Neal has lofty goals for himself, Whiteland hoops

Brennan Neal has patiently waited his turn to be the go-to player in Whiteland’s boys basketball program.

Now that his time has come, the 6-foot-3 junior guard is voicing lofty aspirations regarding the upcoming season for the two-time defending Johnson County Tournament champions.

“I would like to average at least 25 points,” said Neal, who was the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.8 per contest last season. “As a team we’re going to be small, so we have to be scrappy.

“I’m excited for the next couple of seasons to see what happens. I want to make sure everyone on the team knows their roles.”

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In Neal’s case, the role is wide-ranging.

Aside from his point production, Neal’s sophomore campaign produced averages of 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He finished second among Whiteland players in 3-pointers with 27 and has 39 for his career.

Neal’s career high in points is 26 in a victory last season against Bloomington North; over the team’s final five games, he averaged 16.2 points.

An outstanding jumper whose vertical leap has been measured at 31 inches, Neal is as capable of excelling close to the basket as he is on the perimeter.

Neal was a sixth-grader when Matt Wadsworth took over as Warriors coach in 2012. Over time, Wadsworth has watched Neal’s skill set and confidence evolve.

“From his seventh-grade year to his freshman year, he improved as much as any player I’ve ever seen,” Wadsworth said. “He just really became a very good player. Brennan has great body control. It’s just his overall athleticism.”

No matter what kind of season Neal produces, he knows he’ll need a competent supporting cast for the program to hit double-digit wins for the fourth consecutive season.

Defensive stopper Noah Hale, a 5-10 junior, could start in the backcourt with either Riley Higdon, Elijah Weatherspoon, or both, should Wadsworth opt for a three-guard look.

Along the front line, Neal is expected to team with forwards Carter Crowe and Cole Ferguson. The 6-2 Crowe also can stretch defenses with his outside shooting touch. Guards Isaac Ebeyer, Luke Helton and Nick Angerer should earn varsity minutes of their own.

Whiteland hasn’t captured an outright Mid-State Conference title since the 2001-02 season. The Warriors tied Plainfield for third last season, while Wadsworth’s club was all alone in third the year before that.

Should Neal get close to his dream scoring average, just maybe the 16-year drought comes to an end.

2017-18 schedule

Date;Opponent;Time

Nov. 21;Mt. Vernon (Fortville);7:30 p.m.

Nov. 28;Perry Meridian;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 1;at Plainfield;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 8;Roncalli;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 15;at Center Grove;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 19;at Seymour;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 29-30;at South Ripley tournament

Jan. 5;Greenwood;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 9-13;Johnson County tournament

Jan. 19;at Franklin;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 26;Mooresville;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 27;at Columbus North;7:30 p.m.

Feb. 1;Indian Creek;7:30 p.m.

Feb. 3;at Bloomington North;1:30 p.m.

Feb. 9;at Decatur Central;7:30 p.m.

Feb. 10;Shelbyville;7:30 p.m.

Feb. 16;Martinsville;7:30 p.m.

Feb. 17;at New Palestine;7:30 p.m.

Feb. 23;Beech Grove;7:30 p.m.

Scouting the Warriors

Head coach: Matt Wadsworth

Last season: 15-8, lost to Center Grove in sectional semifinal

Key returnees: Carter Growe, Jr., F; Noah Hale, Jr., G; Riley Higdon, Sr., G; Brennan Neal, Jr., G; Elijah Weatherspoon, Sr., G

Fresh faces: Nick Angerer, So., G; Isaac Ebeyer, Sr., G; Cole Ferguson, Sr., F; Luke Helton, Jr., G

Outlook: The three seniors from last year’s Johnson County tournament champion measured 6-7, 6-4 and 6-3, which means the Warriors must alter their approach both in scoring and preventing points. Neal could be in for a breakout season, but he will also have talent around him. Hale, Weatherspoon, Higdon and Crowe all gained valuable varsity experience in 2016-17. That five, along with some newcomers, are determined to bring Whiteland its third consecutive winning season.

Coachspeak: “We are a skilled team that has the ability to shoot the ball well and pass the ball well. I think we can make up for having a lack of height with more ball pressure. And we have to use all five guys to rebound.” — Wadsworth

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.