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East scores big with junior’s development


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Connor Umphress, a starter for Columbus East basketball.
Connor Umphress, a starter for Columbus East basketball.

Connor Umphress, a starter for Columbus East basketball.
Connor Umphress, a starter for Columbus East basketball.


The guy wearing No. 22 for Columbus East’s boys basketball team last season has passed his uniform to a new player.

Connor Umphress wore the number a year ago, and he was kind of a thin kid, at 6-foot-5 and 185 pounds, who was a solid shooter from the outside.

The new guy looks rock solid at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds. He can play the perimeter and the post. And instead of being just a shooter, he has learned how to be a “scorer.”

Meet ... Connor Umphress.

“Connor always has been a good shooter,” said East head coach Brent Chitty. “But

now he has found ways to score. He has learned how to get to the free-throw line.

He is a guy who has learned to do so many things, and he is more physical now.”

Umphress, and 6-foot-7 Bryce Lienhoop, will need every bit of his strength tonight against a Columbus North team that sports a couple of star players in 6-foot-9 Elliott Welmer and 6-8 Josh Speidel.

“This team doesn’t have a lot of size,” Umphress said about the Olympians, who have started the season 3-0. “So I had to develop a post game.

“It’s really not that big of a transition.

I played a lot of post for my AAU team (Indiana Elite Prospects of Bloomington) during the summer.”

Banging against Welmer and Speidel is nothing new for Umphress, who is a junior.

“Obviously, we’re excited to play North,” Umphress said. “I love all those guys over there.

“I know them personally, and Elliott, Josh and Evan (Henry) are three of my best friends.”

While Welmer and Speidel appear headed toward front court college careers, Umphress knows his size is more suited for him to be a shooting guard or small forward at the next level.

“In college, that’s what I want to do,” Umphress said. “But for now, I had to make sure I could finish around the basket, and they want me to get more rebounds. I have to be able to guard (bigger) people. I will play wherever they want me to play.”

Umphress went to former Columbus East quarterback Drew Kiel to train him in the offseason.

“I grew a little bit this past year, and I got thicker,” Umphress said. “I was eating pretty healthy, but Drew got me eating to gain healthy weight. We worked on my speed and strength. Drew hooked me up to a sled to pull, and we worked on my flexibility.”

Umphress also watched a lot of basketball tapes.

“I wanted to be able to read the floor better,” he said. “I can see people out in front of me more and what they are going to do. If they break out, I can get them the ball. My floor vision is better.

“I want to be smarter with the basketball.”

Umphress, who is averaging 20 points a game, said it helps that this particular group of Olympians is extremely team-oriented.

“We have a lot of guys who want to work together,” he said. “I think we’ve surprised some people starting 3-0. We lost seven people from last season’s team.”

A key part of last year’s lineup, Umphress now is a full-out impact player.

“Toward the second part of last year, you could see him coming on,” Chitty said. “He works hard and puts the time in. I am very pleased with his progress.

“He is going to play college basketball. We have yet to see the best Conner.”While Welmer and Speidel appear headed toward front court college careers, Umphress knows his size is more suited for him to be a shooting guard or small forward at the next level.

“In college, that’s what I want to do,” Umphress said. “But for now, I had to make sure I could finish around the basket and they want me to get more rebounds. I have to be able to guard (bigger) people. I will play wherever they want me to play.”

Umphress went to former Columbus East quarterback Drew Kiel to train him during the offseason.

“I grew a little bit this past year, and I got thicker,” Umphress said. “I was eating pretty healthy, but Drew got me eating to gain healthy weight. We worked on my speed and strength. Drew hooked me up to a sled to pull and we worked on my flexibility.”

Umphress also watched a lot of basketball tapes.

“I wanted to be able to read the floor better,” he said. “I can see people out in front of me more and what they are going to do. If they break out, I can get them the ball. My floor vision is better.

“I want to be smarter with the basketball.”

Umphress, who is averaging 20 points a game, said it helps that this particular group of Olympians is extremely team oriented.

“We have a lot of guys who want to work together,” he said. “I think we’ve surprised some people starting 3-0. We lost seven people from last season’s team.”

A key part of last year’s lineup, Umphress now is a full-out impact player.

“Toward the second part of last year, you could see him coming on,” Chitty said. “He works hard and puts the time in. I am very pleased with his progress.

“He is going to play college basketball. We have yet to see the best Conner.”

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