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Let the debate begin . . .

Let the debate begin . . .
Let the debate begin . . .
South Central's Craig Schoen, shown here sporting an Indiana All-Star jersey for a photo opportunity at the Top 40 Workout, was passed over for the elite squad despite a stellar career with the Rebels. (Photo by Alan Stewart)

South Central senior Craig Schoen took part in the Reebok North-South All-Star game at New Albany High School on Sunday and was a participant in Hoosier Basketball Magazine’s Top 40 Workout at Pike High School in Indianapolis on April 6.
Schoen, who is the Rebels’ all-time leading scorer and holds many other records at the school, was in pursuit of Harrison County’s first Indiana All-Star bid for a male athlete. Two females have been named to the elite squad — most recently Lynne Johnson of Corydon Central in 2000, and Julie Swarens of North Harrison in 1992 — but never a male cager.
And it will remain that way.
Indiana All-Star Game Director Pat Aikman announced late last night that Schoen will be left off the roster of 13 players. Despite Schoen knocking down an eye-popping 12 of 16 three-point attempts with 15 assists, five rebounds, one steal and just two turnovers between the two showcase events, the All-Star staff left Harrison County high and dry once again.
Getting the nod to don Indiana’s red, white and blue jerseys were: Mr. Basketball Sean May (Bloomington North – North Carolina), Anthony Winchester (Austin – Western Kentucky), Seth Colclasure (Bellmont – Valparaiso), Blake Schoen (Benton Central – Southern Illinois), Dedrick Finn (Castle – Xavier), Matt Kiefer (Evansville Mater Dei – Purdue), Chris Hunter (Gary West – Michigan), Brandon Cameron (Gary West – Penn State), Keith Christmas (Gary West – Idaho), Delco Rowley (Indianapolis Arlington – Michigan State), Rodney Carney (Indianapolis Northwest – Undecided), Avery Sheets (McCutcheon – Butler) and Evan Seacat (Paoli – Northwestern).
From all available data, Christmas is the first player selected in the modern era who was not either a Junior All-Star, an invited participant in the Top 40 Workout or listed among Hoosier Basketball Magazine’s Top 100 senior players.
His inclusion on the team came in large part due to his surprising performance in the Top 40 Workout.
How can he not be invited, but participate?
As Paul Harvey would say, “Here’s the rest of the story.”
Sean May was a no-show at Top 40 because of his commitment to play in the McDonald’s All-American game at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Literally minutes into the Workout, Hoosier Basketball Magazine publisher Gary Donna spotted Christmas in the stands and asked if he’d like to take part.
Christmas was a veritable highlight reel during the competition (despite wearing shorts two sizes too big and doing most of his acrobatics one-handed while holding his bloomers). He impressed everyone in attendance, including the Indiana All-Star staff.
“He was a real sleeper in this year’s group,” Aikman said. “He’s a very active player. I saw him in the semistate when they beat DeKalb and sat next to Coach Steve Witty of Ben Davis and I remember him saying ‘I think he was the best player on the floor.'”
Thanks to his last-minute inclusion at the Top 40, Christmas joins fellow Cougars Chris Hunter and Brandon Cameron on the All-Star squad.
It isn’t the first time three players from one high school team have taken part in the border war. In 1995, Mr. Basketball Damon Frierson was joined by Ben Davis teammates Courtney James and James Patterson, and in 1987, the starting five players from Marion made it: co-Mr. Basketballs Jay Edwards and Lyndon Jones were selected with fellow Giants Daric Keys, Eric Ewer and Kyle Persinger.
The roster for the Indiana All-Star team is generally released two Sundays after Mr. Basketball is announced. This year, however, the North-South game fell after the original release date for the All-Stars. Because there was an abundance of highly skilled guards and forwards around the state, the choice for filling out the rosters was a tough one.
“We had everyone on the All-Star staff write down the names of seven or eight kids that the coaches would like immediately and people that they’d want on the team,” Aikman said. “We came to a consensus on seven of them and decided to wait on the remaining six. We had one guard in mind in the original list but wanted to wait to see him in a game format.”
With seven players already picked, Aikman said he had planned on releasing those names on Sunday and the remaining six today.
“The sports department said they wanted to release them all at once, so we waited,” Aikman said.
Schoen was one of the handful of players that got a second look after the Top 40, however in an effort to build a balanced team to oppose Kentucky’s finest, someone had to be left out.
“He was a young man that was among some others that needed a second look,” Aikman said. “It seems like there are always a bunch of good guards and I wish I could have taken another, but there are a finite number of spots.
“One thing people don’t realize is that we’re building a team. Some say we should take the top 12 scorers in the state, but you can’t really do that because you might fill a team with 12 guards or 12 forwards. There are always going to be kids who have a valid argument on why they should be on the team. Inevitably someone’s going to be left out.”
After the Top 40 workout, Schoen said not receiving the honor to represent Indiana would be disappointing, but it wouldn’t diminish what he’s accomplished at South Central.
“I think it’d be great to play with the best players in the state and take part in it, but it’s not something that would ruin everything I’ve done or the team’s done. I still had a good career,” Schoen said.
He is entirely too modest.
Schoen averaged 22 points an outing this season en route to 530 points. Add that to his previous three season totals of 396 as a freshman, 464 as a sophomore and 499 as a junior for a staggering total of 1,889 points. He led Harrison and Crawford counties in scoring all four years, was part of four straight Southern Athletic Conference championship teams and just last month powered South to its first sectional championship since 1974.
Schoen’s marquee game came two years ago against Graceland Christian when he lit up the Warriors for a second-best effort in the state 52-point night.
This year, in an effort to showcase Schoen’s skills, the Rebels beefed up their schedule by battling 4A Floyd Central, taking part in the Blue Chip Shootout at Bellarmine University (where Schoen won M.V.P. honors) and participating in the elite Super Hoops Tournament in Indianapolis.
South downed the Highlanders, whipped Meade County at the Blue Chip and finished fourth as the highest Class 1A club in the 16-team Super Hoops, where SC defeated 4A Merrillville and 3A Northwestern.
“We did everything we could do for him publicity-wise,” South Central coach Greg Robinson said last month. “All bias aside, I still think he’s one of, if not the, best true point guards in the state. The one thing I think he possesses that the other guards out there don’t is his ability to see the floor. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best. Period.”
Public tickets for the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star Game go on sale April 29 at Conseco Fieldhouse (317-917-2727) and can also be ordered through Ticketmaster (317-239-5151)
Tickets are $100 for courtside seats (limited number available), $18, $15, $10 and $5.
The All-Stars will play exhibition games on June 12 at Mackey Arena at Purdue and June 19 at Wawasee High School and will battle Kentucky June 15 in Owensboro and June 22 at Conseco.