This is where a couple of my three enlisted coaches could bark out at me, “Why’d you enlist my help if you’re not going to use it?”
And this — meaning my No. 20 selection, Jeff Massey, in today’s installment of the Top 25 Elkhart County boys basketball players over the last 25 years — was the most difficult player of all for me to place.
If we were to base this list on what each of our candidates accomplished or is accomplishing as basketball players after high school, Massey would easily be a Top 5 pick, and I’d maybe put him at No. 2. But this list is built strictly based on high school bodies of work.
So, we’ll get more into Massey in a moment, but sticking to our countdown format, we begin today at:
No. 22 — Karvel Anderson (Memorial 2009)
What’s a Top 25 without an Anderson? OK, I kid there, because this guy’s game was roughly 179 degrees from mine. Karvel Anderson could flat-out fill the basket. He could consistently do it well outside the arc, and he could do it in traffic. Anderson was also was one of the more gifted, willing and under-appreciated passers I’ve covered over the 25-year window. That part of his game didn’t always shine through because that wasn’t the role coach Mark Barnhizer wanted him to play, and understandably so given that Anderson would also be in my Top 5 if I specifically needed someone to erase a 10-point deficit in three minutes. As a senior, the 6-foot-1 Anderson led the Crimson Chargers to their first sectional title in seven years, averaged 19.9 points, paced all county players with 477 total points and was the overall No. 1 vote-getter on the Truth All-Area team that is selected primarily by the coaches (that year’s potent first team also includes another Top 25 guy). Anderson was also an All-Area first-teamer as a junior, when his scoring average was even higher at 21.0. He averaged 11.4 points as a sophomore to rank as his club’s No. 2 scorer. Among his memorable moments, Anderson set a single-game school record with 46 points in 2009 as Memorial shredded a 15-win Clay team, 81-58. He was 8 of 9 on 3-pointers that night, 16 of 22 from the field overall and 6 of 6 at the line. These days, Anderson is shining on the NCAA Division I level as a junior at Robert Morris University. He leads the 8-5 Colonials at 12.5 points per game and is 35 of 81 on 3s for 43 percent. He landed at the Pennsylvania school after averaging 24.9 points a year ago at Glen Oaks Community College in Michigan — including a 54-point game against Schoolcraft.
No. 21 — Brodie Garber (Fairfield 1995)
I’ve never been crazy about the term “a poor man’s … ” when describing anything, including basketball players, because who wants to be poor? So, I prefer “a budget-minded man’s … “ Yeah, it’s still the same idea, but hopefully an effective one, particularly when describing players other might never have seen. Well, Brodie Garber was a budget-minded man’s Larry Bird. Like Bird, he was never going to wow you with quickness, speed or jump-out-of-the-gym scaling, but like Bird, he could play any position, could make the game slow down to his liking, could outsmart opponents, could lead and did win. There’s even a so-slight physical resemblance, too. A four-year regular, Garber’s career featured a coaching change halfway through. He made the transition to Larry Lael seamlessly. As a junior, he averaged a team-leading 16.3 points for a 17-6 club that captured Fairfield’s first one-class sectional title in 11 years. As a senior, the All-Area first-teamer was part of a more balanced attack, but still led the way at 13.9 for a 20-3 club that matched the best winning percentage in school history and won the program’s first NECC title in 13 years. Garber had also led his team in scoring as a sophomore (11.1) for coach Steve Wiktorowski. A longtime Fairfield teacher, Garber is currently in his first season as the girls head basketball coach at his alma mater, and has been the school’s highly successful head baseball coach for 11 years, compiling a 204-101 record with four sectional titles and a regional crown.
No. 20 — Jeff Massey (Concord 1991)
Now we get into the messy that is Massey. I’ll admit I was stunned when I saw the emailed lists from two of the three coaches who I asked to help me with this Top 25 project. One placed Massey at No. 3, the other at No. 4. Yet, the third coach was fine with my own preliminary listing of No. 20, which happens to be exactly where he remains, though at one time I did have Massey as high as No. 13. He’s frankly difficult to assess. Admitted one of the coaches who disagreed with my placement, “I can’t get the college performances of some of these guys out of my head. I just can’t dismiss it, as it sorts and separates so many players” whose high school careers may have been dictated by high school circumstances. A late bloomer of sorts, Massey was still just beginning to tap his immense talents as he left Concord, but what talents they turned out to be. He became the two-time national junior college player of the year at Owens Community in Ohio. Then at Xavier, he was the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Newcomer of the Year as a junior, before leading the Musketeers to an NCAA Tournament berth as a senior by averaging 18.9 points and also pacing the team in the atypical trio of steals, blocks and free throw percentage. Oh, yeah, high school. As for high school, Massey was an Indiana All-Star as a spectacularly high-flying, acrobatic senior, averaging a team-high 16.6 points and leading the Minutemen to a 22-3 record with a regional title. He did have plenty of help. That loaded team featured four players who eventually played NCAA Division I. He was likewise a key cog on the the 28-1, 1990 state runner-up team that featured four eventual D1 players as well, averaging 11.9 points. A product of a deep program under wizardly coach Jim Hahn, the 6-1 Massey never saw the varsity floor until that junior year, which is why his 758 points are the second-lowest career total on this Top 25 list, ahead of only co-No. 25 Anthony Kyle. No, Massey shouldn’t be penalized much for his brevity, nor for having an exceptional surrounding cast, but please bear in mind that there are 10 eligible 1,000-point career scorers who did not even make the Top 25. Each of these spots really is precious. Today, Massey, who holds a master’s degree in counseling, is in his seventh season as an assistant at Division I St. Bonaventure.