The nation's eyes are on Indy this year. Heck, all eyes are on Indy tonight when Greg Oden and Mike Conley take to the court in a nationally televised game at Butler University. With Oden manning the high school middle and the college basketball season ending at the RCA Dome, everyone that loves the roundball will be checking out the Indy hoops scene at one point this season.
Oden, Mike Conley and their Lawrence North teammates will take on their future Ohio State teammate in Daequan Cook, a five-star guard from Dayton (Ohio) Dunbar High School at 7:30 p.m. EST. ESPN2 will nationally televise the game.
The game kicks off the network's busy schedule of high school hoops and why not start with the team that boasts the best prep big man since a guy named Shaq. Lawrence North, the No. 1 ranked team in the country by Student Sports, is aiming for it's third straight state title this season.
The bright lights of ESPN2 will be back in Indy on Jan. 19, 2006 when Oden and Conley take on their AAU teammate Eric Gordon, a 2007 Illinois commitment.
If you've only read one story in your life about the high school basketball scene, it probably involved Oden, the 7-foot manchild at Lawrence North. He's the poster child of high school basketball as well as Indianapolis hoops.
Simply put, there isn't anyone, or a starting five for that matter, that can stop Oden inside the paint. He's the pied piper in Indy and puts the sold out sign on the ticket office everywhere he goes.
Not to be forgotten is Conley, one of the most efficient floor generals in the country. One of the reasons why Oden is so dominant inside is because of Conley, who has little problem in feeding the big fella. Even though he's headed to Ohio State next year, the knowledgeable fans of Indiana have great respect for Conley's game. Rightfully so. He knows how to play the way the old-timers played the game.
As good as Eric Gordon and his North Central team is, they have to fight through the Lawrence North roadblock once again. Don't feel bad for them though. Gordon has the games circled on his calendar. Don't be surprised to see the nation talking about him instead of Oden when the play on national television in Jan.
Perhaps the other high-major guy to watch in Indy this year is JuJuan Johnson from Franklin Central. He's a high school triple double kind of player. At 6-foot-10, the long and lanky forward blocked 12 blocks in his first game of the year. Big Ten schools have already made him a major 2007 target.
They got next
With all of the attention being paid to Oden, Conley and Gordon, it's easy to look over a guy like Offutt. But give him couple of games this year and you'll hear more about the 6-foot-1 guard from Warren Central High School. Like Oden and Conley, Offutt is headed to Ohio State and for those that have had a chance to see the kind of player Offutt is, we could be talking about a potential Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
When your brother is the number one draft pick in the first NBA draft he's eligible for, people are going to expect to see something great. [Anthony Oden, the 6-foot-9 2008 prospect, isn't elite high-major crowd like his brother. What he is, however, is bigger and bulkier and raw. Certainly with his size both in height and weight and good bloodlines, he'll get his fair share of looks this season and beyond at Lawrence North.
Pike High School has produced guys like Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky) and Robert Vaden (Indiana). In 2008, the squad boasts a talented 2008 duo in Jeff Teague, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard and future Tennessee Volunteer Cordell Passley.
Passley may not have a big national rep yet but he's got the tools and scorer's mentality to open some eyes when his moment comes. Bruce Pearl was quick to take a verbal commitment from him after Passley's freshman season.
Lawrence North continues to only get stronger. In the class of 2009, Larry Smith, a 6-foot-2 point guard and Steven Van Treese, a 6-foot-7 forward, look to take things over for Lawrence North.
Dec. 8 - Dayton Dunbar vs. Lawrence North (at Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse) Dec. 10 - Fort Wayne Snider at Lawrence North Jan. 3 - Lawrence North at Franklin Central Jan. 19 - Lawrence North at North Central Jan. 28 - North Central at Warren Central Feb. 11 - Lawrence North vs. Glenbrook North (Ill.) (at Northwestern in Chicago) Feb. 17 - Lawrence North at Bloomington South Feb. 21 - Pike at Lawrence North
They Said It
"Yeah, Indianapolis is good but last year was probably a little bit better when (Duke freshman) Josh McRoberts was there. He really made it competitive and for whatever reason, he never seemed to get out of the shadow of Greg Oden." - an Eastern Conference NBA scout
"Is it me or is every high-major kid from Indy already committed? The only time I'll be there is for the Final Four and hopefully playing there." - one Big 12 assistant coach
Special thanks to Mike Pegram of Peegs.com for his insight of Indianapolis high school basketball.