Tittrington: LHS embraces inner self

Of all the many sacred traditions that dot the sporting landscape at Lawrence High, there’s one I never wanted to see fade away.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call it the Chuck and Duck offense.

Don’t for a minute believe that I’d use such a cutesy term as any sort of slam on LHS boys basketball coach Chris Davis and his brand of hoops. Personally, I’m a big fan of a coach who allows and encourages his kids to play to their strengths instead of pulling some type of power trip and forcing the coach-player relationship to operate in the opposite direction.

And for the last five seasons or so, that’s meant the rare treat of watching a high school basketball program that didn’t center on running the motion offense, making a predetermined number of passes before looking for a shot and putting crowds to sleep with final scores that struggled to reach the 40s.

At Lawrence High, it meant the first kid with a good look at the basket better take it – because if he didn’t, his teammates might never give him another chance.

It meant a plethora of quick-trigger guards apparently allergic to the number two as they kept busy raining down three-point shots from all spots on the floor.

It also meant some unpredictable outcomes, such as last year’s contest against Topeka High at the Topeka West Invitational Tournament that saw the Lions drain 13 three-pointers – seven in the final four minutes – and still lose.

Always successful? Nope. Always entertaining? You bet.

However, Davis looked at the players who would see the most minutes in his lineup from now until March – and for the next few seasons beyond – and decided a change was in store.

The cat-quick guards have given way to big bodies capable of holding their own on the low blocks, giving Davis a new strength to tap into. And so, the ongoing construction project isn’t the only change in the air at The Jungle this winter.

“This year we’ve got three or four guys that can all play inside,” Davis said. “We need to have a system in place that takes advantage of our size.

“There are some pretty significant changes, still a lot of elements are the same.”

In fact, anyone who has had the chance to witness the Lions during the opening two weeks of the 2006-07 season probably hasn’t noticed much of a change. True, a 6-foot-5 Chance Riley is now more apt to do his damage in the paint as compared to beyond the three-point arc, where last season he finished as the Lions’ No. 2 long-range gunner behind the graduated Tyler Knight.

However, LHS is still averaging almost 57 points per game through its first four contests and still relies on the three-pointer to a large degree.

Part of that is the fact that opponents are using history as their preferred scouting report and still playing zone defense against the Lions.

And part of it is the fact that, while the players possess more size and greater capability of damage via the conventional two-point route, Davis isn’t interested in seeing his squad fully trade off swift for stodgy.

“It’s not like it’s totally stop and slow it down,” Davis said. “It’s like going from 100 miles per hour to 85.”