VALPARAISO | The Crown Point Bulldogs were finished with warmups. Stephen Albrecht walked over to the team's bench, with all of Class 2A No. 1 Winchester's eyes upon him.
The 6-foot-4 senior has been the Bulldogs' big gun on offense for all of the past three seasons. But going into Tuesday's Region Roundball Rumble at Valparaiso University, Albrecht had been in a shooting funk -- with just four 3-point shots made in four games.
So teammate Derrick Garletts spoke to Albrecht before the tipoff.
"Come on Steve, hit a shot for once," Garletts said.
The motivating joke worked, as Albrecht was the star of the night game at the Athletics-Recreation Center. He scored 14 points from the 4:02 mark of the fourth quarter to 1:15 remaining. Albrecht was 12-of-16 shooting, 6-of-7 from beyond the 3-point stripe, and had a career-high 35 points against the defending Class 2A state runner-ups.
"I was lucky the shots started falling," Albrecht said after the game. "I really don't know how to explain it."
For Albrecht, he couldn't have picked a better place to start hitting some shots "for once." VU has recruited Albrecht at a marginal level. Last summer, Crusaders coach Homer Drew invited Albrecht over to the campus to play some pick-up with the big boys.
VU has never offered C.P.'s best player. But the lazer-eyed gunslinger would like that to change.
"I want to play D-I and I want to play close to home," Albrecht said.
Fellow Duneland Athletic Conference star Zack Novak of Chesterton did his own "Hey, VU look at me" earlier in the day, when he scored 37 in helping his Trojans to a 67-54 win over Class 4A No. 3 Evansville Reitz.
The difference between the two scoring machines is Novak had already been offered by the Crusaders, but he left it on the shelf and now it's all in a big limbo. Showing Drew that he could be a solid D-I shooting guard at the school is something Albrecht showed on Tuesday night.
Maybe someone from VU will be at Crown Point tonight when the two stars square off for the first time this year.
"I didn't think about it during the game," Albrecht said. "But yeah, I'm thinking about it now. I don't know if they were here or not. But I hope they saw what I can do."
Bulldogs coach Clint Swan knows he has a special player in Albrecht. As he was hanging nets all over the place, Swan said his jaw was on the floor.
"It was hard for me not to just stand there in awe," Swan said.
Albrecht just completed his papers for Harvard. He will play college basketball somewhere. But he wishes to stay close to home where his family and friends can watch him light it up.
Swan has been frustrated by college coaches who have dropped Albrecht off their radar. Yes, he does need to be more consistent. But what he showed on Tuesday night was literally insane.
"Stephen has a gift," Swan said. "I keep hearing people say this or that about him. I tell them, 'I've seen you play and you don't have someone like Stephen.' Eventually, he will stick somewhere and whoever gets him will be extremely happy."
For one night, Albrecht had the people inside the ARC on their feet, in disbelief. That's something he wants in the future.
"We'll just have to wait and see," Albrecht said. "That would be my dream."
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.