Lyons Township High School rising senior Brady Chambers finished a weekend of summer boys basketball at the 20th annual Riverside-Brookfield Shootout with a torn warmup jersey top.
The Lions had hung tough in four games. The 6-foot-6 Chambers, a Michigan State baseball pitching recruit, and rising seniors Caleb Greer and Liam Taylor are their only players that had significant varsity minutes last high-school season.
“It was nice to see everyone just get experience because a lot of juniors haven’t gotten the experience of playing in a varsity game, some seniors as well,” Chambers said. “Everyone’s getting more experience, getting better when they’re on the court. I think as it goes on, we’ll just get better and better.”
The Lions gained a great learning curve with multiple close games, losing to De La Salle 58-51 and Waubonsie Valley 40-39 on June 17 before beating Bartlett 66-63 and losing to Belleville East 55-39 on June 18.
“I think [we gained] a lot of experience, how to come back in games, play defense because we played a lot more athletic players than we’ve played all summer, which helped us,” said rising senior Michael Reilly. “Now we’ve got to practice rebounding, going up with two hands, stuff like that.”
Greer (37 points), Taylor (35) and Chambers (28) were the Lions’ top scorers over the four games. Also scoring points were Reilly, rising seniors Jimmy Pajauskas, Will Sullivan, Max Hoffmann, Quinn Mulcrone and Tyler Kuta and rising juniors Ian Polonowski, Josh Gutierrez, Bobby Vespa and Gavin Carolan.
“We’re getting a lot of experience for guys, opportunities for kids that don’t have much varsity experience, rolling different guys in and out,” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said.
“The coaches are getting to see what guys can do. The guys are getting experience playing against high-level competition. Summer is all about experience and learning how to play against varsity-level players and teams.”
The shootout is one of the best around. From Friday through Sunday, 80 teams played four games each consisting of two 20-minute halves. Roughly 225 college coaches registered to attend.
The Lions easily could have finished 3-1, but the situation experiences remain the true benefit. Against Waubonsie, the Lions rebounded a Warriors’ missed free throw with 8.5 seconds left but missed a running last-second shot.
“The scores of these games is really very secondary,” Sloan said. “As we’re going through our camp Monday through Friday we’re not doing a lot of Xs and Os. It’s skill development and concepts. If people are keeping track of their record over the summer, that’s not what we’re doing.”
The Lions have a solid base from which to build another successful season. They graduated their entire starting lineup from a second straight Class 4A regional championship team that included college basketball players Nik Polonowski (Penn) and Jackson Niego (Illinois Wesleyan).
“I feel like last year as a team we were just all really close, really tight and now this year we have a whole new team to build another great chemistry, have positive energy in the locker room, in the games, on the bench,” Reilly said.
“It’s been awesome because I’ve been able to watch Nik play, Jackson play, see how they handled pressure, how they played in games. It allowed me to come develop myself, have their game in my game.”
The Lions will finish the Downers Grove South summer league in Lombard next week and also will participate in the Romeoville Shootout.
“If we can just keep building our chemistry, I think we can be a pretty solid group. If we just keep working hard, we can be pretty good this year,” Chambers said.