NEW ALBANY — Last season, Jake Heidbreder played the role of Robin for Floyd Central.
Next season, the rising junior guard might need to take on the identity of a different superhero, though, if the Highlanders are going to maintain their recent success.
“Last year, Cobie [Barnes] was kind of carrying the brunt of things and Jake just kind of filled in a nice role as Robin to Cobie’s Batman,” Highlanders coach Todd Sturgeon said last week. “But we’re going to need something approaching Superman out of him if we’re going to continue to … we’re not ready to concede we’re ready to get worse. I know that’s what everybody thinks is going to happen, but we’re not ready to assume that just yet.”
Heidbreder averaged 15 points per game last season in his breakout sophomore campaign for Floyd Central, which went 21-3. Nine players — including Barnes, an Indiana All-Star — from that squad recently graduated, following up seven from the 2017-18 squad that went 24-2.
“We’ll be a younger team next year for sure, but we’ll still be good,” Heidbreder said last Thursday, the final day of the Kentuckiana Summer Basketball League at New Albany High School. “I think people are kind of sleeping on us.”
At least one college isn’t sleeping on Heidbreder, however.
On a visit to Indiana State last Wednesday, the Sycamores extended a scholarship offer to the 6-foot-4, 165-pound combo guard.
“I went around the campus, went around the facility and Coach [Greg] Lansing told me he was offering me,” Heidbreder said.
While in Terre Haute he also saw a familiar face in Barnes, who is going through summer workouts ahead of his freshman season with the Sycamores.
“He made me feel welcome there, so that was really nice,” Heidbreder said.
Later in the day, after Heidreder tweeted about the ISU offer, Barnes tweeted a message back at him.
“Congrats bro. You know what to do,” Barnes wrote.
Heidbreder, however, has two more seasons of high school hoops remaining, and he plans to use his first D-I offer as fuel.
“It just makes me want to work even harder to get more offers and keep getting better and better,” he said.
Heidbreder got better from his freshman season to his sophomore campaign, showcasing a more diverse offensive game.
“From an offensive standpoint, he can score at three levels,” Sturgeon said. “He can go all the way to the rim, he’s got a nice pull-up game and then he’s a terrific 3-point shooter — he shot 52 percent from 3 last year.
“His shooting percentage was off the [charts]. In modern basketball, effective field-goal percentage is the thing where you’re factoring in three points for those shots. He was almost a 70-percent effective field-goal percentage [shooter], which is unheard of for a guard. But when you shoot 52 percent from three and 54 percent from two [you do that].”
In addition to his shooting and scoring abilities, Heidbreder hopes to show off his playmaking skills as well next season.
“I’ll probably play the point mostly, maybe play the two some and a little bit of three maybe,” he said. “I’ll be driving, creating, shooting, playing defense. I’ll just do anything coach wants me to do.”
Heidbreder gave a sneak preview of that last Thursday at the KSBL. When he wasn’t acting as the Highlanders’ primary ball-handler, he was shooting and cutting. Additionally, Heidbreder, who turned 16 in March and recently got his driver’s license, showed off his deft driving ability on the court as well.
“He’s got some burst, he’s more athletic than people think he is and he has body control,” Sturgeon said following Floyd’s 57-46 triumph over Marshall County (Ky.). “You saw in that last game, guys are in there to take the charge and he just knifes past them, flips it in and gets the foul.”
That day Heidbreder led Floyd to wins over North Central and the Marshals.
Against the Panthers, he “outscored their team 25 minutes into the game. It was like 25 to 23,” Sturgeon said.
Then later, Heidbreder helped the Highlanders to a come-from-behind victory over Marshall County and guard Zion Harmon, who is ranked 29th nationally in the Class of 2021 by ESPN.
However, there is still room for improvement, according to Sturgeon.
“If he’s going to be the bell cow, he’s got to be more vocal,” the coach said. “That’s something that doesn’t come as natural to him. He’s a terrific teammate. This [past] year he was unselfish to a fault. We had three or four times where we’d be at halftime of games and I was like, ‘Hey now, c’mon, we need you. Just because these other guys are seniors, you need to be aggressive.’ But he’s so dang unselfish, I’ve almost got to push him. Now he’s starting to fit into that as we’ve gotten into it here … we were down at halftime [against Marshall County], so he was going to have to go score some points in that second half and try to get us back in the game, and he did.”
In addition to being a student of the game, Heidbreder is also a strong student in the classroom with a better than 4.0 grade-point average, according to Sturgeon. Next season he will continue his high school education in the classroom, and on the court — where he hopes for a super season.
“I can handle the ball, bring it up, or I can come off screens and shoot or I can create my own shot,” Heidbreder said. “I just like to play hard pretty much.”
Just don’t look for him to wear a cape any time soon.