By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Dawn is so peaceful, so quiet and promising as light creeps and streaks across the darkness. Then the sun bursts over the horizon and heats up everything. That’s the new era of Bedford North Lawrence basketball: quiet now, about to explode with energy and potential.
The Stars will start the program’s 50th season with a new coach, with a revamped roster, with questions and expectations. While change can be chaotic, this transfer to a different regime has been tempered by a familiar name with a history of success.
Kurt Godlevske, the former BNL girls coach who guided that program to a Class 4A state championship, takes over as the 10th head coach in the history of the boys program. He succeeds Jeff Hein, who went 56-40 in four seasons. In addition to the change at the top, BNL also lost six seniors (including three starters and a 1,000-point career scorer) from last year’s 16-7 squad. So there was restructuring to do when Godlevske took over in June.
After five months of construction, the Stars are set to officially unveil their new look. They will visit Bloomington North for the 2023-24 season opener on Tuesday night.
For Godlevske, the return to the sideline has re-energized him. He went 120-41 in seven seasons with the BNL girls, then worked eight years as the head coach of the Butler women, winning the Big East Coach of the Year in 2019. After a year on the sideline following his departure from Butler, he’s back in the hot seat.
“It’s been refreshing for me,” Godlevske said. “It’s a school I love, and I’m looking forward to competing on a high level with them. it will be exciting.
“I had scratched that coaching itch. But this happened to come along, and it’s been good for me to be back in it. I didn’t feel like I had to do it again, to prove anything to myself. It was just good timing and a good fit. It’s been good for me. It’s brought a smile to my face, and I look forward to it every day.”
He’s also looking forward to an interesting first year. BNL will have to replace the leadership of star Colten Leach (seventh on the school’s career list with 1,137 points), who averaged 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Veteran guard Colton Staggs added 11.2 points, and both were named All-Hoosier Hills Conference selections. That’s a significant void to fill.
That doesn’t mean the rebuilding lacks a foundation. That will start with senior Noah Godlevske, the coach’s son who averaged 10.8 points a year ago and shot 50 percent from 3-point range. Senior guard Trace Rynders (4.4) will also provide experience and stability. And junior newcomer Patric Matson has been the scoring leader during BNL’s two preseason scrimmages.
“Noah’s mid-range game might be better than his 3-point shooting,” Godlevske said. “Every time he shoots a 15-footer, I think it’s going in. That’s a big thing people didn’t get to see last year, with the ball in his hands off the dribble.
“I think we have a number of kids with a strong skill set, We have some length, we have some size, and we have some toughness. I like how every player brings something positive to the table that we can utilize to make our team stronger. Our potential is pretty high, at the same time we’re still figuring out how good we’re going to be.”
BNL’s true identity is still cloaked in mystery. So is Bloomington North’s.
The Cougars will feature a lot of new faces – although with familiar names – in their starting lineup. They must replace graduated Indiana All-Star J.Q. Roberts, now at Vanderbilt. The roster will include some legacy names – junior Luke Lindeman, the son of former IU player Todd, is the leading returning scorer at 11.7 – with two sophomores and a freshman adding untested talent. North is coming off back-to-back regional titles.
“We’ll be a young group, inexperienced, but very talented,” said veteran North coach Jason Speer, a BNL alum. “When you have the kind of success we’ve had, it develops – whether it’s deserved or not – that bull’s-eye target on you. We can be a season maker for a lot of teams. So while a lot of these guys didn’t have the experience of cutting down the nets, they’re wearing the jerseys that did. We’ll have to be ready.”
The other noteworthy additions will include freshman J.R. Cross (the son of former North star Derrick Cross) and Rex Speer (the coach’s son). Lindeman will be the focal point.
“He’s our best player,” Speer said. “He has a really nice game from a perimeter standpoint, plays really well going to the basket. We’ll lean on him a lot.”
With two unknown teams, with personnel and system changes, advance scouting would be almost pointless.
“We can take guesses about what they will run, but it will be a guess,” Godlevske said. “He will have that same issue for us, because we are so brand new.”
While BNL showed some hints with two scrimmages (intrasquad and the IHSAA sanctioned workout at Martinsville), North didn’t even do that. It’s been nonstop practice sessions for the Cougars.
“I’m not a fan of those scrimmages,” Speer said. “I feel like a practice is way better for preparation, especially with a young team. It was best to stay home and work on your trade. We’re not seeking perfection, more of a survival.“
BNL is seeking its first win in an opener since 2017. First games are just the first step of a long journey toward the postseason in March, but both teams could use the adrenaline rush of immediate success.
“You want to be competitive and win,” Godlevske said, “because it gives that value to what you’re doing every day in practice, helps the kids believe. They probably have some questioning going on, and it would help them validate it.”
North won last year’s clash at BNL on a controversial Roberts shot at the buzzer. While video replay showed the ball had not left his hands in time, the officials counted it as the Cougars escaped with a tough 57-55 victory. Roberts had 31 points and 12 rebounds, while Leach countered with 20 points and 10 boards.
BNL at BLOOMINGTON NORTH
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
Records: BNL 0-0; Bloomington North 0-0
Last meeting: Last year at BNL, J.Q. Roberts hit a controversial shot at the buzzer as the Cougars clipped the Stars 57-55. Roberts had 31 points and 12 rebounds for North, while Colten Leach totaled 20 points and 10 boards for BNL.
Previous game story: North good to the last (late) shot
Game notes: North went 19-6 last season and won its second straight regional title. BNL graduate Jason Speer is 94-46 as he starts his seventh year with the Cougars (209-94 in 14 seasons overall). BNL hasn’t won a season opener since the 2017-18 campaign.
Bedford NL Stars
F – Patric Matson 6-3 Jr.
F – Logan Miracle 6-4 Jr.
G – Maddox Ray 5-11 Sr.
G – Noah Godlevske 5-11 Sr.
G – Trace Rynders 5-11 Sr.
Bloomington North Cougars
F – Jalen Williams 6-5 So.
G – Luke Lindeman 6-4 Jr.
G – Connor O’Quinn 6-2 Sr.
G – Rex Speer 6-2 So.
G – J.R. Cross 6-2 Fr.