After netting 52 wins in 57 games highlighted by two West Suburban (Silver) Conference titles and also a pair of regional championships under head coach Tom Sloan the previous couple of campaigns, the Lyons Township basketball team struggled last season. But the Lions enter the 2012-13 campaign with a mix of returning veterans and extremely promising underclassmen.
“In terms of expectations, it’s hard to say at this point because we play in a really tough conference,” LT coach Tom Sloan said. “I think we can compete with anybody and every game should be a dogfight. All the championships we’ll play for whether its holiday tournaments, the conference championship or a regional title, I think realistic goals are winning these [championships] provided we play well of course.”
Coming off strong junior seasons, 6-foot-3 swingman Chris O’Reilly and 6-2 guard Jarryd Heath return looking to lead LT in their final collective campaign. O’Reilly (10 points, 6 rebounds per game last season), who also plays on the tennis team, is a good all-around player who earned honorable mention all-conference recognition last season. Heath was the Lions’ leading three-point shooter in 2011 and will look to expand his role this year.
“Jarryd was basically a starter for us coming off the bench [last season],” Sloan said. “Once he got his feet wet, he did a really nice job for us.”
Bolstering the Lions’ top two seniors is the debut of highly touted 6-1 sophomore point guard Harrison Niego. The precocious second-year player is a legitimate Division I prospect who recently visited Indiana and spent time with Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean. Niego also flourished over the spring/summer seasons, playing for up-and-coming AAU program Chicago LockDown, run by his father and former De La Salle star Joe Niego.
“Harrison is a really smart player who is really good with the basketball in his hands,” Sloan said. “We’re asking a lot from him as a sophomore, but he’s the best one we have.”
The other two starting spots for LT are undecided as, “four or five players” according to Sloan, are in the mix for those coveted spots. Junior forwards Sam Cybulski and Matt Mrazek, Nikola Josipovic along with senior forwards Matt Aikens and Robert Palmer will either start or assume key roles off the bench.
“I like our overall skill level ability,” Sloan said. “We can handle it, pass it and shoot the basketball well. We’re not a huge team, but our top eight players are all 6-1 or taller. This is a really fun group of coachable guys.”
The Lions host their Thanksgiving tournament this week with games against Argo on Wednesday, Morton on Friday and Fenwick on Saturday (all games start at 7:30 p.m.).