Silver Creek juniors Trey Kaufman and Kooper Jacobi are adding Division I offers at a high rate this summer and will no doubt show Silver Creek fans how their games are evolving next winter, but it's the growth of young point guard Branden Northern who could be even more instrumental in the Dragons' quest to make another deep state tournament run.
Northern's role as a freshman was to be an energy guy off the bench to get starting point guard Ty Kessinger or two-guard Zane Gross a breather.
"We had a really strong team last year so I think I was under the radar. I'm looking to step up for my team," Northern said last week at the final day of the Kentuckiana Summer League.
Northern hit 7 for 24 from 3-point range this past winter and knocked down just 33 percent at the free-throw line. Based on his play this summer, Northern's presence at the charity stripe could be a common occurrence in Sellersburg.
"Attacking the rim's definitely a strong suit. I'm trying to improve my shooting. I'm a pretty good defender and passer, just really working on shooting now," Northern said.
Coach Brandon Hoffman is looking forward to seeing the sophomore's development continue the rest of the summer. The 5-foot-10 guard is a threat in the open floor with a strength to take on bigger defenders in the lane.
But priority No. 1 will be to get the 6-8 Kaufman and 6-6 Jacobi the ball where they can best maneuver.
"The most important thing for the point guard position is to be able to run our offense. He kind of has a good feel, gets the ball where it needs to go. He's done really good handling pressure. Some guards, when you get up into them, they have trouble with it. Some guards when you get up into them, they use it to their advantage. He's really good at using it to his advantage and creating offense for himself or getting around somebody and dishing off. He's just done a good job of taking over our offense," Hoffman said.
Jacobi, who might be focused on his own improvements, has taken notice of Northern.
"He's got to step up to our guard role. Just taking care of the ball will be big for us. Since the first day we played here, he's gotten better and better at attacking the basket. Creating his own shot, getting to the basket," Jacobi said.
Northern, who is the son of former Jeffersonville standout Bryant Northern, has big expectations for himself so his coach's words provide no added pressure."
"The big thing for us, the way he plays is going to dictate a lot of the year we have. Point guard play is so important in high school basketball," Hoffman said. "The more well-rounded he gets as a shooter and overall player and a leader, a vocal leader, the better for us. He had good examples with Ty and Zane. I think he learned from the best. I'm really glad we've got him for the next three seasons. He's going to be a special player."
Northern was a pest to opposing guards last season, getting 17 steals in the Dragons' 28 games and 41 pass deflections.
"You never have to question his effort, which is a great thing as a coach. He just loves to play," Hoffman said. "He's one of those kids that you have to kick him out of the gym because he's in there all the time."
He's got that in common with Kaufman and Jacobi.
"They're amazing players. They work hard every day. I look to just feed them the ball, get them the ball in the right spot. If they need a person to kick it out to, relocate and be there for them," Northern said. "Even from the bench last year, I was able to learn where they want the ball, where their hot spots are."
Northern will spend July playing with the G3 Grind AAU team in Indianapolis.
While Kaufman has added offers from Indiana and Purdue this summer, Jacobi is beginning to draw heavy mid-major interest as well. Jacobi scored 70 points in three games for the Dragons at the Miami (Ohio) team camp and was invited back for a visit, receiving a scholarship offer. His first offer was to Indiana State and he's also received offers from IUPUI, Akron and to Bellarmine, which Hoffman said was the first Division I offer the Knights have dispensed since the announcement to move up from Division II.
"He's had a really good summer. He's really developed an all-around game. He's shooting it really well for us. He's had a good AAU spring. The sky's the limit for him," Hoffman said.
Jacobi has put in time on his 3-point shot. He shot 12 for 28 (43%) last season, but figures to put up a much higher volume this coming winter.
"Just trying to get better every day and getting in the gym," Jacobi said.