MERRILLVILLE | Parker Huttel has spent a lot of time in the summer from coast to coast, playing high level travel baseball.
But whether he's in Virginia, Texas or Arizona, one thing is always tucked away with the bat bag.
"I try to shoot every chance I get," Huttel said.
That was a philosophy the 5-foot-10 junior guard at Andrean has used this winter. Get ball. Shoot ball. Then, shoot ball again.
After an awful start, the 59ers grew together as a team and won the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional on Saturday. That's the good news.
On the other end of the spectrum, Andrean (13-9) will play Bowman Academy (19-4) back at K.V. in the regional semifinal. The Eagles (19-4) beat the 59ers 92-52 on the infamous date of Dec. 7.
"I've played baseball my whole life, it's my first love," Huttel said. "But I've always loved basketball more. I have more of a heart for it. It's a sport where I can show off my athleticism more."
An Honor Roll student and member of the National Honor Society, Huttel said he is happy to be playing anything at all right now. In a game against Merrillville as a freshman, he landed awkwardly and tore his ACL.
Dr. Donald Shelbourne did the surgery in Indianapolis and three months later Huttel was pitching in a game.
"I've never had a problem since the surgery," Huttel said. "It actually feels stronger now."
The 2013-14 Andrean basketball season has been well documented. The 59ers first three losses — Lake Central (79-37), Crown Point (78-43 and Bowman (92-52) — were brutal.
The graduation of nine seniors and a late start for football players due to a trip to the state championship game put first-year coach Scott Hicko and his staff in a bind. But things calmed down and the program has won eight of its last 10 games.
"Parker is our Energizer Bunny," Hicko said. "He moves well off the ball. He has an old-fashioned jump shot. He actually elevates when he shoots. He has a great understanding of the game. He's done a great job doing what we've asked him to do."
Huttel is averaging 10 points a game and has hit 25 3-pointers. Huttel, like the rest of the team, will be counted on to handle the ball against Bowman's pressure, which is nearly nuclear.
A young, poor Andrean team was only down 10 against the Eagles at halftime of their matchup earlier this season. Hicko believes his team is much better now.
"We have to handle their initial press, break that and get some good shots," Hicko said. "Their pressure is tremendous. Our guys need to know where they need to be. We have to pass the ball and not dribble too much.
"Our kids have the confidence to play with these guys."
Huttel agrees. Andrean's been running against seven defenders at practice trying to replicate Bowman's defense.
"We can't rush too much," Huttel said. "We have to play our game. I believe we can play with these guys."