Extra effort should pay off

Story Image Vernon Hills' Jordan Flaherty (center) shoots between Quentin Road Christian's Joel Collison (left) and Andrew Yarbrough. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

WAUKEGAN COACHES

1) Wilbur Allen — 4 years (1944-1948) 86-16, 84-percent wins

2) Jack Miller — 123 years (1959-1971) 223-69, 76-percent wins

3) Ron Ashlaw — 5 years (2007-active) 93-41, 66-percent wins

4) Bob Joor — 6 years (1971-1977) 93-59, 61-percent wins

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Updated: August 20, 2012 1:55AM



The last remaining piece of the Golden Era of Waukegan High School basketball — Akeem Springs — finally has moved on (to NIU in DeKalb after four seasons on the Bulldog varsity).

But that doesn’t mean the good times have to end in the Dog Pound ,where the next group of Bulldogs plans to make it “ruff” on the opposition.

Four players who started at times with Springs last year return, which means that the team in Year 6 of Ron Ashlaw’s run as head coach should wind up somewhere between last year’s 15-11 squad and the great teams that finished second and third at state in back-to-back years.

“I do think we have the chance to be very good, but like last year’s team, I think this is a team that will be better in January and February than in November and December,” said Ashlaw. “We have to find an identity. Part of that is going to be getting contributions from different guys.

“Last year we were 7-2 when we had three players score in double figures. It’s going to have to be that way again this year.”

(Note: That played out last year, with the team starting 6-8 before winning nine in a row before running out of gas.)

“Quinton Davis, Jerome Davis, Devonte Taylor, and Jordan Johnson ... they’re as close a group as we’ve had since Jereme Richmond, Quan Connor, and that group,” added Ashlaw. “I think there’s this feeling that, ‘We can really do something.’

“There’s a greater willingness to share the ball, which is going to be important for us.”

The newest face on the Waukegan bench next winter will belong to a coach, as Ashlaw has done some shuffling of his staff.

Joining him on the bench will be Luke Dobrich, who served as an assistant for the last eight years at Niagra University in New York.

“He’s a tremendous basketball person,” says Ashlaw. “He knows how to talk to the kids. He’s already started up a good coach-player relationship with (point guard) Jordan Johnson.

“And for me, he brings a college playbook. I’ll be picking his brain as we closer to the season.

“It’s also nice that he can back up the things I’ve talked to these guys about as far as becoming someone who can play at the college level. It adds a little more weight to what we’ve been telling them.”

Johnson is one of the key returnees, as the offense starts with the ball in his hands.

“My role is to set the tone for the team. I have to be a leader and be more vocal this year,” said Johnson. “I have to make sure everybody is in the right place and make sure I’m getting people the ball in good spots.”

The guys who’ll be getting the ball are Devonte Taylor, Quinton Davis and Jerome Davis.

“We’re coming with a positive mindset. We’re not going to have a one-person show. This is a team,” said Taylor, a high-flyer whose ability to do the spectacular is worth the price of admission. “Everybody is going to contribute. If we come in expecting one guy to carry us, we’re not going to go anywhere.”

Ashlaw has long been an “effort” and that word will be repeated often in 2012-2013.

“What our goal is for this summer is to see a sustained effort,” he said. “That’s the underlying theme to everything we work on. The ‘get better’ part can only come when we’re getting that effort.”

“Effort” opportunities come on Tuesdays/Thursdays at Carmel, Wednesdays at Stevenson, and later this month in the prestigious Mundelein shootout.

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