Mike Pegram, Peegs.com

Indy duo trying to build on state title accomplishment

After earning state championships in March for their respective schools, Eric Hunter and Aaron Henry are teaming up and trying to build on the accomplishment.

Aaron Henry and Eric Hunter don't play at the same high school but the pair were both happy campers on March 25th after leading their Indy area schools to state championships.

Hunter got it done first that day, leading Indianapolis Tindley to a thrilling 51-49 win over Lafayette Catholic Central in the morning Class 1A title game.

That night Hunter watched his good friend Henry do the same for Indianapolis Ben Davis, helping the Giants earn a 55-52 victory in the 4A game over a loaded Fort Wayne North squad.

The two friends, however, are teaming up once again for offseason competition, playing for the Gary Harris Elite (Indiana Pros) team. 

This past weekend the Gary Harris Elite advanced to the Run 'N Slam quarterfinals before falling on Sunday to the eventual champ, All Ohio Red.

Both players are getting significant recruiting attention from the Big Ten and we sat down with each in Fort Wayne after a hard fought round of 16 overtime win over the Wisconsin Swing.

Hunter finding his stride

For Eric Hunter the tourney last weekend was a chance to regain his form on the court after some inconsistent play. The 6-foot-3 combo type guard was good in Atlanta in late April at the second stop of the adidas Gauntlet league but struggled some the weekend before in Dallas. In Fort Wayne he had a tough Friday night game but found his form the rest of the weekend. He was especially outstanding on Saturday, helping lead Gary Harris Elite to a big win over Ohio Nova, the that eventually finished runner-up at the Run 'N Slam.

"I had a funk last night (Friday)," Hunter said on Saturday night. "I think I was playing slow. Today I have been playing a lot faster. A lot more decisive."

Before the spring Hunter earned offers from Purdue, Xavier, Butler, Nebraska, Minnesota and several mid-major programs.

He did his best to sum up which coaches watched often during the April live periods.

"It was kind of hard to tell," Hunter said. "I'd say Matt Painter stuck out. I saw him a lot. Michael Lewis of Nebraska, he was at every game. Coach (Chris) Mack was there a lot in Dallas. Those were the ones that stuck out."

The one game we caught in Texas we did see Indiana coach Archie Miller and assistant Ed Schilling courtside.

"In Atlanta they watched me two out of the four games," Hunter said. "They were at the last game and I played well that game."

The Hoosiers are involved with other point guards and he will take a wait and see approach with those developments.

"It certainly makes a difference, to some extent," Hunter said. "If one of them comes out with their list and let's say it's a final three and they're in it, of course it does (impact things). But I am really just worried about myself."

He has some simple goals for the offseason.

"Just being more physical when I play and that comes with getting stronger," Hunter said. "As I am getting stronger, I am getting more and-ones, getting a lot more lift on my shots."

Hunter was one of the highest scorers in Indiana this past year, averaging 26.1 points and 7.1 rebounds a contest.

Henry a bit of a "point forward"

Aaron Henry is in the 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-6 range and can play guard or forward. This past weekend he often took on a "point forward" role, especially when facing zones where he would flash to the center of the zone, receive the ball and then show an uncanny knack of feeding a cutting teammate for a layup.

He also can post up and guard on the blocks, something invaluable this winter for Ben Davis. That was especially true in final two games of his team's playoff run when he butted heads with 6-foot-10 Iowa signee Jack Nunge in the semistate and in that state title game against Fort Wayne North, a team that was blessed with a frontline of 6-foot-10 DePaul signee Jaylen Butz and five-star sophomore forward Keion Brooks.

"That's always been the way I play," Henry said. "Growing up--one year I was a post, one year I was a guard. It all depended on when I grew. So one year I was working on post skills, one year I was working on guard skills. That all came to what I am today, which is really working out for me."

His play in March and April has raised the eyebrows of some of the bigger programs near Indianapolis.

"Purdue, Xavier and Butler, I don't have any other interest other than the offers I have right now," Henry said.

As a junior Henry averaged 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds

A long list of mid-majors have offered including Ball State, Bradley, Indiana State, Evansville, Miami-Ohio, and Toledo.

So will many high majors join those  MAC and Missouri Valley programs?

Henry thinks he's close to that development in his recruitment.

"I feel like it but if they don't want to come in with (the offer) that is fine too, I like the offers that I have. But high majors are nice as well," Henry said.

The bigger schools may not have to be in any hurry.

"I won't make a decision till probably the end of next year," Henry said. "I just don't want to have to think about it during the season. I just want to get better every day. I don't want to set my mind to where I am committed and I don't have anything to worry about. It's not like that, I want something to play for."

The Ben Davis forward said the prior Indiana staff was in contact.

"I haven't talked to the new staff but I used to talk to (former assistant Tim) Buckley about every day," Henry said. "I talked to Tom Crean a couple times and they did come to watch me play."

Henry is one of the best players we've seen in using his off hand to finish. He's a lefty but many times inside he would score off right handed half hooks or short floaters.

"It's a funny story," he said. "When I was a kid and my brother is left handed and we started shooting baskets and he always thought it was right to shoot with his left hand. But I do everything else with my right hand. I write with my right hand, I throw with my right hand, I kick with my right foot. I just shoot with my left hand."

Despite that he showed this spring a regular ability to knock down shots from behind the three-point arc.

"My coach and I have worked on that a whole bunch in the workouts, the morning before school and after school. That's what everyone wants to see, to see you shoot the three ball."

Spring play

Gary Harris Elite struggled a bit the first weekend of the adidas Gauntlet circuit in Dallas but got it going in the second stop in Atlanta.

"We lost our first game there but then won three in a row and beat some pretty good teams," Hunter said. 

Both Hunter and Henry made big plays in the overtime period to help Gary Harris get the OT win on Saturday night.  Some of that could be from the experience of having won a state title.

"That's when the stakes are highest," Hunter said.  "You just have to make the best decision possible. That's how you close out games like that. Helps that both Aaron and I have won a state championship."

"Eric and I feed off each other really well," Henry said. "Two left-handers. When we get going, there's not much you can do. I love playing with him and he's going to be great in the future. He's great now. He's my guy."

Even more so after what both juniors got done on March 25th.

"That was pretty cool," Henry said. "I was watching his game on TV because I couldn't be there but I was shouting at home. But he was there at my game--we got love for each other."

Indiana core team

Both Henry and Hunter were named as one of the six "core" players for the Juniors in the upcoming exhibitions against the Indiana All-Stars. The other core players are Romeo Langford of New Albany, Damezi Anderson of South Bend Riley, Mekhi Lairy of Evansville Bosse and Robert Phinisee of McCutcheon.

Those six will be joined by a South group of six for a game against the Seniors in New Albany on Tuesday, June 6. A North group of six will join the core team for a second exhibition game against the Senior All-Stars on Thursday, June 8 at Plainfield

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