Maybe not seeing the faces of his most ardent supporters in the stands would have been enough to slow the momentum of IPFW men’s basketball player Max Landis.
After all, at least one of Landis’ parents, Mike or Margie, had endured long car rides — or in one case a lengthy flight — in order to attend every one of the Mastodons’ first 22 games of the 2015-16 season.
The game on Jan. 28, a Thursday night Summit League contest at Oral Roberts, would be different.
Nearly 3,000 fans were inside the Mabee Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to witness IPFW’s come-from-behind 68-63 victory.
Mike and Margie were back home in Indianapolis watching it on television.
“It was a little weird not seeing them there, but we ended up winning that game, so it was OK,” Max Landis, the Mastodons’ high-scoring 6-foot-2 senior guard and a 2011 Perry Meridian High School graduate, said with a laugh.
“But really, their support means a ton to me. My mom and dad have always been there for me. My dad has been taking me to the gym to shoot baskets since I was 6-years-old, so this season has kind of been a celebration of everything.”
What a celebration it’s been.
On Thursday, Landis, who leads IPFW in scoring (19.4) and second in the nation among Division I men’s basketball players in 3-pointers made this season (112), was honored by the Summit League as its Player of the Year.
The first IPFW player to win the award, Landis — who helped the Mastodons earn a share of the regular-season league title — has scored in double-figures in 28 of the 30 games he’s played this season.
“Max affects the game in so many ways. Although he can shoot the basketball from anywhere on the court, he’s not just a shooter. He lives in the paint making his teammates better,” said Mastodons coach Jon Coffman, who was voted the league’s Coach of the Year. “Also, his work ethic and leadership have been phenomenal.
“We’ve won 23 games so far this year because of what this group did from April until November this off-season. Max has been a huge part of continuing to develop our culture of getting better every day.”
The Mastodons (23-8) are in action Saturday against eighth-seeded South Dakota (14-17) in the quarterfinals of the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
A victory could pair the Mastodons opposite No. 4 seed IUPUI in Monday’s semifinal. The Jaguars scored an 80-77 victory on its court against IPFW on Feb. 27.
Starting at Gardner-Webb
Landis played his first two seasons of college basketball at Gardner-Webb University, located in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, just north of the South Carolina state line.
A Division I school of 4,500 students, Gardner-Webb is part of the Big South Conference, which includes the likes of Coastal Carolina, Winthrop and Charleston Southern.
Mike Landis, who played at IUPUI for head coach and longtime Franklin resident Bob Lovell from 1983-87 when the program was a member of the NAIA, knows from experience the best places to get a good meal when at Gardner-Webb.
Though not able to make all of Max’s games, the Landises were in that part of the country enough to know either Shelby, North Carolina, (nine miles east of campus) or Gaffney, South Carolina, (15 miles to the south were the places to be.
His son arrived there as a 6-1, 155-pound freshman in 2011 and more than held his own as a freshman by averaging 9.5 points. Max Landis considered transferring after the season to be closer to home but stayed for his sophomore year, averaging 7.9 points.
“After my freshman year I actually thought about transferring because (Gardner-Webb) is nine hours away (from home),” Landis said. “I actually decided to leave before my coach said he was going to leave.”
Landis’ coach at Gardner-Webb was Chris Holtmann, who is now the men’s basketball coach at Butler University.
“Coach Holtmann was the main reason Max went down there. When looking where to go and talking to people at Gardner-Webb, every time I would bring up his name people would rave about him,” Mike Landis said.
Transferring to IPFW meant Landis would have to sit out the Mastodons’ 2013-14 season to comply with NCAA transfer rules.
“Coming here and having to sit out a year, it was tough,” Landis said.
Landis regained eligibility this past season. He started 17 of 30 of the games in which he played. He averaged 9.3 points a game and was named to the Summit League’s All-Newcomer Team.
A new level
This season Landis’ game and hoops reputation have soared to an entirely different level.
“I always kind of knew I was capable of this,” Landis said. “Last year we pounded the post a lot with (graduated center) Steve Forbes, but this year we’re more guard-oriented. I’ve worked hard my whole college career and it’s finally paying off.”
With one exception, Landis, a teammate and close friend of former Center Grove player and IPFW starting forward Joe Reed, has had his dream season play out in front of at least one of his parents (though usually both).
“We decided that since this is Max’s last year of college basketball that one of us would be at every one of his games. It has been a blast with the team doing well and Max doing well. It’s really been a blessing,” Mike Landis said.
In case you’re wondering about that game at Oral Roberts, the one his folks couldn’t make, Max Landis played all 40 minutes, scored 28 points and dished five assists.
So much for that line of defense.
“Max plays 40 minutes a game and cuts as hard in minute 39 as he does in minute one,” Coffman said. “When he speaks, everyone listens, and that has led to 39 wins and counting over his two-year career here.”
THE LANDIS FILE
Name: Max Landis
Family: Parents, Mike and Marjorie; sister, Morgan, 20
Favorite TV show: “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: “Glory Road”
Favorite athlete: Steph Curry
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts