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Seasoned Culver Academies ready for Giants' battle

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

Culver Academies long has been know for its athletic prowess in sports such as hockey and lacrosse. But recently, the private military school on the northern shore of Lake Maxinkuckee in Marshall County has become one of the high school basketball powers in Indiana.

Ninth-year coach Mark Galloway endured some rough years early in his tenure at the school in the town of Culver, population 1,323 according to the 2010 census, but that seems like ancient history now that his basketball team stands one win away from competing for its second straight Class 3A state boys' basketball title.

"It's a unique place to be real honest. (Students) come here for more than just one thing," Galloway said by phone Thursday afternoon. "They come here and do the military (training). They've got to come here and be a good student because you're not going to come here and get in unless you're a good student.

"There's an emphasis on both sides, student-athletes," he continued. "Our classes are tough here. One hundred-percent of our kids go on to a four-year school when they graduate."

And Galloway has a roster filled with kids who are moving on to play a sport at the next level. Not all will play basketball, but most will compete at a very high level. And kids come from all over the Midwest for Culver's education and training.

Senior guard Ethan Brittain-Watts (Indianapolis) will play basketball at Boston College next season. Senior guard John Cohen (Carmel) will compete in lacrosse for one of the nations premier programs at Johns Hopkins. Senior guard Jordon Freeman (Indianapolis) will play basketball and run track, likely for a school in the NAIA.

Galloway's son Trey, a junior and the only player listed on the Eagles roster with Culver as a hometown, has basketball offers from Notre Dame, Purdue, Butler and Michigan, while 6-5 junior Deontae Craig (Fort Wayne) has football offers from Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan and several other high profile programs.

In all, Culver has three players from Indianapolis, two from Chicagoland, two from Ontario, Canada, one from Wisconsin along with three others from Indiana.

And the combination of military and basketball training has benefited Culver Academy on the court. 

"I would say having that toughness, the mental toughness, physical toughness. They play with a lot of toughness," Galloway shared about one of the strengths of his Eagles. "They play together and they play smart. High basketball IQ. ... I think they're made up with the ability to play any kind of style.

"In the state championship last year we played (Evansville) Bosse, and they are really up and down. Along the way we played teams that slowed it down and played a lot of zone," he continued. "We've seen a lot different styles so that's been good for our team. But so has Marion. Marion has played a 4A schedule so we know how good they are."

Marion's Jalen Blackmon (27.3 points per game) and J.K. Thomas (14.6) were the first two names Galloway brought up when talking about the Giants, but he also knows there is a lot more to Culver's opponent in its final four matchup. 

"The way they shoot the '3' and it's not just Blackmon. They can really knock it in from anywhere and everywhere," Galloway said. "They're good from the corners and they're good on the glass, too, so when they miss they're very athletic.

"Then (Thomas) looks like a football/basketball kid, he really gives them a lot of energy and a lot of physical play," he added. "He won't back down from anybody and you can recognize that right away."

Freshman RaSheed Jones (9.8 ppg) hit five 3-pointers in Marion's regional opening win against Angola and scored 27 points in the Giants two regional contests. Senior big men Dre Aguilar (6.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Qu'Ran Howard (9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.4 bgp) all give Galloway concern as he prepares his team to face the Giants. 

"We definitely have to cover up the three and I think we have to win the battle on the boards," Galloway said. "And that's collectively. That's not just saying Deontae and Jordan go rebound. Our guards have to rebound, too."

Marion and Culver Academies have faced each other one time before, with the Giants winning 77-46 in the 2014-15 season during a Huntington North holiday invitational.