Today on my afternoon jog, I started thinking about when Jordan Hulls takes the court this season and points to the man he will be guarding before the tip, he will be doing so as a starter for the pre-season top-ranked basketball team.
That thought really got me thinking. Just four short years ago, Hulls did something similar as the point guard for the top-ranked high school team in Indiana. He took the floor, pointed at the guy he was guarding, and the game got under way. One of the differences? The guy he was guarding was me.
I started thinking harder, and I realized how many phenomenal athletes I grew up competing against, and how I fared against guys that had talent that was far superior to my own, which is basically the purpose of this post. I am going to highlight a couple guys that I grew up playing against and how well I fared against them.
My entire life I grew up playing against Jordan Hulls. I played for Southport High School in Indianapolis, which is a conference foe of Hulls’ Bloomington South Panthers. I remember the first time I ever played against Hulls was in third grade, and his AAU team beat mine by a score of 70 to 10. Definitely was the worst loss I have ever been a part of in my life, but at least it came at the hands of Jordan Hulls in third grade.
Once we got to high school, the first time Hulls and I stepped on the floor together was my junior season (freshman year I played freshman ball while he played JV, sophomore year he played varsity while I played JV). Hulls was his team leader, I was the 6th or 7th man that was a pass-first point guard.
We both also played for very different programs. Hulls played for Bloomington South, a title-contender every season. I played for Southport, a program that hadn’t seen a winning season in 15 years (we ended up having winning seasons my junior and senior seasons).
Regardless, Bloomington South was ranked highly in the state at the time, but we were both 4-0. We played South toe-to-toe, and we had a lead on them with 20 seconds left. Hulls got fouled and sank two free throws, and Bloomington South never lost the lead. They ended up beating us 45-42. It was a heartbreaking loss, and it was at the hands of Hulls. Hulls led his team with 20 points. Me? I scored a whopping 0 points (remember, I was a pass first point guard). Bloomington South ended up going 19-2 that season, so we definitely missed our shot at a huge upset.
My senior year Bloomington South was somehow a lot better than the year before. They had Hulls, Spencer Turner (plays at Belmont), Dee Davis (plays at Xavier), and Eric Fromm (plays at Butler). Our Southport team had just lost five seniors, so we were a completely new squad. I would list all of the seniors that went on to play college basketball for us, but we didn’t have anybody.
With that said, we were a heavy underdog against Hulls’ Bloomington South squad. There were ranked first in the state, as well as 12th in the nation.
We ended up putting a plan in place that we were going to run a stall offense. Our plan worked perfectly to start. The Bloomington Herald Times had a live blog running for the game. After the first quarter of our game, they wrote “Southport is up 13-9. The Cardinals are slowing the game down, running a three-man weave 10 feet behind the 3-point line. They’ve made all four shots they’ve taken, while South is 3-of-6.”
That was where everything went downhill. We were only down a few points at halftime, but Hulls and the Panthers continued to pull away. Bloomington South ended up beating us 66-50. Hulls ended with 13 points. His teammate Dee Davis had 16, while Fromm had 14 and Turner finished with 12. I had 6.
That Bloomington South team went on to go undefeated and win the state championship. 16 points was the least they beat anybody by in the regular season until their final game against Decatur Central (they won by 12).
Needless to say, Hulls has always gotten the best of me. I don’t think I’ve ever outplayed him since we were little, and he’s one of the few guys I have never beaten in my life.
Marquis Teague was two years younger than me, so I played against him my junior and senior seasons. He played for Pike, yet another conference foe for Southport.
Teague was a phenomenal talent, and he especially showed it when he played us his freshman year. Pike beat us by eight that season, and Teague score 25 points. Without him, we probably would have beaten Pike very easily. I had six points that game, so Teague obviously got the best of me.
My senior season Pike demolished us by 21 points. Teague once again led the way scoring 21 points. Teague was one of the top players in his class and he went on to start for the 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats national championship team. He is now a member of the Chicago Bulls.
Other notable opponents
Jonny Marlin (walk-on at IU), Andy Smeathers (Butler) of Center Grove High School
In my senior year, we lost to Center Grove by 14. Marlin scored seven, while Smeathers only scored two. I scored six in the contest.
Terone Johnson (Purdue), Devaunte Smith-Rivera (Georgetown) of North Central
My senior year, we played the North Central Panthers in the second round of the Marion Country tournament. They were ranked second in the state at the time. They beat us by 10, with Johnson scoring 21 and Smith-Rivera dropping 15. I had seven points in the game.
Ron Patterson (formerly committed to IU) of Broad Ripple
Patterson was a freshman when his Broad Ripple squad faced off against my team. We beat Broad Ripple that night by eight, but Patterson scored 18 points on us as a freshman. I scored seven in the contest.
Jeremy Hollowell (IU) of Lawrence Central
Jeremy Hollowell was also a freshman when we took on his Lawrence Central squad. They beat us by nine points, but Hollowell only had three points. I had seven.
These are just a few of the guys that I have had the opportunity to play against. In summer leagues, I also had the opportunity to play against Eric Gordon, JaJuan Johnson, and many other division one athletes.
Most of these guys I played were conference rivals, or played for a school that was just up the road. I can’t imagine there are too many other states where you can find so many good players in just one area. I am obviously biased, but I truly think Indiana has the best high school basketball in the country.
With that said, I definitely miss playing basketball a lot, but I also knew when it was time to hang them up. I consider it an honor that I was able to compete against so many terrific athletes, and I will continue to cheer all of them on as they continue playing basketball. The only thing I ask from them? Be nice to the media.