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New-look Ben Davis back to defend Class 4A title

Giants inexperienced, but have loads of championship-winning talent

Ben Davis coach Mark James doesn’t have to worry about a team hangover from last season’s epic run to the Class 4A state championship, following the graduation of four starters and five of its top seven players.

“Most of that team is gone. We’re starting over and starting a new journey,” James said.

The Giants – ranked No. 3 to start the season – have two talented returnees in senior forward and Michigan State commit Aaron Henry (14.3 points, 6.7 rebounds last season), and junior wing Jalen Windham (7.0 points).

“Everyone else is up from the JV team or didn’t play very much last year,” James said. “We’re pretty young, only two seniors, so it’ll be interesting to see where the journey takes us.”

James is pleased with how Henry and Windham have stepped up so far.

“Aaron’s done a real nice job for us. Obviously with him being a Michigan State recruit, he’s a very good player, and our most experienced,” he said. “Jalen is our second-most, and we’ll depend on them for a lot of leadership.”

Another leader is senior KeSean Tunstill, one of 10 Giants in the program who were part of Ben Davis’ 6A football state championship this fall. He’ll likely share point guard duties with junior Cameron Maul, a fellow wide receiver.

Leading up to last Saturday’s season-opening 66-41 victory over Southport, James threw those returning from the football field right into the mix.

“We’ll be a little behind for a while, but we’ll get caught up eventually, hopefully by the middle of January for the (Marion County) tournament,” James said. “They just gotta hit the ground running. It’ll be a little generic for a bit as we focus on the fundamentals, and they’re rusty there because they haven’t had the reps.”

Juniors Jeff Clayton and Dawand Jones figure to be solid in the post, and classmate Ty Nibbs expects to be a key member of the wing rotation. The rest is up for grabs.

James hopes it’s a squad whose younger pieces learned from watching last year’s state champs.

“That group got real focused in January, became unselfish, were willing to give up the ball, played their roles and bought into playing defense,” James said. “It should’ve rubbed off on the kids.”

With five teams ranked in the top 15, as usual, the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference will be a meat-grinder.

“Lawrence North is loaded, Center Grove and Warren are good … I mean, there aren’t any easy games,” James said. “You have lace them up tight every night.”

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