Lakota East will be making its third appearance in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic when the Thunderhawks take on Hamilton Southeastern in the 7:00 p.m. game on Saturday night, December 2. In 2014 the Hawks lost a hard-fought battle to a loaded New Albany team. Last year East lost a close battle to Cleveland East Tech and star Markel Johnson who is now playing at North Carolina State.
Clint Adkins, Lakota East’s head coach, played for Ohio Valley Hoops Classic organizer Bennie Carroll when Carroll coached at Wilmington High School. When Carroll was setting the matchups for this year’s event he thought he owed his former player a break, so he asked Adkins if he had any preference as to which team he faced in the Classic. “Coach, who is the best team you have? That is who we would like to play.” replied Adkins.
While there are several outstanding teams in this year’s Ohio Valley Hoops Classic, Hamilton Southeastern will certainly fulfill Adkin’s wish to play a talented opponent. Southeastern is the alma-mater of recent Indiana Mr. Basketballs Gary Harris (Michigan State/Denver Nuggets) and Zak Irvin (Michigan). And the Royals have a current star; 6’7” senior Zach Gunn. Gunn was a member of the Indiana Jr. All-Star team last year, and he has offers from several Division I schools, including the Indiana Hoosiers.
The Royals battled injuries to key players all year long last season on their way to a 14-12 record against a very demanding schedule. The silver lining to those injuries was that numerous players were able to gain valuable experience. Conner Rotterman, Jack Davidson, and Zack Holzum all started at one time or another, and all return for their senior seasons. And Hamilton Southeastern has some exceptional young talent. Chaz Birchfield, a 6’5” junior already holds an offer from Kent State University. A pair of sophomores, 6’6 wing Aaron Etherington, and 6’0” guard Noah Smith are already garnering attention from Division I schools as is 7’0” freshman Mabor Majak.
Coach Brian Satterfield has a 239-111 record in his 16 years at the helm of the Royals, and he thinks this could be another banner year. “We have talent and depth which should make for some very competitive practices. This is a great opportunity for the Royals to have another successful season,” said the veteran mentor.
Losing in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic has certainly not put a damper on the past two seasons for Lakota East. The 2014-15 squad finished 22-3 with a league championship, and last year’s team was 18-8, and included in that was a district championship victory over the number one ranked team in Ohio, Huber Heights Wayne. “Playing in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic gives us an opportunity to play a quality opponent right out of the gate. We feel it has helped us the past two years, and playing a team like Hamilton Southeastern this year will show us immediately where we are and what we need to do to get better,” said Adkins.
Leading the way for East will be 6’7” senior Evan Kuhlman who recently committed to play collegiately for Evansville University. Jarett Cox, an athletic 6’3” junior, played significant minutes last season and is expected to fill a major role this year. The other player with significant varsity experience is 6’0” junior Jackson See. See hit the game winning shot to lead his AAU team to a national championship this summer. (Wilmington’s Dylan Beaugard was also a member of that squad)
As the lone Indiana team in the event, Southeastern will be representing the proud tradition of Indiana high school basketball. (Hoosier teams were 1-1 in last year’s event as Park Tudor defeated Mansfield Senior, while South Ripley lost to Dayton Northridge) And, on paper, the Royals appear to have more talent and size. However, Lakota East has demonstrated an ability to play with, and beat, some highly regarded teams in the past few years. Expect a hard fought game between two well-coached, fundamentally sound, and talented basketball teams.
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Sponsorships available through Oct. 31.