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East star ready to display skills

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When Columbus East’s boys basketball season ended with a loss in the sectional playoffs, then-junior Connor Umphress wasn’t ready to leave the court.

After all, he had work to do.

Umphress, a 6-foot-5 forward who averaged 18.6 points a game his junior season, knew he had one final offseason before his high school career would go through its final campaign. So he continued lifting weights, watching tape and playing the sport he loves.

He threw in CrossFit workouts for extra conditioning. Everything was about doing more.

That kind of dedication has landed Umphress an invitation to the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association/Indiana High School Athletic Association Top 100 Showcase, where the best basketball players in the state show off their skills to potential college coaches.

Umphress, who already verbally committed to Maryville University, a Division II college out of St. Louis, said it will be an honor to perform with the best players in the state.

The Top 100 Showcase will be conducted July 23 and 24 at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis.

“I was real confident with the direction Maryville was going,” Umphress said. “They were looking for an all-around performer and wanted a shooting guard or a small forward to post a large number of points, and that’s what they felt I could bring to the table.”

Even so, he looks forward to the chance of comparing himself to the best in Indiana.

“It’s definitely an exciting feeling,” Umphress said of the Showcase. “I will be playing with some of the great players from the greatest state in basketball history is an absolute honor.”

Umphress said that players don’t get invited to the invite by skills alone.

“You have to be committed to the game,” he said. “You have to show that you are a team player as well as having solid individual skills. To be put on that level with all the other players that are attending is phenomenal.”

Umphress wasn’t one to boast about his individual accolades, instead giving a large chunk of credit to his teammates at East.

“I knew if I helped my team, they would make me into the player that I am,” Umphress said. “I can’t give much of the credit to myself. I always thought in the back of my mind that it was a possibility to be a part of this Showcase, but I cared more about the team and its success.”

Columbus East basketball coach Brent Chitty wasn’t surprised by Umphress’ selection to the Showcase.

“It’s a testament to just how good he is,” Chitty said. “He was a solid defensive player for us last year, and was able to score in large numbers and provide offense for the team. He is just an all-around player.”

Although Umphress’ commitment to the Saints is set in stone, Umphress still wants to be able to play with the best.

“It gives me a shot to show off my talents at such a high level,” Umphress said. “Being able to play with those guys will see where I’m at, what I need to work on and what I need to do to perform at the best level possible.”

“He’s a great leader, on and off the court,” Chitty said. “Academically he is at another level, and knows what he needs to do to be successful, and he shows his unrivaled leadership on the court as well by the way he plays.”

Although the Showcase is set up for scouts, players are exposed to drills and strategies which should boost their improvement.

“I still have a lot of work to do at East, and I hope to help the team to become one of the best in the state.”

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