By Mike Monahan
Julian Larry (above), in his first year as the head coach of the Lake Land men’s basketball team after having served as an assistant at LLC the past four years, features 10 new players, including recruits from Egypt, Canada and Brazil.
“The freshmen have been learning a lot from the sophomores and we are trying to get better every day,” said Larry, who served as the co-coach along with current assistant Dave Earp when Brandon Colvin resigned in March. Larry was hired as the head coach two months later. “That is all we can do.”
Colvin had accepted the job as athletic director at Malcolm X College in Chicago, but the school rescinded its offer when the COVID-19 pandemic hit — too late to pul back his own resignation at Lake Land. Colvin has since take over as women’s basketball coach at Lamar Community College in Colorado. Colvin was 51-75 (.405) at Lake Land, including a 17-14 season in 2017-18, the program’s first winning season since 2013-14.
Earp has been an assistant for Lake Land for more than 20 years while former Arcola coach Chad Graves who enters his fifth season as an assistant.
Larry is also in a new role with the college as the Perkins program specialist, helping students transition to postsecondary education and the workplace.
Practice for the season began for the NJCAA Division I team began Jan. 5 and the season is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. Saturday at Kankakee College. The home opener is Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. against Parkland College.
“Their toughness and work ethic is what has impressed me about this team,” said Larry. “We have a bunch of guys that are working hard not only in the classroom, but on the court as well.”
Last year’s team was 9-23 overall and 4-14 in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference. The Lakers were 42nd in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage at 36.7 percent The team lost five players, including Adam Price, an all-region 24 and all-GRAC player who averaged 15.5 points and 3.5 assists and shot 45 percent from 3-point range. Price now plays for NCAA Division II Christian Brothers University in Memphis.
This year’s freshmen include 6-4 shooting guard Trevor Roy of Neoga; Jaydon Noe, a 6-0 guard of Mattoon; Everett Stubblefield, a 5-11 guard from Willowbrook; 6-7 forward Jesse Burdick of Marshall; Kwamir Mercer, a 6-6 forward from Palm Bay High School in Melbourne Florida; Anthony Scales, 6-5 small forward from Zionsville, Ind. and 6-4 shooting guard from Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati Leroy Walker. The Lakers also have two players that are not from the United States in 6-10 forward/center from San Paulo, Brazil and Malichi Davis, a 6-3 guard from Toronto, Canada along with Yessen Hussein, a 6-10 center from Egypt.
Returning players are Isaiah Mays (Belleville East), Amari Sherod who played for Bowman Academy in Gary, Ind., Jonah Smith of Mount Zion, Jevon Morris of Munster, Ind., Clint Weber of Teutopolis and Christian Kapongo of Hamilton, Ontario.
Jevon Morris is the top returning scorer at 13 points per game on a team that struggled offensively, managing 78.8 points per game to rank 109th in the nation.
Isaiah Mays is the top returnin 3-point shooter, netting 43.4 percent of his 3s, while Morris converted 41. Morris made 80 percent of his free throws, best among returning players.
Lake Land struggled under the boards last season, averaging 36.9 per game to rank a dismal 114th in the nation. Christian Kapongo snagged 4.1 per game last season.
“We have been concentrating more than anything on conditioning,” said Larry. “With COVID-19 happening, it takes away a couple of things if someone gets COVID. We have to be ready to go.”
Larry said he plans to implement a faster-paced offense.
“We want to push the ball and play fast and aggressive,” said Larry. “We did have a transfer that came in over the break in Hussein and we have (Clint) Weber and Kapongo back. We will have a presence inside and a lot of athletic guards.”
Several freshmen could start this season.
“The freshmen show a lot of potential and they were all successful in high school,” said Larry. “Just because you are a sophomore doesn’t mean you will get anything for free. They have to earn their playing time just like the freshmen. We will have a deep bench and I am excited about that. Everyone is playing hard against each other.We have been preaching you have to compete day in and day out with homework or life to be able to compete.”
Larry wants his team to play scrappy defense as well.
“You can look at the delay in two ways, an optimistic or negative way,” said Larry. “From an optimistic approach the players get to develop more and from a negative aspect they guys are not able to play. It was a good thing as far as it developed a lot of focus on grades and homework. Education is very important and the delay showed they are growing as young men.”
There will be no fans at games.
“It is going to be a little different,” said Larry. “The big key to basketball is going to be which team brings more energy. If you have that energy that will boost you a lot. You won’t have any fans to give you that energy.”
Larry loves being a head coach.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Larry. “It is a dream job for me as far as being a basketball coach. I don’t take that for granted. I love it. We have had issues that have arised, but I am okay with that. I am learning new stuff every day. The Lake Land athletic department has helped me out. It is like a family.”
|Amari Sherrod||G||6-2||190||So||Gary, Ind.|
|Anthony Scales||F||6-5||195||Fr||Zionsville, Ind.|
|Jonah Smith||G||6-0||165||So||Mt Zion|
|Jevon Morris||G||6-2||175||So||Munster, Ind.|
|Kwamir Mercer||F||6-6||190||Fr||Melbourne, Fla.|
|Hamilton Wallace||F/C||6-10||210||Fr||San Paolo, Brazil|
|Christian Kapongo||F/C||6-6||260||So||Hamilton, Ontario|
(home games in all caps)
Saturday – Kankakee, 3 p.m.
Jan. 27 – PARKLAND, 6 pm.
Jan. 29 – WABASH VALLEY*, 5 p.m.
Feb. 1 – LINCOLN TRAIL*, 6 p.m.
Feb. 3 – Vincennes, 6 p.m.
Feb. 6 – DANVILLE, 3 p.m.
Feb. 8 – SHAWNEE, *6 p.m.
Feb.10 – Lewis & Clark, 6 p.m.
Feb. 17 – Kaskaskia*, 7 p.m.
Feb. 20 – SOUTHWESTERN ILLINOIS*, 3 p.m.
Feb. 24 – Wabash Valley*, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 27 – Olney Central*, 3 p.m.
March 3 – JOHN A. LOGAN*, 6 p.m.
March 6 – Lincoln Trail*, 3 p.m.
March 10 – VINCENNES, 6 p.m.
March 13 – Shawnee*, 3 p.m.
March 17 – LEWIS & CLARK, 6 p.m.
March 20 – KASKASKIA,* 3 p.m.
March 24 – Southwestern Illinois*, 7 p.m.
March 27 – WABASH VALLEY*, 3 p.m.
March 30 – OLNEY CENTRAL*, 6 p.m.
April 1 – John A. Logan*, 5 p.m.
*– Great Rivers Athletic Conference game