SOPHOMORE SENSATION HAS A BRIGHT FUTURE
Ink Free News / Sports on Tuesday, March 30, 2021
By Nick Goralczyk
WARSAW – There is no shortage of impressive, talented and impactful players throughout the history of Warsaw Tiger boys basketball. After a hoops season that was far from normal, there was at least a sense of normalcy inside the world of Warsaw basketball. The Tigers found themselves back on top of the Northern Lakes Conference and watched a sophomore make his case for being the next face of their historic program.
Jaxson Gould’s stellar play was hard to ignore and his efforts have earned him the 2020-21 InkFreeNews Boys Basketball Player of the Year nod.
“Jaxson was someone who grew up right before our eyes this season,” remarked Warsaw head coach Matt Moore. “With little to no varsity experience, he steadily became one of our cornerstones as we got deeper into our season.”
That was the cliff notes version of Gould’s ascension this past season. Zero to hero, in a way. He went from a freshman player that felt lucky to be on the varsity bench to the focal point of a conference championship team, quickly garnering the attention of every defense that took the court against him.
Become the rising star of a storied program in one of the biggest schools in the state?
Earn first team All-NLC honors and an IBCA All-State Honorable Mention nod?
Become InkFreeNews.com Player of the Year?
In a busy sophomore season where he had per game averages of 16.6 points (scoring over 20 points seven times), five rebounds and two steals, the postseason accolades just add the to excitement of this sophomore. But does any of it add to the ego of Gould?
Not even a little bit.
“I played, I think, nine minutes of trash time as a freshman last year, so this was a big jump for me,” Gould said with a laugh. “But my teammates pushed me. There was really no reason for them to believe in me. But they did.”
It didn’t take long for Gould to give his teammates the reasons to believe.
After averaging just over seven points per game in the team’s first three outings, Gould found his legs against Huntington North on Dec. 5 with a 28-point effort. Six days later Gould sent Lake Central back to the Region with a 50-49 overtime loss after hitting the game winner
as time expired. Wearing the No. 2 like one of the more recognizable Tigers in team history, Indiana Wesleyan legend Kyle Mangas, at times Gould played like K-Mango and the ‘KM’ on the upper chest of his Warsaw jersey.
“It was definitely the Lake Central game,” Gould said when asked at what point he felt comfortable on the varsity scene. “I had a rough start to the year, I wasn’t shooting that well but the Lake Central game winner was just a super cool moment. I felt like I really settled in after that.”
Nobody appreciated the “settled in” Gould more than his coach.
“It is always special to have players that want to play ‘for you’ and I felt my relationship with Jaxson grew deeper the more we leaned into the difficult times together,” Moore said. “He began to see our trust in him during his failures and through his successes as well.
“We hope all our players understand that their individual development is their responsibility and our job is to come along side them and give them the support and information they need to ultimately make the best decisions for our team. It can be easy at times to have a guy that can, ‘go get a bucket’ but it takes a special player who is willing to make the right play that gives his team the best chance to win and I believe that is who we have in (Gould).”
Gould continued his rise throughout the season as Warsaw closed the regular season with eight consecutive wins. Unfortunately the Tigers fell in the opening round of the sectional to Elkhart, 59-57. But that was where Gould made his biggest statement of the year.
The sophomore carried his team throughout the game, scoring a career-high 32 points. Gould also added eight boards and four assists in the game. The performance was a warning shot for any team on the Tigers schedule in the near future.
“For the next two years he will be the guy teams build their defenses around when they play Warsaw,” explained Moore. “He has got to be willing to continue to trust his teammates and help make plays for us.”
Gould had no problem being a team player in his sophomore campaign, he averaged two assists per game. But when asked about his big sectional performance Gould made it clear that he just wanted to win and would have done anything to change the result.
“I’m happy to have the experience under my belt, but I wish we would’ve gotten the job done,” admitted Gould. “I read the article after the game. It sucked seeing ‘Elkhart this’ and ‘Elkhart that’ when we were right there.”
“This is a game of skill and development and I truly believe Jaxson has a drive and ambition to help our program get back to a regional and that will motivate him to stay focused on the things he can control,” Moore said of his rising star. “I look forward to the next two years with him to see the young man and player he can become.”
Gould and his coach are on the same page. When asked about his individual goals for his upcoming junior campaign, Gould went right back to what he wants to see his team do.
“I want to get the job done for the seniors,” Gould stated. “Second weekend of March next year I want to be (in the regional), playing Gary West or whoever is there. I just want to win.”