Six games into his third season as the Lakers stand at 5-1.
Lake Land College men’s basketball coach Julian Larry says his team is buying into “what I’m selling”.
What is he wanting the team to buy into as the Lakers defeated Parkland on Saturday 73-66?
“To give me 100 percent of their effort as they step on the court and in the classroom,” he said. “That’s really the main thing. Not much of our schemes have changed from last year. We have a couple new plays, but at the end of the day we’re known as hard workers and playing fast.”
While last year’s team had superior talent leading the Lakers to their first winning season in five years, they didn’t coalesce as a team and didn’t reach their full potential.
“As far as last year’s team to this year, last year’s was more talented,” Larry said. “No doubt about it. More athleticism We were talented. But they didn’t know how to play as a team. There were a lot of alphas in there. That was hard to deal with. Kudos to them. There’s nothing wrong with them. It was really hard for us to find a groove. While we were still successful but we weren’t as much as we wanted to be.”
The Lakers seem to have found that groove with sophomore point guard Arnardo Camacho who’s in his third year with Larry, and freshman Aaron Davis.
Where Camacho led in the first half with six of his 10 points, the freshman dropped 10 of his team-high 13 points in the second half.
“When it’s for me, I just play for my teammates,” Davis said. “They keep me going. I know we needed to get out there as coach stressed that we needed more energy. I just tried to put myself and my teammates in the best position in the game.”
Davis said the team played as one against Parkland.
“I feel like we did a good job of staying together today,” Davis said. “We had a lot of energy. Today, we played as a team and got the job done. We played harder than the other team and wanted it more. That’s what it’s all about on this level.”
Larry said that while Davis is still learning, he understands how to run the Lakers’ offense.
“He has a very high IQ for a freshman,” Larry said. “He really does. With AC leading us and being our leader, AD comes in and we don’t lose a beat – and sometimes even picks it up. He makes smart decisions and gets better day by day.”
Davis attributes his success to Larry’s drive for team chemistry.
“Coach stresses chemistry,” he said. “It’s playing as a team. It’s playing together. That’s what it’s all about. Whenever we do that, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Larry wanted the squad to come out strong after Danville had defeated them earlier in the week, 79-60.
“One thing we drilled in them in this week is to have the heart and passion to play the game,” he said. “Danville came in here a few days ago and let us know our energy was really, really low. We knew that coming into the game we needed to have better energy, enthusiasm, and effort.”
Davis took a hard foul driving to the basket two minutes into the second half, that left him on the floor. Teammates ran over to him telling him to stay down so they could help him up.
The Laker sank both FTs, putting them up by 11.
The Cobras cut the lead to five with three minutes left in the second half by a 3-pointer from Clovis Gallon Jr., his fourth of the game.
The teams traded buckets with Davis making two free throws with 13 seconds remaining and then two more seven seconds later.
Sophomore center Yassin Hussein, who finished with four points but is averaging a double-double, is also in his third year with Larry, denied a last second jumper from Cobras guard Jared Hankins with a demonstrative block as the buzzer sounded off. Hankins led all scorers with 15 points.
Camacho and Hussein who are invariably the soul of the team, almost didn’t come back for their third year of eligibility, granted because of COVID.
They had to grow up a lot,” Larry said. “They realized it at the end of last year what they needed to do to be successful.”
Larry believes all his sophomores are the soul of this team. Johnny Close is averaging 20 points a game, Daillis Cox is averaging 15, and Amar Kuljuhovic is averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“I would say it’s those two, but it’s really all my sophomores,” he said. “Tonight, we changed up the lineup a little bit. But usually I have Arnardo who I think is one of the best true point guards in the country. He really is. I think he’s averaging like nine assists right now. He knows how to get it done passing and getting people better.”
“AC And Yaya have improved tremendously. Yaya was here my first year as coach and each year he’s gotten better.”
And some of it is the coach as well.
“I think a lot of it has to do with preparation,” Larry said. “That’s a big part of it as well. With me being in year three, I’m having a better understanding of what we need to do to be prepared. My assistant coach, Brian Egejuru and Coach (Chad) Graves and Coach (Brian) Earp, do a great job of having the preparation for us to be successful.”
“We have good character kids that trying to work really, really hard to be the best they can be come March,” Larry said. “This team right here generally understands that if they’re going to be the best they can be, they’re going to need each other.”
“Talent can only get you so far. If you have a team – a team – that can get it done, it’s a beautiful thing. You don’t have to worry abour the egos. the little stuff takes care of itself and buying into what you’re selling.”
Ealy 3 1-2 7, Green 2 0-0 4, Phillips 0 2-2 2, Anderson 1 2-2 4, Sallee 3 0-0 6, Hankins 5 2-2 15, Coats III 5 2-3 12, Gallow Jr. 5 0-0 14, Mapson III 0 2-2 2.
Totals: 24 11-13 66. 3-pointers: Hawkins 3, Gallow Jr. 4.
LAKE LAND COLLEGE
Carrol 3 0-0 7, Tyrell 3 0-0 6, Cox 4 0-0 9, Camacho 4 2-2 10, Davis 3 6-6 13, Kuljuhovic 2 4-4 8, Neal 2 0-0 5, Diouf 2 0-0 5, Hussein 1 3-4 5.
Totals: 26 17-18 73. 3-pointers: Carrol 1, Cox 1, Davis 1, Diouf 1.