ethic and leadership,” Lewis said. “He’s a kid that every single night you knew what you were going to get from him, and that was his very best effort.

“He’s a kid that commanded respect in how he went about his discipline to his daily craft. He was always the first one on the floor, the last one off the floor, always watched the most film. He was the most disciplined in getting the most out of his four years at Western.”

Sanders is a rare four-time All-Area player. He made the third team as a freshman, the second team as a sophomore and the first team the last two seasons.

He is just the fifth four-time All-Area player. He joins Northwestern products Austin Parkinson (1997-2000) and Zavier Sanders (2005-08) and Tri-Central products Bret Bailey (1996-99) and Grayson Flittner (2003-06).

SECOND TEAM

ELI EDWARDS, NW

A rock in the post, Edwards was a steady presence on offense and on the glass that gave a young Northwestern team facets it could rely on while a lot of young players learned on the job. One of only two players in the area to average a double-double, Edwards was second in the area in scoring at 17.4 and second in the area in rebounding at 10.0.

“His transformation from sophomore to junior year — especially with the limited time that we were able to get in the gym from last March to November — Eli made huge strides,” NW coach Jim Gish said. “He grew more than we ever could have imagined in one year. I actually had an opposing coach ask me if it was the same Edwards kid that we had last year.”

Edwards led the area in field goal percentage at a robust 64.4% with a well-rounded game in the paint.

“Eli grew in all facets of the game,” Gish said. “His shooting, his flexibility around the basket, his ability to finish shots, which was from the strength he gained. Defensively he became a real force for us. He was very difficult to score on. We used him in multiple ways. As the season progressed a lot of times we found he was our best option to bring the ball up the floor against the pressure we would see. Eli averaged right around 31 minutes a game for us. He didn’t come off the floor for us.”

EVAN KRETZ, WESTERN

Kretz’s impact grew his junior season, pulling defenses wide with his outside shooting, or using his athleticism to knife to the basket in the halfcourt and get out and run fullcourt. He averaged 11.5 points, a team-best 5.4 rebounds and 2 assists, and hit 43 triples.

“You saw flashes of it his freshman and sophomore years but this year he came into his own because he was able to score at multiple levels,” Lewis said. “This year you saw the work that he’s put into his game because he can shoot it, so you have to guard him 23 feet on the floor, and it really allowed him to score from multiple levels.”

He has the athleticism and size to play as a combo forward, but adds shooting and ballhandling to the mix, allowing Kretz to line up as a guard and attack outside in.

“Kretz is one of those kids that grew early and always had to be the center when he was in fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, his AAU teams,” Lewis said. “When we got here four years ago, we challenged him to work on his guard skills. He’s really committed to his craft. He knows for his size and what he’s able to do athletically, if he continues to work on his ball skills and score at multiple levels he’s going to be a really attractive prospect for a lot of colleges.”

HAYDEN MAIBEN, MACONAQUAH

The junior guard led the Braves in scoring at 15.5, sixth in the area, and in rebounds at 5.4 while finding multiple ways to power the squad and stress defenses.

“He leads us in offense and that’s probably due to the fact that he’s a scorer in multiple ways — long-range, mid-range, good at attacking the basket,” Mac coach Tim Maiben said. “He led us in free throw attempts this season, and probably when we needed that bucket — with the [small] size of the team we had — he was one of the key aspects when we needed to stop a run or answer another team’s momentum. He also led us in rebounding , did a good job defensively, especially trying to help protect the paint and be a good help-side defender.”

Attacking with speed in the fullcourt or halfcourt is critical since the Braves’ current incarnation lacks size in the paint and has to get a lot of offense outside the arc.

“Probably the biggest aspect of what I’ve seen him grow in is his strength and overall quickness,” Tim Maiben said. “He’s not usually the quickest player on the court, but he’s explosive with the first dribble. Even though it sometimes looks like all we want to do is shoot 3s, we know we’re not going to win games just doing that. He took it upon himself to score attacking the rim and driving.”

Hayden Maiben is a repeat selection to the All-Area team.

JACKSON RICHARDS, KOKOMO

Richards provided steady play during the Wildkats’ 7-17 season. The 6-3 senior point guard led the Red and Blue in scoring (12.2) and assists (2.5) and was second on the team in rebounding (4.8).

“Jackson is a great kid, a really hard worker,” former Kokomo coach Bob Wonnell said. “He played on both ends of the court, often times guarded our opponent’s best perimeter player. He brought a competitive spirit — played hard every single day and had a good attitude.”

Wonnell said Richards made the Kats’ offense go.

“He could get the ball where he wanted it to go,” he said. “I thought he had a really good year — rebounds the ball, shares the ball, gets the ball in the heart of the lane, right where you want it to go, and scores.

“He’ll play college ball, for sure. We don’t where he’s going to play yet, but he will play for sure and he’s going to do great things. He’s a diamond in the rough for somebody. There’s a lot of things that go into basketball and for whatever reason, it didn’t work out [record wise for the Kats], but he is capable of going into a competitive program and impact winning.”

Richards is a two-time All-Area player.

MYLAN SWAN, TIPTON

After the graduation of four of Tipton’s top five scorers, Swan helped fill the vacuum by more than tripling his scoring output, adding to his rebounds and assists, and filling the role needed from him as a senior. A shooting guard, he finished fifth in the area in scoring at 16.4 and added 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He hit an area-best 67 3-pointers.

“I think the biggest thing that Mylan did is he took his opportunity to play and he really worked on his game and our team’s game and became a very good leader,” Tipton coach Cliff Hawkins said.

“He is always a deadly threat from outside so if you slip up at all he can nail a long shot, but he improved his game by being able to also put the ball on the floor and finish at the basket.”

