By Mike Monahan
Team chemistry is often an interplay of physiological, social and emotional forces that elevate performance.
Lake Land coach Julian Larry believes his team embodies all of those elements this season.
“Last year, we were very talented. But talent doesn’t win games,” said Larry, entering his third season as head coach at LLC. “We learned that the hard way. When you have a lot of alphas on one team, it is hard. This year, we have a lot of chemistry. We have a lot of guys that match and jell well together. I am really excited about this group. I think we can do some things, if we remain healthy and focus on the task at hand.”
Said sophomore grader Johnny Close: “I think we kind of understand our games a little bit more (chemistry.) We have a good point guard (Amardo Camacho) and he knows when to get us the ball. Our chemistry is definitely better this year and we played with each other a lot.”
The Lakers finished 16-15 overall and 8-8 in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference. The Lakers were 10-6 at one time. They defeated Lewis & Clark twice – 94-87 and 94-74 – but were eliminated with a 99-93 loss on Feb. 26.
“Everybody is competing every day,” said Larry. “Nothing is given. Everything is earned. Everyday they are going at it and attacking each other. We love that culture. We love the hard work, the intensity. That is what we want. That is what Laker basketball is.” I think we are really deep in each position. It is not like it is easy and someone is just getting that position. I think every position we have someone off the bench that is ready to go and that could easily be a starter.”
Lake Land opened its season with a 98-77 win over Southeastern Illinois College and will play host to Illinois Central College on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“I worked on getting stronger and faster and worked on my footwork,” said Lake Land’s Yassen Hussein of Cairo Egypt on his off-season. Plus he got to go home for the first time in three years as a result of COVID-19. “I want to get more boards and be more physical because that can help you a lot in a game.”
Hussein agreed that last year wasn’t the best.
“We didn’t finish very well to be honest,” said Hussein. “Everybody wanted the ball in his hands too much and this year our team chemistry is more high. Everybody shares the ball more and more. We are getting the ball every day because we are sharing the ball. We know each other more.”
Sophomores Hussein, DiAri Duncan and Amar Kuljuhovic are the post players.
“We compete every day and get each other better,” said Hussein. “We practice hard and play physical and that will make us stronger and better.”
The other sophomores are Johnny Close, Daillis Cox and Arnardo Camacho.
“Over the summer, I worked on getting in the weight room,” said Close, “becoming more confident in my game and showing that I can help my team in scoring.”
Larry likes when his offense pushes the ball. Last season, Lake Land averaged 81.9 points a game.
“I recruit to play fast,” Larry said. “I recruit athletes. We will play fast, and, if we can’t get a fast break, we will get into a half-court set and do what we have to do.”
Hussein likes that intensity on the court, especially on the defensive side. Lake Land averaged to allow 80.7 points a game last season.
“We play a lot of defense in practice every day,” Hussein said. “We just started conditioning not too long ago. We practice really hard and we don’t even get tired. We are getting used to that in practice. We play a hell of a hard defense, and I feel like we could be in the top 25 (NJCAA Division I) in the country just because of our defense.”
Close said bringing back the core from last season’s team is key. The Lakers posted their first winning season since going 17-14 in 2017-18.
“We took a step in the right direction last year,” Close said. “We just didn’t get as far as we wanted to. This year, we kind of figured out what the problems were last year. I think we are tightening some things up and just trying to make a statement this year and have everyone in the country know who we are.”
Said Larry: “Last year I didn’t like how it ended. It still has a nasty taste in my mouth. One of the things we want to improve on is defense. I think we are doing a bigger job this year than we have in previous years.”
NOTES: The team is assisted by Dave Earp, in his 25th season, and Arcola graduate Chad Graves, who is in his seventh season after coaching at his alma mater for 12 years, winning two Class 1A regional titles. Joining the team this season is assistant coach Brian Egejiuru.
Chad was an assistant when I got here and he is my right-hand guy,” said Larry. “Dave Earp is a legend in the community. Egejuru is one of my old players that played for me at Bottineau College in North Dakota with Brandon Colvin (former Lake Land coach). Egejuru went to Central Methodist (NAIA school) where he was an All-American (only CMU player to be first team all-American) He went on to play in Spain and he decided he wanted to get into coaching. I know his love and passion for the game. I gave him a shot and he has taken every ounce of his opportunity. He has helped out so much.”
|Arnado Camacho||6-4, 200||Bronx, NY||So|
|Johnny Close||6-4, 180||Rockford||So|
|Dalliss Cox||6-6, 230||Louisville||So|
|Yassen Hussein||6-9, 215||Cairo, Egypt||So|
|Amar Kuljuhovic||6-9, 215||Waterloo, IA||So|
|Connor Brown||6-4, 200||Cerro Gordo||Fr|
|Luke Carroll||6-4, 220||Westfield, IN||Fr|
|Malik Carter-Smith||6-2, 165||Mattoon||Fr|
|Tyler Chapman||6-0, 175||Cambria Heights, NY||Fr|
|Aaron Davis||5-10, 170||Cincinnati||Fr|
|Alioune Diouf||6-6, 210||Bronx, NY||Fr|
|Diari Duncan||6-9, 230||Queens, NY||Fr|
|Damuhsa Moore||6-2, 185||Urbana||Fr|
|Anthony Neal||6-8, 240||Mishawaka, IN||Fr|
|Cam’Ron Thomas||6-2, 170||Mattoon||Fr|
|Jahmir Taylor||6-3, 195||Patterson, NJ||Fr|
Nov. 9 ILLINOIS CENTRAL COLLEGE, 7 p.m.; Nov. 11-At John Wood Classic in Quincy vs. Kirkwood Community College, 5 p;m.; Nov. 12-at John Wood Classic in Quincy, TBA; Nov. 16-DANVILLE AREA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, 7 p.m; Nov. 19-PARKLAND, 3 p.m.; Nov. 22 at Southwestern Illinois College, 7 p.m.; Nov. 25 at Southeastern Illinois in Broadway Classic, 7 p.m.; Nov. 26-Fun City Classic, Burlington, Iowa vs. Bryant & Stratton College, WI, 1 p;m.; Nov. 30 WABASH VALLEY, 7 p.m.
Dec. 3 at Kaskaskia, 3 p.m.; Dec. 7-LEWIS & CLARK COMMUNITY COLLEGE, 7 p.m.; Dec. 10 at Olney Central College, 3 p.m.; Dec. 14 SHAWNEE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, 7 p.m.; Dec. 17 at Vincennes University, 3 p.m.
Jan. 4-at Illinois Central College, 7 p.m; Jan. 11 JOHN A. LOGAN, 7 p.m.; Jan. 14 at Southeastern College, 7 p.m.; Jan. 16-at Lincoln College, 7 p.m.; Jan. 18 REND LAKE, 7 p.m.; Jan. 21 SOUTHWESTERN ILLINOIS COLLEGE, 7 p.m.; Jan. 25-at Wabash Valley College, 7 p.m.; Jan. 28-KASKASKIA COLLEGE, 3 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Lewis & Clark College, 7 p.m.; Feb. 4 OLNEY CENTRAL COLLEGE, 3 p.m.; Feb. 8 at Shawnee Community College, 7 p.m.; Feb. 15 at John A. Logan, 7 p.m.; Feb 22 LINCOLN TRAIL COLLEGE, 7 p.m.; Feb. 25 at Rend Lake, 3 p.m.
March: Region 24 tournament, TBA