Lake County All-Area Boys Basketball Captain: Aidyn Boone, Libertyville
How dedicated was Libertyville senior standout Aidyn Boone to getting better on the basketball court last offseason?
"Aidyn's work ethic makes him the player he is," Wildcats senior guard Will Buchert said.
Buchert tells the story of a shooting chart the team had for the offseason. The goal? Make 10,000 shots per player by the time tryouts rolled around last fall.
"Aidyn got to 10,000 after two weeks in the month of June when it opened," Buchert explained. "Aidyn never missed an open gym or optional workout. When he was in the gym, he didn't mess around. He would get his work done."
And on the court this season, Boone certainly didn't mess around.
The 6-foot-5 forward was a driving force for a Libertyville team that went 29-6, won the North Suburban Conference title (first outright title since 1990), as well as regional and sectional (first since 1994) titles before losing to New Trier at NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates in a Class 4A supersectional.
New Trier went on to finish third in the state. Libertyville was looking for its third state finals appearance in program history.
For his efforts this season, Boone is the Captain of the 2022-2023 Daily Herald Lake County All-Area boys basketball team.
"The main thing for me was consistency from last year to this season," Boone said. "It was a whole change in not knowing how I would play night to night last year to showing up this year and even though I might not shoot or play my best, being able to affect the game in different ways by putting on pressure on defense and helping my teammates.
"This summer I worked on not having to rely only on scoring to affect the game and instead being a presence on the defensive end in the paint -- someone to rely on at all times. The best part of my game was probably my scoring in general, but overall I wasn't the best shooter or finisher. I was able to stretch the floor and play inside, which helped the team and myself. I was more diverse and able to affect the game in different ways."
Boone said the 10,000-shot speed-of-light exercise was driven internally from Libertyville's 2021-2022 finish where it went 27-8, won a regional and then lost to Barrington in a Class 4A sectional final.
"It started right after the season. We knew we could do better than last year," he said. "This season, while we didn't get to Champaign (site of the state finals at State Farm Center), we went farther and we were very happy with that. That all pushed me. I knew we would have the 10,000 shots. We have it every year, but it was a motivator. If I beat it, that's a goal and then we can keep going from there. It made me work that much harder and push myself."
Lake County area coaches certainly took notice of Boone's play this year.
"The games I saw both this past summer and during the regular season, he made a difference on both ends of the floor," one coach said. "That is what an all-area player of the year should do."
Boone, the son of former NFL player Alfonso Boone (10-year veteran with Bears, Chiefs and Chargers), said the constant encouragement of Wildcats coach Brian Zyrkowski also was key.
"I'd say my coach had all the confidence in me coming into this year," Boone said. "He told me I can be whoever I want to be. That pushed me to work harder and be better. It pushed me to keep getting better every day."
Boone earned all-North Suburban honors after averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds per game for a Cats team that won 13 of their last 15 games. Heading into the sectional final, Boone had 9 double-doubles. He canned the game-winner in the sectional semifinal against Barrington that avenged last year's playoff loss. Boone also had 18 points and 6 rebounds in the sectional title win over Prospect.
"His confidence in his abilities on the floor improved the most this season," Zyrkowski said. "He worked really hard in the offseason and it paid off for him."
Boone, a team captain, finished with more than 500 points, but Zyrkowski said intangibles beyond that certainly helped in his success.
"Aidyn is able to play inside and out, which makes it a challenge to guard him," the coach said. "He also is quick for his size. He runs the floor extremely well. Aidyn does all the little things necessary on the floor to help his team succeed. He is well-respected among his peers, teammates, faculty, staff and community members."
Boone said his final season at Libertyville was memorable not so much for the hardware the team earned, but the camaraderie among teammates.
"Last offseason everybody was so dedicated to get better every day," said Boone, who wants to play in college and is currently exploring his options (he'd like to study math and perhaps become a teacher).
"There was no complaining. Everyone was focused on one goal, getting back to where we were and getting even further. The team bond makes us work harder and push each other. We got shots up together. We focused and played off each other the best we could. It made it all easier because of the bond we had. I am going to miss the connections and relationships I made with my teammates. Everybody on the team, including the new juniors and our freshmen really bonded. We were a close team and it's something I will cherish. It made the season so much more fun. Things like going to the JV games were so fun. We had a blast. The connection with this team is what I loved the most."
Buchert, also a member of the 2022-2023 Daily Herald Lake County All-Area team, said Boone was more of a quiet leader that made a huge impact in that department.
"Aidyn's a very quiet person, but no doubt showed leadership," he said. "When Aidyn would speak, everyone would listen. During practice he was all business. Seeing how he worked at practice, it motivated everyone else to be at his intensity level. He never made excuses and would always take the blame for things that weren't his fault."
Boone, also a big video game player, attempted to downplay the impact he had on the 2022-2023 Wildcats team.
"It was a lot of team overall," he said. "Without the team I would not be able to do what I did this year. I played probably a decent role in the team's success. I feel the team would have done great without me and with me we were able to push it even farther. They are the ones that helped me be the best I could and better than I could have been by myself."
Others had a differing view.
"They are half the team without him and they won the conference beating Lake Forest (which won the conference in 21-22 and had 2-time NSC player of the year and Clemson-bound Asa Thomas on its team again this season)," another Lake County coach noted.
And this from Buchert: "Aidyn was a huge reason for our success. Our team was very balanced throughout the year, but Aidyn would often make a play to get everybody rolling, whether it be making a big 3 or passing out of a double team to an open shooter, he always seemed to make the right play. He was very consistent this year and we could always lean on him."