The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 24, 2020 1:00 am

High School Basketball Preview: Region

Furst's impact felt beyond basketball

JOSH PATTERSON | For The Journal Gazette

Imagine yourself as a 5-year-old enrolled in kindergarten at Blackhawk Christian, a school that houses grades K-12. As you walk down the hall, you happen upon a 6-foot-10 senior. Now imagine the massive impact an individual of that size that would imprint upon your young mind.

While Caleb Furst's physical presence at Blackhawk certainly stands out, coach Marc Davidson credits his Purdue-bound power forward with leaving a “massive impact” not just in the halls, but also on the court and in his Christian faith.

“The kid's just a winner,” Davidson said. “Obviously, his numbers are really impressive, but when I think of Caleb Furst, I think of the type of person he is off the court. He's just a great young man, and he's a committed Christian young man and at Blackhawk that's something we really value.

“He has the opportunity to walk the same halls as kindergartners and first graders. I look at the way the other kids look up to him, and he's had a massive impact on those young men.”

Furst's impact on the basketball court can't be understated. He stands atop the record books even before his senior year at Blackhawk, having played in 77 victories. He already holds the career rebounding record, and a 20-point game in the Braves' season opener Dec. 1 against North Side will put him atop the career scoring list.

Those exploits already have Furst placed well into the Mr. Basketball discussion, where he'll likely battle fellow Purdue recruit Trey Kaufman-Renn of Silver Creek for the state's top honor. That battle will extend to the court at Southport Fieldhouse on Dec. 12, when Blackhawk will play the Dragons.

That contest will pit the future college teammates against one another in a matchup of the state's lone consensus Top 50 recruits. In addition, Blackhawk will take part in the Raymond James Hall Of Fame Tournament at New Castle on Dec. 30.

“It's a lot of fun to be able to challenge yourself against some of the best players and some of the best teams in the country,” Furst said. “(Kaufman-Renn is) obviously a great player, so to get that opportunity will be a lot of fun.”

While Furst's presence on the court can intimidate opponents – be it his ability to throw down a powerful dunk, his steadily improving outside shot or his game plan-altering defensive prowess – what's most impressed Davidson about his standout senior? His quiet nature, one that may very well thrive in light of securing his post-prep plans.

“I could sense that as soon as he committed,” Davidson said. “It was kind of a combination of excitement and relief. He's has a circus around him for years, so to feel good about a place, it was definitely a relief.

“He's very humble and not someone who really likes to hog the spotlight. He's been in the spotlight and he will continue to be, but I don't think that's necessarily a position he likes to be in. He's a great teammate, so I think for him, just having that decision over is only going to help him.”

Not that Furst needs the assistance. He and his Blackhawk teammates ranked 10th overall in the final Sagarin ratings of the 2019-20 season, the only Class 2A squad inside the top 40 and the odds-on favorite to win a state championship before COVID-19 forced the IHSAA to cancel the postseason after sectionals.

The Braves hold a 10-game postseason win streak dating back to 2018, and stand 15-1 in the postseason in Furst's three years. He will undoubtedly have a massive impact if Blackhawk claims a second state championship during his prep career.

“I think it's all just about us playing well together as a team,” Furst said. “We have a lot of great pieces, and it's all about developing that culture. We're fortunate we only lost one player from last year, so to have almost everyone back is great. I think we just need to be our best together.”

5 players to watch

Zane Burke, senior, Blackhawk Christian: A primary counterpart to fellow senior Caleb Furst, Burke averaged a second-best 17.5 points per game for the Braves in 2019-20 along with a team-high 4.2 assists.

Luke Adamiec, senior, Warsaw: As a junior, Adamiec posted team highs in points (9.9) and rebounds (4.5) for a Tigers squad that won 13 games a year ago.

Caedmon Bontrager, junior, Lakewood Park: The 6-foot-7 forward finished sixth in the area in scoring in 2019-20 at 20.9 points per game.

Brett Sickafoose, senior, Whitko: As a junior, the 6-2 guard filled stat sheets all year for the Wildcats, averaging 23.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per contest.

Seth Martin, sophomore, Lakeland Christian: If the Cougars want to compete in their first season in the Hoosier Plains Conference, the 6-foot guard who led the team in scoring (14.9) and rebounding (7.0) as a freshman will play a major role. 

5 games to watch Blackhawk Christian vs. LaLumiere Prep, Dec. 5 at Brownsburg: The Braves will take on the Lakers, currently ranked No. 15 nationally by MaxPreps, in the penultimate contest of the Allstate Insurance Sneakers for Santa Shootout. Blackhawk Christian vs. Silver Creek, Dec. 12 at Southport: The Braves and Dragons will meet in the event for the second straight year as Blackhawk's Caleb Furst faces Silver Creek's Trey Kaufman-Renn in a matchup of consensus Top 50 national recruits and future Purdue teammates. Silver Creek posted a 78-74 victory in the event last year. Warsaw at Wawasee, Dec. 18: The Northern Lakes Conference opener for the Kosciusko County rivals has been one-sided of late, with the Warriors having won just once in the series since the 2006-07 season. Wawasee's 28-20 victory on Dec. 15, 2017, snapped a 42-game losing streak against NLC competition. Bethany Christian at Lakeland Christian, Dec. 1: The Cougars' season opener also stands as new coach Jake Ritchie's induction to Hoosier Plains Conference competition. The Bruins won last year's regular-season matchup, 50-36. Southwood at Whitko, Jan. 15: Last year, the Wildcats finished 6-3 in the Three Rivers Conference, and they'll want revenge for a 63-60 road loss to the Knights.

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