Hawkins said that as the Blue Devils improved at moving the ball and varying their attack, Swan got more effective.

“Early on in the season we ran some different things for him but as the season went on and we developed Nate Powell down low, that allowed Mylan to get some other opportunities,” Hawkins said.

THIRD TEAM 

TREYDEN CURTIS, PERU

Curtis adjusted to a new role and helped steer the Bengal Tigers to a 16-8 season as point guard. He took a secondary scoring role but still found space to average 13.2 points, ninth in the area, and was fourth in the area in assists at 3.7.

“Trey took on the role this year of being point guard for us,” Thompson said. The move “took away a little bit from his scoring, but he had multiple games over 20 and he’s another one [with Ross] if he played well, we had a good chance of winning, and if he didn’t it was a struggle for us. He was very mentally tough and led the team through action, and a good defensive player also.”

Curtis adapted well to changing his responsibilities on the floor.

“He was patient where he’d maybe not get the ball til two or three passes [in the offense],” Thompson said. “During a press, instead of being a guy we had in scoring position versus the press he was the guy that we made sure we inbounded it to because he was strong enough in a trap that he’d get it to the open area and we could attack from there. He was very eager and able to help the team and, not totally, but remove some of his scoring mentality and turn it into a distributor mentality.”

Curtis is a repeat member of the All-Area team.

RYLEY GILBERT, TAYLOR

Taylor quadrupled its win total from a season ago to a dozen wins this season and Gilbert was at the heart of the action for the revitalized Taylor squad. A shooter, driver, and defensive disruptor, Gilbert gave the Titans an abundance of energy on the court.

Gilbert averaged 12.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2 assists and an area-best 2.5 steals. He hit 45 3-pointers.

“When he came in two years ago I felt like he tried to just take games over, he didn’t really realize how to let the game come to him and that’s something that him and I had a discussion on,” retiring Taylor coach Dennis Bentzler said. “This year it helped from a leadership standpoint. He was able to control the game a little better for us, and along with his runningmate Jaylen Harris, I thought they were the perfect runningmates in the area. I thought Ryley grew up a lot and I thought his last two sectional games may have been his best in his career.

“He became more of a complete player but he really became a better teammate, team player on the floor because he understood how to let the game come to him. He made some huge strides and it made a big difference in our team chemistry.”

TRISTIN MILLER, CASS

Operating off the bench much of the season, the attack-oriented guard/forward still played heavy minutes and made a major impact. He led the Kings in scoring at 12.6 points and rebounds at 5.9, ninth in the area, as well as snatching 1.7 steals.

“The unique part about Tristin is he was willing to accept the role of sixth man on our team and he came off the bench and became leading scorer. That’s a testament to him,” Cass coach Kyle Johnson said. “All kids want to start the game but what really matters was finishing it. When we needed him to finish it and really take over, Tristin did a heck of a job with that. He led us in rebounding and he led us in scoring. It’s pretty neat for a guy to be willing to sacrifice knowing that he’s still going to get that opportunity.”

Miller was particularly strong going right at opponents to create space to score inside the arc.

“That mid-range area, he’s just a guy that’s hard to stop,” Johnson said. “He’s one of our best one-on-one players. He was able to play against a guard and use his size and strength, and take a big guy by using his speed off the dribble.”

EVAN MONIZE, EASTERN

Eastern’s rock in the post, Monize built on his breakthrough junior season by upping his averages as a senior and proving himself dependable all over the floor for the HHC co-champions.

“He’s been a kid that’s done a lot of the little things for us,” Eastern coach Mike Springer said. “He’s had to take the ball out, he’s had to be the first man down on fast breaks as well. When you’re the leading rebounder, some of that’s not easy to do. A lot of the intangible things of his leadership, of his ability to help coach on the floor, those things were really important. I think he’s passed that down to the kids that are coming back.”

Monize was 10th in the area in scoring at 13.1, eighth in rebounding at 6.1, and sixth in field-goal percentage at 55.1%.

“I think Evan’s leadership at times really paid off for us. Even when he was hurt with his ankle and knee, he found a way to make good things happen for us,” Springer said. He had two really good years and that really took the pressure off some of our outside kids because people knew they had to stop Evan or he was going to get his fair share. Scouting reports had to go through him first.”

Monize is a two-time All-Area player.

JAKE SKINNER, CARROLL

Skinner showed an all-around game during Carroll’s 21-win season. The 6-3 forward led the Cougars in rebounding (7.3) and was second on the team in scoring (12.5), assists (3.1) and total blocked shots (25). He ranked No. 3 in the area in blocks and No. 4 in rebounding.

“We ask a lot of Jake not only offensively, but defensively,” Bender said. “Offensively, he is an inside-outside player. He is a physical kid, but he is smooth around the rim, he finishes well. Defensively, I think it’s the area he doesn’t get enough credit because he can guard inside and on the perimeter.”

Bender pointed to Skinner’s defensive work in Carroll’s sectional opener against Clinton Prairie as an example. Skinner locked down Prairie’s Trevor Funk — and Carroll rolled to a 44-20 win.

“He held Clinton Prairie’s best player to five points,” Bender said. “That was a great effort.”

HONORABLE MENTION

Eastern guard Levi Mavrick hit 61 triples on crisp 42.1% accuracy and scored 12.1 points to help direct the HHC co-champion Comets. Cass point guard Tyson Johnson was third in the area with 4.6 assists and added 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 steals. Tipton’s Nate Powell was eighth in the area in scoring at 13.9 points, seventh in rebounding at 6.6 and second in field goal accuracy at 63.9%. Kokomo sharpshooter Bobby Wonnell scored 11.3 points and dished 2.3 assists while canning 38 triples. Maconaquah outside threat Brayden Betzner ripped 62 triples while averaging 13 points and 3.5 rebounds.

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