Junior class getting big minutes at Lake Park
Lake Park boys basketball coach Billy Pitcher is taking a realistic approach to this season.
After the Lancers won 48 games over the last two seasons, Pitcher expected some growing pains, mainly due to losing 10 players from last season's team that reached the Class 4A sectional championship game.
Through seven games, the Lancers have experienced the normal ups and downs from a revamped roster. At 3-4 and 2-3 in the DuKane Conference, Pitcher said his team is making progress in the shortened season, even with a team without a true inside player. Pitcher joked that he's "eye-to-eye" with his tallest player on the varsity roster.
"I feel really good how we're playing," he said. "We're a predominantly junior team. We don't have anyone over 6-1, but I'm really proud of our kids. Just in how hard they fight and battle on the boards."
The Lancers, like several younger teams, were hurt by not playing at least 25 games in the June summer league. The shortened season benefits experienced teams, Pitcher said.
"We were really looking forward to the opportunity to work with the guys in the summer," he said. "We weren't quite as effective at the start because everybody was rusty. We're trying to get better. Our goal is to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year."
Pitcher pointed out the play of junior point guard Vito LaGioia, who leads the team by averaging 17 points per game. LaGioia was called up late last season, playing a handful of games. He's shown toughness and an ability to get to the free-throw line, shooting 28-of-36 from the line. Pitcher said LaGioia leads the Lancers in free throw attempts and rebounds.
"Vito is doing an outstanding job," Pitcher said. "He hardly comes out of the game. He only played spot minutes on the varsity last year. He was our sophomore team point guard. He's doing everything for us."
Junior guard/forward Sebastian Blachut is the team's second leading scorer, averaging 11 points and three assists per game.
"Sebastian is a dual threat guy," Pitcher said. "He can drive, shoot it and rebound."
Waterman stepping up
Downers Grove South junior forward Nathan Waterman is showing potential to be a go-to player this season. The 6-7 Waterman, who averaged 8.6 points and 6.4 rebounds last season, is an inside-outside threat with range. Waterman is averaging 8.0 points and 4.7 rebounds this season on a team with four senior veterans.
"Nathan is a big kid who can really shoot it and is developing," Downers Grove South coach Kris Olson said. "He can be an inside and outside threat and does a nice job of picking his spots and just need him to be more aggressive finding the openings for good looks.
"Nathan started last year at the end of the year, and really developed, but having that summer took him a bit longer to get more comfortable with being aggressive offensively. But our kids have done a good job finding him."
West keeps on rising
In a season without a state tournament, Glenbard West won't have an opportunity to test itself against the best in the state. The Hilltoppers' main goal is to win the West Suburban Silver Conference.
At 8-0, the Hilltoppers are unquestionably one of the best teams in the state. Glenbard West defeated Hinsdale Central 65-50 on Tuesday. On Saturday, Glenbard West defeated Lyons and Hinsdale South by a combined margin of 36 points.
Big victories have been the norm for the loaded Hilltoppers. Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka said his team is taking a one-game-at-a-time approach, while aiming to win the conference postseason tournament.
"We have had a strict mindset of improving everyday and controlling what we can control," Opoka said. "We focus on a one game at a time approach, knowing that we are thankful for all opportunities to be together. Our main goal is to maximize our potential as a unit by the end of this season and enjoy each moment.
"The West Suburban Conference tournament will be a nice event to challenge our progress and growth."