BENTON — A couple of days after Arsenal Tech's disappointing ouster from the Indiana state playoffs last season, Coach Jason Delaney received a text message.
It was a list of seven teams. And it was from his star player, Trey Lyles.
It was a list of the teams Lyles wanted to play during his senior season. It included some of the best basketball programs in the country.
Delaney called them all. A couple declined, but the schedule that Arsenal Tech ended up with is among the best of any public school in the country.
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"Totally by design," Delaney said. "The last two years, we went 16-5 and 21-5, and it's looked pretty. But, in the end, we haven't won a state title. We haven't won our sectional title either. We play in the toughest sectional in the state.
"We've got to make sure our schedule is as tough as it can be, so that way when we go into the state tournament, we're ready. We've seen every style you could imagine. We've played against top competition. So it's just another game."
Lyles wasn't able to do anything about the way last season ended. A knee injury forced him to miss the sectional championship game that turned out to be Tech's last contest of the season.
"I wasn't able to play and that really irked me at that time," Lyles said. "I had to let that sink in. ... Once a couple days went by, I sent him the list."
National powerhouse Huntington Prep was one of the teams on that list, and Delaney scheduled them twice. The first game was played late Saturday night at the Marshall County Hoop Fest and the second will be shown live by ESPN on Dec. 19.
The slate also includes many of the best teams in basketball-rich Indiana and a couple of other top out-of-state schools.
Delaney noted that Arsenal Tech has been around for 101 years without winning a state championship. He hopes this team, which includes two other Division I signees, is the one to do it.
"Each and every one of them will tell you: They want to win a state championship.," Delaney said. "And you don't always see that with every team. Some of them are just ready to go on and play college. But these guys are committed to winning a state championship and being the first ones ever.
"They take a lot of pride in what we're trying to do."
Tech's tough road brought them to the Hoop Fest this weekend, where Lyles — a University of Kentucky signee — got the chance to play in front of his future fans and against the best the Bluegrass has to offer.
The 6-foot-10 power forward had 30 points and 19 rebounds in Tech's first game Saturday, a thrilling 87-84 overtime victory over No. 1-ranked Ballard. Lyles is averaging 25 points and 17 rebounds through three games this season, and, more importantly, he's doing it against top-flight competition.
Delaney said he told his team after the second game that he was sorry his top players weren't "putting up 50-whatever points a game" like some of their peers who started the season against lesser competition.
Lyles didn't want to hear it.
"He spoke up first and said, 'Coach, I don't want that. We don't want that,'" Delaney said. "We could have played an easier schedule and he could be averaging 60 points a game right now. ... But that just isn't the way these guys are built, and especially Trey. He's a competitor. And our guys are going to get their numbers against the best competition that we can get. And it's going to help them in college.
"It's going to make them better when they get to the next level."
Lyles' coach at the next level, John Calipari, showed up for Saturday night's game against Huntington Prep. But Lyles seemed more impressed by the other spectators at Marshall County High School — many of them dressed in UK blue — who navigated the icy roads to watch him play.
After the Ballard game, Lyles — still recovering from an illness that caused him to miss three days of school last week — sat at a table outside the gym, posing for photos with fans and signing basketballs, trading cards and whatever else was handed his way.
"It's great to have supporters everywhere," he said. "It's great that they come out to stuff like this and watch and cheer on guys. It just gets me excited for next year."