Center Grove’s football season seldom ends early, which means that boys basketball coach Zach Hahn can usually count on a couple of his players getting a late start.
It’s a trade-off Hahn is willing to make for the energy that Lucas Doyle and Cam Petty bring to the court for the Trojans.
The two juniors aren’t usually going to light up the scoreboard — but Doyle, a burly 6-foot-6 forward who plays tight end in the fall, and Petty, a 6-foot guard and running back, provide a different look when they come off the bench.
“You look at what they are capable of doing, which is guarding, rebounding and defending,” Hahn said. “And then they’re super strong — both of them are really strong, so that gives us a different look than when we play a golfer like Noah Gillard, who’s a 6-7 shooter.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how those guys have adapted year by year and continue to grind and get better.”
Doyle and Petty are often of greatest value on the defensive end, where their combination of strength and athleticism makes them a thorn in the side of opposing players.
On the inside, Doyle doesn’t offer the same type of rim protection that 6-9 classmate Trayce Jackson-Davis can — but he can use his 265-pound frame to move post players off the block.
“Trayce has the height, the length to block a shot,” Doyle said. “I can’t bring that. So that’s why I bring physicality; my guy doesn’t get in the lane. I keep my guy out of there, and I’m able to use my strength and my physicality to make sure my guy doesn’t even touch the ball in that spot.”
On the perimeter, the 215-pound Petty is able to make life just as miserable for guards trying to penetrate into the lane.
“I just try to do my best to keep my guy 3-point line and up,” he said. “If he tries to go by me, I use my strength, my quickness, anything I can to keep him above that 3-point line and shoot a contested 3-point shot.”
The trickiest part of transitioning from season to season, Doyle says, is learning to rein in the full-contact mentality that’s needed to succeed on the football field. Setting a pick or boxing out with the same force that’s used to throw a hard block on second down is usually going to result in a foul.
Sometimes, the football mindset sneaks through, but Petty says that’s just an small cost that comes along with his style of play.
“I get told multiple times not to reach and hack and all this stuff,” he said, “but when it comes down to it I’m the kind of player that wants to give you all that I’ve got. So if that means going through someone to get a ball or jumping over someone to get a rebound, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The other downside of the late start, according to Hahn, is that being in basketball shape is not the same as being in football shape and it normally takes Doyle and Petty at least a month to get fully caught up with their teammates.
But their unselfishness and their work ethic have helped to shrink that learning curve a bit.
“Being a couple of months behind, that gets me eager to come in and work two times, three times as hard to come back and try to do my part on the team to make a difference,” Petty said.
In this era of specialization, it’s becoming rarer and rarer to see athletes continue to play multiple sports, especially at a high level. Most of the basketball players at Center Grove and other Class 4A schools are in it full-time, playing with AAU teams through the entire high school offseason.
For Doyle and Petty, both of whom will probably have opportunities to play college football, trying to keep up with both sports can be difficult. But their competitive nature, plus the camaraderie they’ve enjoyed with their teammates, keep them coming back every winter.
“What keeps me playing is I’ve been growing up with all of these guys playing basketball for such a long time,” Doyle said. “It’s a brotherhood. I love playing with my brothers.”
“They want to be a part of it because they see the work that’s being put in,” Hahn added, “and when you have a group of collective guys that are like that, it’s just a joy to be around. I think those guys embody that for us.”
Class 4A Seymour Regional
Center Grove (19-6) vs. Evansville North (13-12), 10:30 a.m.
Bloomington South (26-2) vs. New Albany (23-1), 12:30 p.m.
Championship, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $7 each session, $10 for full day