Lions looking for turnaround season

Quality guards could power tradition-rich LTHS back into conference race

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Melvin Tate

Contributing Reporter

The Lyons Township High School boys basketball program has a long and storied history. Many legendary players and coaches have been associated with the Lions throughout the years.

Traditionally, LTHS is in contention to win the West Suburban Conference Silver Division title. However, last season was well below the norm as the Lions posted a 3-9 record in league play.

LTHS coach Tom Sloan is hoping to turn things around this season. He'll have to do so without several key players that graduated, including Connor Niego, a three-year varsity starter who is now at Holy Cross. 

"We lost four guys that played significant minutes last season," Sloan said. "We lost a lot of experience with those guys graduating."

The Lions return three players with significant varsity experience, including starting guards Tyrese Shines and Nolan Niego. Both are talented juniors entering their third year on the varsity.

"Whether starting or coming off the bench, both of those guys have played significant minutes on the varsity," Sloan said. "They have the most experience of anyone on the roster. They're going to be key performers for us."

Senior Lazarius Williams is the only other returning player with significant experience. He's a guard that started a few games last season. 

Beyond those three players, there isn't much depth and experience, particularly in the post positions. Ryan Barker was slated to start at power forward or center, but he suffered a major knee injury in September. According to Sloan, Barker is unlikely to play this season. Nate Rusk, another frontline player, opted not to play hoops this season.

Finding frontline players will be a challenge for the Lions.

"We still haven't figured out who's going to play in the post," Sloan said. "Jack Denning blew out his ACL during football practice and likely won't play this season. Ryan and Jack were likely going to be our starting inside guys."

Back along the perimeter, newcomers include senior guard Nick McColgan and junior guard Josh Berry offer depth.

"Whether it's starting or coming off the bench, they both shoot the ball well. They'll do a good job and see significant time."

LTHS schedule highlights this season include hosting a Thanksgiving tournament and participating in the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York High School.

"The Tosh tourney is fantastic," Sloan said. "York does a great job of hosting. There is a lot of quality competition with good, evenly-matched teams and good coaches. The fans are good, too, so it's a nice place to have a holiday tournament."

In terms of the West Suburban Silver, Sloan believes that there's good balance in the league.

"Top to bottom, I would say that our league's going to be really competitive this year," he said. "I guess if I had to pick, I would have to say Oak Park is the favorite. But you never really know in this conference."


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