The next high major college basketball player to come out of Lake County is in the lineup.
The man on the bench running the show is, by far, the winningest active coach in Lake County.
The student-fans are among the best you’re going to find.
All that’s needed to make this a return-to-glory season for Zion-Benton boys basketball is the emergence of a quality supporting cast.
It just might be there.
The pieces began to come together at the end of last season, which wound up 15-15.
Because of the December holiday break and a teachers strike, the Bees went more than a month without playing a game.
But in February, the players surrounding star Milik Yarbrough started to resemble a precision-like machine and the team finished with a nice run to make it to .500.
“When you finish the season (with a nice run), you hope that will carry over,” said Don Kloth, the dean of Lake County hoops coaches as he begins season No. 24 at the helm. “I was very proud of the way that team came together and finished out the season.”
For this year, Kloth made some major changes in his approach to summer basketball, and that will pay dividends in the regular season.
“We went to different tournaments this summer. Instead of us running tournaments, we traveled to a couple tournaments,” he said. “It was good for me, because when we’re running a tournament, I’m so busy that I don’t always get to see the kids play.
“We’ll have played around 40 games, and I’ll have been able to coach each one. We’re doing maybe a little less in quantity but hopefully the quality of our time has improved.”
This summer has been about finding the pieces that work best with Yarbrough, a 6-5 junior who can play every position of the court and is right there with Jereme Richmond (Waukegan) and Brandon Paul (Warren) in creating a buzz among college scouts.
The key is finding the right mix of players rather than having four players stand and watch while Milik is forced to play “hero ball.”
“A lot of players have had the opportunity to show what they can do, although summer is different than the regular season, but we’re hopeful that we’ll have depth again this year,” said Kloth.
The coach knows what he’s looking for from the players this summer.
“We want them to play with effort; we want them to play as a team; and we want them to have a good attitude,” he said. “If you can get those three things, then generally you’re going to see some other positives.
“For the most part, I’m happy. During the summer when you’re playing a lot, you have games when there is a letdown, but overall, I’ve been encouraged.”
Reasons for encouragement, besides Milik, are Dorsey Cadette, Maurice Young and Chris Moragne, all of whom were part of the nice finishing run last winter.