Purdue’s recruits are making a clean sweep of this year’s Indiana high school basketball awards.
Just two weeks after Westfield guard Braden Smith and Homestead guard Fletcher Loyer finished first and second in the 2022 IndyStar Mr. Basketball Award voting, they’ve done it again. And for the second-consecutive time, Smith edged out Loyer — this time as the top vote-getter on The Associated Press all-state team announced Thursday.
It’s not just Smith and Loyer, either.
In last year’s balloting by a panel of sports writers, broadcasters and coaches, Caleb Furst, the Mr. Basketball winner, and Trey Kaufman-Renn, the Mr. Basketball runner-up, shared the honor of earning the most votes. Both also wound up at Purdue.
Players are selected regardless of grade level or which classifications their schools compete. The first, second and third teams are comprised of the top 15 vote-getters.
Smith, has 6-foot point guard, averaged 18.3 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds and 1.9 steals despite missing eight games because of a foot injury and postponing surgery so he could compete in the state tournament. He posted three-game averages of 24 points, 8 rebounds and 5.3 rebounds in wins over No. 2 Fishers, Noblesville and No. 3 Carmel, the defending state champs, as the Shamrocks captured their first sectional title.
Smith also got the upper-hand on Loyer when they meet in the regional semifinals. But Smith’s career ended with a loss to Kokomo. Smith finished as Westfield’s career leader in points (1,629) and assists (453).
Rent, this year’s Indiana Gatorade player of the year, averaged 26.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He made 73 3-pointers and scored 1,360 points in two seasons with Homestead after playing previously in Michigan.
He’s the only player to earn all-state honors in 2021 and 2022. Loyer was a third-team selection last year.
This year’s team is flush with talent—again.
Lawrence North guard CJ Gunn, who is headed to Indiana; Central Noble guard Conner Essegian, a Wisconsin recruit; and guard Tayshawn Comer of Class 4A state champion Indianapolis Cathedral round out the first team. Comer will play at Eastern Kentucky.
Essegian helped Central Noble finish as the Class 2A runner-up.
Four seniors lead the second team.
Chesterton guard Travis Grayson, who led his Class 4A squad to a state runner-up finish; Carmel guard Peter Suder, who played on Class 4A title teams in 2019 and 2021; Fort Wayne Northrop guard Jalen Jackson; and Warren Central forward Tae Davis were joined by rapidly emerging sophomore Flory Bidunga.
Suder intends to play at Bellarmine, Jackson is heading to Illinois-Chicago and Davis is reconsidering his commitment to Louisville following a coaching change. Grayson remains undecided on a college choice.
The 6-foot-10 Bidunga averaged 17.5 points, 13.3 rebounds and 5.3 blocks while shooting 78.7% from the field for Kokomo after arriving from Congo.
The third team is comprised of Indianapolis Pike guard Ryan Conwell, Penn guard Markus Burton, Indianapolis Cathedral center Xavier Booker, Mt. Vernon (Fortville) guard Armon Jarrad and Bloomington North forward JaQualon Roberts.
Conwell will play next season at South Florida while Jarrard heads to IUPUI. Burton, Booker and Roberts are juniors. Jarrard’s twin brother, Amhad, also will play at IUPUI after earning high honorable mention honors.