Seasoned seniors helping Lakes get it done
Lakes' Justin Bergeron, at right battling for possession with Grayslake North's Danny Mateling last season, is part of a savvy senior Eagles crew.
Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer
At 8-3, Lakes is off to one of its best starts in school history.
Non-coincidentally, the Eagles' entire starting lineup is made up of savvy seniors, three of whom have been varsity players since they were sophomores.
Direll Clark, Justin Bergeron and Jake Kohler are the three-year veterans while fellow seniors Andrew Spencer and Troy Swindle are also now in the starting lineup.
"We have a lot of experience on this team, and a lot of senior leadership," Lakes coach Chris Snyder said. "It's a nice luxury to have. We've never had that before."
Two years ago when the seniors were sophomores and Snyder was in his first season as head coach, the Eagles won just nine games on the season. Last year, they were 6-5 before the holidays.
"This is definitely the best start we've had since I took over as head coach," said Snyder, now in his third season. "But we don't want the highlight of our season to be the way we started."
The Eagles are expecting to at least match last year's successful finish, which included a trip to the Class 3A sectional championship game at Grayslake Central. It's a goal Snyder believes is well within reach, given the make-up of his roster.
"It's nice to have seniors who have played together for a long time," Snyder said. "They've got good chemistry, they're always talking on the floor. They're really used to each other."
Snyder is used to the seniors, too.
Even before coaching them up on the varsity, he was the coach of their freshman team three years ago.
Snyder then took over as head varsity coach and brought Clark, Bergeron and Kohler up with him. He's the only high school basketball coach they've ever had.
"To see the way those guys and all the seniors have grown has been great," Snyder said. "All seven of our seniors played for me on that freshman team. They've come together so well over the years. This has been a very special group."
Watch and learn
One of the best senior role models for Lakes is forward Justin Bergeron.
He's got a nose for the ball that has him constantly in the thick of the race to be the best hustler on the team.
"We have this hustle award each year. We give a plaque and everything and Justin has won it the last two years," Lakes coach Chris Snyder said. "We keep hustles stats like floor dives and charges and deflections and Justin has such a great work ethic that he's always racking up the points."
Bergeron racks up real points, too. And rebounds. In fact, a few weeks ago, he had back-to-back double-double games against Wauconda (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Round Lake (17 points, 10 rebounds).
"Justin is just a workhorse and he's doing things all over the floor," Snyder said. "We tell your younger guys that if they want to be successful, if they want to be a player that's going to help our team win, watch how Justin plays. That's what you need to do."
Dunk you very much
The numbers are eye-popping.
Over the last four games, Mundelein forward Chino Ebube has rattled the rim 23 times for dunks, including a mind-blowing 11 dunks in a single game, two weeks ago against Warren.
"I've never seen anything like it," Mundelein coach Dick Knar said of his 6-foot-4 senior's aerial assault. "This guy has been playing like a freak of nature. He is able to get up so high and he's got great hands.
"It's been a nice part of our offense because we can slip him behind zones, throw the ball up there and we know he'll get it. It's a great weapon."
Ebube, who will be playing next year at Missouri S&T, had about 16 dunks last year.
"We try to put our kids in spots where they've got an advantage over others," Knar said. "Letting Chino use his quickness and jumping ability is definitely playing to his strength.
"It's also great for entertainment value and, the most important thing is that it's helping us win."
Mundelein has won three straight games, including a 36-point blowout against rival Libertyville last weekend.
But victory over Libertyville was bittersweet as the Mustangs were forced to celebrate without head coach Dick Knar.
Knar was up in Wisconsin, tending to his ill father, Richard.
Richard Knar was a high school and college basketball coach for 32 years. He had just one losing season in his career, and inspired his son to choose the same profession.
He suffered congestive heart failure last weekend in conjunction with a serious bout of pneumonia. The elder Knar, who coached the longest at Wisconsin-Fond du Lac, is out of the hospital now, but is in a delicate state.
"The kids texted me after the Libertyville game and said they won for my dad," Dick Knar said. "It's been tough with my dad because he's my idol and he's been such a big influence in my coaching, and he's always been so supportive with advice and coming to games.
"He's been on my mind all the time since I've been back, but basketball has been good for me. It makes me sad to think about my dad, but basketball makes me happy and it's fun to see the kids. They've been great."
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