The Collegiate boysâ€™ basketball team is set to make its second straight appearance in the Touchstone Energy All â€œAâ€ Classic state tournament after downing archrival Kentucky Country Day 81-73 in the Seventh Region championship on Jan. 12.
Senior Andrew Steggeman has been a driving force for the Titans (11-6), averaging 16.2 points per game on 47 percent shooting along with 5.6 assists and four steals. Against KCD, the 5-foot-11 point guard exploded for a season-high 29 points, including 9 of 12 fourth quarter free throws that preserved the win.
â€œHeâ€™s probably the strongest guard in the city, physically, and he uses that to his advantage,â€ said second-year Collegiate coach Joel Morris.
Earlier this season, Steggeman notched a school-record 12 assists against Spencer County in a Pikeville Invitational semifinal, then lit up Betsy Layne for 26 points, five assists and five steals in the championship game to earn tournament MVP honors.
â€œHe sees the floor really well and rewards guys for running the floor,â€ said Morris. â€œHeâ€™s a floor general first and foremost. The scoring and other stuff is a bonus.â€
Steggeman, who carries a 3.9 unweighted grade-point average, was also a standout forward on the soccer pitch, where he tallied 11 goals and two assists as a junior before injuries sidelined him most of his senior season.
The Salem, Ind., native recently discussed his career and the prospect of an All â€œAâ€ title.
CHRIS CAHILL: Last year Collegiate advanced to the All â€œAâ€ semifinals before falling to Covington Holy Cross. How do you like your chances this time around?
ANDREW STEGGEMAN: Last year I felt like a lot of people thought we were a no-name team, but this year weâ€™ve actually got a lot of experience and confidence. We feel like we definitely belong in the tournament.
CAHILL: How did you get into basketball and who was your inspiration?
STEGGEMAN: By age 3, I was watching my older brother (Matthew) play basketball and I always wanted to be just like him so I knew I was going to play when I was really young. Salem High School put on a little lions (program) for younger kids to play basketball and have a couple games and practices. My dad (Jim) always signed me up for that and I fell in love with it.
CAHILL: What do you see as your role on the court?
STEGGEMAN: My job is just to win basketball games for us. If that means scoring because some of our other scorers are injured or on the bench, then Iâ€™ll go score. If that means drawing attention and passing the ball to get open looks, then Iâ€™ll pass the ball. If I need to rebound because some of our big men are out, then Iâ€™ll rebound. Iâ€™ll just do whatever it takes to win.
CAHILL: After attending Collegiate your freshman year, you transferred to Salem High for a year, then returned to Collegiate as a junior. How does the high school basketball atmosphere in Southern Indiana compare to that in Louisville?
STEGGEMAN: (Laughs) Thereâ€™s absolutely no comparison. I apologize to all Kentucky high school basketball fans, but Southern Indiana basketball is one of the greatest things ever. Southern Indiana towns are more community-based and there are not as many social things to do on the weekends so one of the big things to do is go to basketball games.
Salem has 650 students and yet their gym holds like 3,500. Youâ€™ll have a consistent 2,000 fans, no matter how good your team is.
CAHILL: Who is the best player youâ€™ve faced this season?
STEGGEMAN: We just played Pulaski County and (Taylor) Gover. We tried to shut him down, we tried to man the ball, but he just took the game over. I have a lot of respect for him.
CAHILL: What are your favorite classes this semester?
STEGGEMAN: I take two AP English classes and those are probably my favorites because you get to write and express your opinion. I think analyzing literature is one of the best ways to learn and create your moral beliefs. I take AP Physics and that class is ridiculously hard, but itâ€™s a small class and I always have fun.
CAHILL: Where are you in your college search and do you know what youâ€™d like to study?
STEGGEMAN: Some of the schools (Iâ€™m considering) are Covenant College, Washington and Lee, Denison, Rhodes, Hanover and Transylvania. Wherever I go, Iâ€™ll play basketball.
Right now, as a naÃ¯ve 17-year-old, I think I want to go into sales and advertising. That (field) involves socializing, people skills and also negotiating. I just think itâ€™s a perfect job for my strengths and interests.
Collegiate will take on the winner from the 10th Region at 1 p.m. Thursday in the opening round of the All â€œAâ€ state tournament at the Frankfort Convention Center. The final is set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
The smallest 130 high schools in Kentucky, based on enrollment, are eligible to compete in All â€œAâ€ championships.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at email@example.com.