Whoever thought post production and varsity veterans were prerequisites for winning forgot to share that information with Lawrence High’s boys basketball team.
Lions coach Mike Lewis determined early in December a five-guard lineup best suited his team, and just one LHS starter — senior shooting guard Jake Mosiman — played in last year’s rotation. Still, Lawrence entered the winter break with a 4-1 record.
Some of the foundation for the hot start was set last year, on the junior-varsity team. Now varsity starters, Anthony Bonner, Austin Abbott and Drake Hofer all played together for the Lions’ JV, which went 15-2. Substitute guard Connor Henrichs and forwards Sterling Fuller, Jacob Seratte and Derrick Williams all contributed to that JV success, too.
Said Abbott, a senior: “Outside the team, everybody thought we’d be written off, but everyone on the team last year, we knew we were gonna be fine.”
Lewis, admittedly an optimistic coach, didn’t know for sure how all the former JV players would adjust to the Class 6A varsity level. Now that he has seen them in action, Lewis is certain the sub-varsity success contributed to what LHS is able to do now.
“As you get bigger, faster, stronger and more skilled, and you’ve got that confidence,” Lewis said, “then you become really dangerous.”
The Lions, Bonner said, already had a solid base of chemistry in place, and it improved when freshman point guard Justin Roberts moved to town and joined the program. All of the new varsity players, Bonner related, shared a desire to prove themselves.
“We’re all really unselfish,” the sophomore guard said, “and we want to be great.”
Hofer has been slightly surprised with Lawrence’s start because of the youth and lack of varsity minutes experienced, but he said the Lions gelled quickly, and their unique approach has a lot to do with it.
“All five guards are quick, and everyone can shoot,” Hofer said, “so you can’t leave anyone open or sag off on anyone.”
Opponents tend to underestimate LHS when they see the lack of size, Bonner added. And though bigger players want to post up Lawrence’s guards, Mosiman and Hofer can throw their bodies around inside. Bonner said Hofer is the toughest player on the team and always up for that challenge.
Plus, as the game goes on, the Lions can get out and run to tire opposing big men — a must in their game plan. Once that happens, it’s even easier for LHS to execute.
“Justin can penetrate like no other,” Bonner said, “Jake’s hitting, me and Austin try to get to the rim, Drake’s rebounding.”
The schedule will get more difficult in January, with the start of Sunflower League play and a trip to the Topeka Invitational. Lewis hopes his post players keep coming along so they can become a larger part of the winning solution.
“We’re gonna be small, either way,” Lewis said. “When we start facing our Sunflower League opponents, night in and night out we’re gonna defensively have to be real scrappy and energetic and real focused on exactly what we’re trying to accomplish that particular night.”
As the Lions work over the break, leading up to their return to the court Jan. 4 at Olathe Northwest, it will be up to Lewis and the rest of the coaching staff to motivate and challenge them, so they don’t get comfortable or get big heads about their December success.
“We still have a whole lot of basketball to play,” Lewis said, “and we’re really going to start to see what we’re all about when it comes the end of January and the end of February. That’s when you really want to start playing your best.”