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Hammond Central hires Adam Hudak as first football coach; Morton hires Aaron Abram as boys basketball coach
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Hammond Central hires Adam Hudak as first football coach; Morton hires Aaron Abram as boys basketball coach

From the ICYMI: Here are the most-read stories from the past week series

HAMMOND — Hammond Central has hired its first football coach.

Adam Hudak will lead the way for Hammond's newest school after he was approved during a School City of Hammond board meeting Tuesday night.

The 1998 Lowell grad is thrilled to usher in a new era.

"It's a brand new school with a brand new football stadium and athletic facilities, so it's going to be outstanding," Hudak said. "It's definitely an exciting time."

After the 2020-21 school year, the School City of Hammond will consolidate, and Clark, Gavit and Hammond high schools will close for good. Morton will remain while Hammond Central, which chose the Wolves as its mascot, is being built behind the current Hammond High building.

Hudak was most recently the head coach at Wheeler. He guided the Bearcats to an 8-3 record last fall, which was their first winning season since 2015. Hudak was at the helm for four seasons and went 21-20 before resigning to take over at Hammond Central.

Additionally, Hudak coached at Lake Station in 2015 and 2016, finishing 2-9 and 4-7, respectively.

"Just like anything else, you always want to move up as you do this job and go to the best opportunity you can go to," Hudak said. "Moving up from Class 2A (at Wheeler) to Class 5A is a big jump for me, and I think I'm ready for it."

Hammond Central will compete in Sectional 9, which also features Morton, Munster and Region powerhouse Valparaiso.

Hudak said he wants his new players to feel empowered as they try to establish themselves.

"It's their program, and I'm just the leader of it," Hudak said. "This is all about what we do with this opportunity and what's awesome is we're the first to do it. Every new coach wants to come in and build a foundation, and this is the very first foundation ever."

Star turned coach

Aaron Abram was itching for a chance to be a head boys basketball coach, and Morton is giving the former prep star his first shot.

Similarly to Hudak, Abram, a 2011 Lew Wallace alum, was officially hired Tuesday night during a School City of Hammond board meeting. He spent the last four seasons as an assistant under Larry Moore Jr. at Hammond, which won four straight Class 3A sectional titles and ended its final season in school history with an 18-2 record.

"I really just applied for the job to get my name out there," Abram said. " ... Through this whole process, I was just like, 'If God wants me to have it, He'll give it to me. If not, it is what it is.' I really just give God all of the glory — God and my family for supporting me."

Abram will replace Eric Speer, who guided Morton for one season. When Speer was hired in June 2020, he anticipated that his position wouldn't be guaranteed after the 2020-21 season as the School City of Hammond consolidated.

The 2007 Portage grad said he is proud of what the Governors were able to accomplish during his short tenure. Under his guidance, Morton went 10-15 and won its first playoff game in three years.

Former Morton coach Eric Speer guided the Governors to a 10-15 record during the 2020-21 season.

"I just want (my former players) to know that every day we did our best as a staff and as a team. I loved the group of kids that I coached this year," Speer said. " ... There's a couple things I hope they take away from this. I just hope they take this next chapter and respond and grow. And I hope they continue to feel comfortable telling each other they love each other as young men and brothers. That's something we really tried to teach them — that it's OK to say, 'I love you.'"

Prior to Morton, Speer was also an assistant at Michigan City, Lake Central, Hobart and Lake Station, before eventually landing his first head coaching job at Hammond Academy from 2015-2019. The Hawks went 5-68 during that span.

"As for me, I think this just adds a chip on my shoulder, in a good way," Speer said. " ... I reflected on some things I did at HAST and changed some of those things when I took this job at Morton and they were all positive and they all worked. ... I'm definitely not done, and I've already applied for other positions. I just plan to take this chip off my shoulder and push it into the next group of kids because I just love teaching basketball. So, whether it's a head job or an assistant job, I'm excited to get back out there."

While Speer moves on, Abram believes he has the experience to continue pushing the Governors in the right direction. During his high school career, Abram helped Lew Wallace finish as the Class 3A state runner-up in 2010, before starring at Oklahoma Baptist and eventually playing professionally overseas.

At every stage of his career, Abram said he has been a part of a winning culture, and that's exactly what he'll try to cultivate at Morton.

"A lot of people want to be winners, but what a lot of people don't realize is that winning is expensive," Abram said. "To win, you gotta sacrifice your time and so many different things, and I'm willing to do that with these kids. I want to win, and I definitely want to change the narrative (at Morton). But I also want to show them how to handle business in all aspects of life." 

Abram added that he is forever indebted to Moore, who coached him in AAU as a youngster. Since Hammond will shut down after the 2020-21 school year, Moore is expected to become the first boys basketball coach at Hammond Central.

Abram looks forward to squaring off against his mentor in the winter.

"First off, I'm just grateful that he gave me a chance to come back and start coaching because he's one of the greatest coaches in the Region, and that's not even a question," Abram said. " ... I learned a lot from him about perseverance and showing up every day no matter what because it's all about what you pour into the kids. If you pour the right things into the kids, the kids are going to reciprocate that."

Search begins

Wheeler is in search of a new boys basketball coach.

Steve Baumgartner confirmed to The Times that he has resigned after two seasons. The Bearcats won one game in each of those seasons, going 1-22 in 2019-20 and 1-15 in 2020-21.

Wheeler snapped a 23-game losing streak with a 50-45 home win over LaCrosse on Feb. 24.

The Bearcats have had four straight losing seasons as they look for their fourth coach since 2018.

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Lake County Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.

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