Columbus Christian senior Chris Noblitt had an unusual seat as his basketball teammates were struggling in the second half of a loss to a poor Bethesda Christian team in December.
Noblitt was watching from the bench.
And it wasn’t because the 6-foot-4 center was in foul trouble, or injured. He was just benched.
Considering that Noblitt had played a major role in the Crusaders’ state championship team the previous season, it all seemed rather odd.
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“I talked to Coach (Kevin Roth) and he said that I wasn’t producing,” Noblitt said. “I agreed with him. I definitely wasn’t happy with my performance.”
As he does after every game, Noblitt went home that night and had a conversation with his dad, Todd Noblitt.
“It was a tough time for him,” said the elder Noblitt, a Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputy. “Last year really took a toll on him.”
Chris Noblitt tore ankle ligaments playing AAU ball the summer before his junior season and he had surgery in September of that year. Then during his junior season, he suffered a concussion during a game that kept him off the court until the Crusaders’ playoff run. He came back to help his team to the state title, but he didn’t play any basketball last summer.
“The concussion affected him more than any of us really knew,” Todd Noblitt said. “He had headaches for quite a while and I think the mental part of the recovery was much tougher than the physical injury. I would say, ‘Listen, your skill sets are the same. Sports is as much mental as physical. You have to be prepared mentally to do battle.’
“He has come along.”
Chris Noblitt obviously was ready for battle Friday in an 89-84 overtime victory against Indianapolis Lighthouse, which is one of the Crusaders’ main challenges for the Indiana Christian Schools Tournament title. Noblitt scored 23 points and dominated in overtime.
“He has been back to his normal self as far as getting up and down the floor,” Roth said. “It took him a little longer to get back into shape, but he is not having any more ankle problems.”
Roth said Columbus Christian is a much better team with Chris Noblitt’s muscle in the middle.
“We don’t have to rely so much on our perimeter game and now we can balance it,” Roth said. “It’s very important that Chris is able to be a contributing factor for our offense. We are not so one dimensional.”
Chris Noblitt said he has regained his focus.
“I was out a lot last year and I was out of shape,” he said. “But I think a lot of it was more mental. I was just playing the games earlier in the season and I wasn’t preparing. Now I am focused on what I have to do. We want to (win a state championship) again. I have a specific job and I know the team is counting on me.”
Noblitt said being benched at critical moments earlier in the season was a wake-up call that forced him to work harder. His game against Indianapolis Lighthouse was the culmination of that effort.
“Hey, I’ve still got it,” Noblitt said with a laugh. “Since I’ve been here forever, I want to play my hardest for this school.”
Noblitt has attended Columbus Christian from preschool through his senior year. He started playing recreational basketball in first grade and really started to embrace the sport from third grade on.
“He played baseball and football a few years, but it was easy to tell that basketball was his passion,” Todd Noblitt said.
It appears he will continue that passion at Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but college ball will have to wait while Noblitt finishes his final high school season. Columbus Christian hosts its Senior Night game on Friday against Northpointe Christian at 7:30 p.m.
“I’ve been blessed to be around the players and the coaches that we have had here at Columbus Christian,” Chris Noblitt said. “Our sixth grade team won the state championship and each year of high school we have won a regional championship … and then the state championship. It’s not going to be the same.”
Todd Noblitt said it will be an emotional night. “Ron Bridgewater (whose son Nick has played alongside Chris Noblitt since third grade) and I added it up and these kids have won 75 to 80 percent of all their games over the years,” he said. “But as a dad, I am so much more proud of them, and him, for who they are as individuals. For example, Christopher only has three or four classes, but he spends two or three hours a day as a teacher’s assistant at the elementary end of the school. He is doing a basketball camp as his senior project with all the proceeds going to Special Olympics. It will be exciting to see what God has in store for him.”
Roth said Chris Noblit always has been a special student. “He is a gentle giant,” Roth said. “He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He is very polite and respectful and he does a lot with the young kids at Columbus Christian. You see those first-grade kids will see him and they run up and give him a hug.
“He is a fine young man.”
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SCHOOL: Columbus Christian
CURRENT STATS: 11.0 points per game; 4.9 rebounds per game
DID YOU KNOW?: The Crusaders are 98-31 in Noblitt’s four seasons with an Indiana Christian Schools Tournament championship in 2014