Even with a COVID-shortened Lyons Township High School boys basketball season in the spring and no IHSA state tournament, the Lions still developed a strong chemistry and work ethic.
“We had five or six [graduated] seniors that played a lot, but we’ve got a pretty good group of juniors that got playing time,” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said. “Ever since then, they’ve been working out together and bringing the younger guys along, including them in any offseason activities.”
The Lions return five key contributors from their 11-6 spring season, including senior guard and Akron recruit Tavari Johnson. At the West Suburban Conference tournament, the Lions went 1-1 in pool play, losing to eventual champion Glenbard West, and beat Proviso East and Hinsdale South to win their consolation group.
The 6-foot Johnson led the Lions in points (252/14.8 average), rebounds (59/3.5), three-pointers (34), assists (61/3.6), steals (34) and blocked shots (11).
Sloan said Johnson’s dynamic and versatile skills should make the lineup better as a whole.
“He’s skilled enough to score on his own but usually doesn’t try to force things. He’s going to try and find the open guy and make the right play,” Sloan said. “He’s an excellent passer and has good vision. And he can be really disruptive on the defensive end, because he’s quick and has good hands and really good instincts.”
Seniors Will Carroll (6-4 forward), Billy Bach (6-4 wing), Owen McManaman (6-2 wing) and Elliot Russell (6-4 forward) are returning key contributors.
Russell (72 points) and Carroll (57 points) were fourth and seventh in points, McManaman (15) and Carroll (12) were third and fifth in assists and Carroll, Russell and Bach were among four players between third and sixth in rebounds with 43, 40 and 37, respectively.
Senior guards Aidan Sullivan and Cullen McManaman also return. Eight juniors are newcomers – wings Nik Polonowski and Connor Carroll, guards Jackson Niego, Louis Kaminski and forwards Graham Smith, Carter Reid, Matthew Desimone and Chris Franko.
The Lions have good size and depth and should be able to score. Defensive consistency will make them that much more formidable.
“We’re going to have games where we shoot it well and maybe games where we don’t. If we have a consistent defensive effort and make it difficult for other teams to score, I think that’ll give us the chance to compete in every game,” Sloan said.