Every team needs role players, but they become even more important as the regular season morphs into the postseason.
They can provide that extra lift that can make or break a playoff run.
Two juniors who are already playing big roles for their teams are guard Nate Williams at Mundelein and forward Mateusz Lopez at Round Lake.
"We love what Mateusz does for us because he works his butt off," Round Lake coach Jim Roberts said. "He has made such tremendous strides just this season. He's in the weight room every day, he never misses anything and he listens to everything and does everything we ask.
Lopez recently scored a career-high 12 points against Wauconda and gives the Panthers consistent reps on the defensive end.
"We were always hoping he'd turn into a player like this," Roberts said. "He prepares the right way, he's our most vocal player and he's just energy for us. He's been a leader for us."
At Mundelein, Williams is just starting to take on more of a leadership role.
He was involved in a serious car accident over the summer and it's taken some time for him to recover, both mentally and physically.
Williams and his friend Shawn Shittu, formerly a player on the sophomore team, were in bad shape when they hit a telephone pole. Shittu lost the lower part of his leg and Williams injured his spine and had to have skin grafts on his hand and arm.
"It took Nate a while to get back to himself. He was a mess after the accident, especially with that happened with Shawn," Mundelein coach Dick Knar said. "I'm just so happy that we're starting to see him really come around. He can be a great leader for us."
Williams has shown the ability to be an important ball handler and playmaker for the Mustangs. He can also score, too.
In a recent game against Warren, Williams had one of his best offensive efforts with 12 points.
Who's got Coach?
As long as he can stay in shape, Round Lake coach Jim Roberts has come up with the perfect way to keep his players motivated.
Lately, Roberts has been scrimmaging with his players. The Panthers were down players due to injury, so Roberts jumped in. Little did he know that he'd bring more to the table than an extra body.
"Our kids get so excited when I play," Roberts said. "Sometimes, practice can get ho-hum. But when I step out there, the intensity level suddenly changes. The kids want to go after it with me, they want to compete."
"It's a good thing I'm young, because I want to keep them playing like that. As long as my body holds up, I'll keep going with it."
One of the costliest injuries to Round Lake has been the bum thumb of Rayshawn Bommon.
The junior guard has been out for several weeks after tearing ligaments in his thumb against Grant in January. He's due to get his cast removed next week, and the Panthers are anxiously awaiting his return.
"We quickly realized what we miss when Rayshawn is taken away," Round Lake coach Jim Roberts said. "He's such a competitor and a leader for us. He helps to set the tone in practice. In games, he's a really good defender and he handles the ball very well for us."
There was plenty of pressure on Anthony Fromella's shoulders already.
The senior guard returned at the start of the season as Antioch's only player with any significant varsity experience from last year. But like last year, Fromella is now dealing with even more stress to his shoulders. He's suffered a torn labrum that requires surgery to be repaired. He injured the first shoulder last summer and then injured the other shoulder this fall.
He played in 10 games for Antioch and had to leave the rotation for good around the holidays. With only two wins on the season, the Sequoits have struggled without him.
"You just feel so bad for him," Antioch coach Jim White said of Fromella. "It's been emotional for him to have this injury happen again. He really wanted to see this season through. It's been tough for us, too. He was our leading scorer and our best shooter and he really directed our offense."
It's taken two players to fill Fromella's shoes.
Junior guard AJ Marsiglio has become Antioch's primary ball handler and senior guard Tyler Innis isn't afraid to launch his shot. He's averaging around 8 points per game in his new role.
"When we lost Anthony, we lost a lot," White said. "But those two (Marsiglio and Innis) have done a really nice job of stepping in and handling everything we're throwing at them."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.