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North baseball, soccer standouts satisfied with coming off bench in basketball

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AS a baseball player, Columbus North junior Devin Mann is a big man on campus.

A stud, a slugger, a guy with a scholarship from Louisville in his back pocket.

As a Bull Dogs basketball player, Mann is fighting to make the varsity squad.

“Right now I am on the junior varsity,” said Mann, who hit .532 his sophomore year in baseball. “But I am totally OK with that. After Christmas, they will see where I am, whether I make the varsity.”

If Mann, a 6-foot-3 guard, makes the varsity roster, he will be vying for playing time with senior guard Andre Abedian, the Republic’s boys soccer Athlete of the Year. Although Abedian plays more of a basketball role than Mann, at least currently, he also plays a secondary role when he is used to being the straw that stirs the drink.

“Obviously I am a competitor,” said Abedian, who was an all-state soccer midfielder. “But I want to do whatever is best for the team.”

Both Mann and Abedian sat out last basketball season to concentrate on their primary sports, but with Columbus North (ranked No. 3 in 4A with a 2-0 record) expected to make a run at another sectional basketball title and possibly much more, both have put their egos aside to accept smaller roles.

“I hope we have created a program that is attractive to elite athletes,” North basketball coach Jason Speer said. “I think a lot of guys on our team did a great job of selling the program. Winning is a lot of fun.”

North has established stars such as Josh Speidel, Elliott Welmer and Evan Henry, so it isn’t likely that either Abedian or Mann will earn a ton of accolades.

Abedian, a 6-foot-2 guard, has been a sixth man with the ankle injury to North starting guard Kooper Glick. However, Abedian admits that taking a year off from basketball to concentrate on soccer puts him behind schedule.

“Last year was the first year that I haven’t played basketball,” said Abedian, who helped lead the North boys soccer team to a state championship his junior season. “But I needed to focus on soccer. The winter of your junior year is the time you need to focus more on soccer if you want to be seen so you can play in college. That was sort of the plan, but it did hurt me playing basketball.”

Abedian, who still is contemplating his college soccer future, knew taking off a year from basketball would leave him with a lesser role.

“I would be glad anyway, even if I wasn’t playing much,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun out here ... I grew up playing with these guys. We have a chance to do something special.

“But obviously I am a competitor. I want to play.”

Abedian said that growing up, soccer and basketball ranked about even in being his favorite sport. And when it comes to the high school level, well, “There’s nothing like Indiana basketball,” he said.

Mann admits that the competitor in him makes him wish for a bigger role, but he understands he is playing catch up.

“I’d like to be the big guy that everyone comes to watch,” he said. “But this is not my sport. I just need to do what I can to make the team better.

“I try to work hard every day, but I am rusty. I came to play in the first open gyms they had (just before the season), and I was shocked. I didn’t know how big a difference taking a year off would make. I was really out of shape.”

Despite their shortcomings, both bring several positives to the program. Being elite athletes, they set a great example when it comes to hard work and dedication. They know how to react when facing adversity or pressure.

“I definitely know how to motivate people,” Mann said.

Speer is just happy to have them.

“What it boils down to is that coaches need to be prudent with two- and three-sport athletes,” Speer said. “We have to know their time is valuable, and we have to know that basketball is their second sport. And it’s OK that basketball is their second sport.”

Speer said that timing is the biggest issue for a player who takes a year off, along with getting used to the speed of the game.

“Once they get that timing, everything else will fall into place,” he said.

Speer said Abedian is an excellent ball handler and a solid passer. Even though he has been away from the sport, Speer said Abedian is respected as a leader.

He said Mann is more quiet and added that he probably feels more comfortable on a baseball diamond.

“But he is getting better every day, and he is a good catch-and-shoot, 3-point shooter.”

Speidel said they both make the Bull Dogs better.

“They give it 100 percent in practice,” Speidel said. “That’s all you can ask. They know this isn’t their big sport.”

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