Boys Basketball: Waukegan is developing chemistry

Story Image Deerfield Sunday 10/7/12 Waukegan Lakers#35 Devonte Taylor skies over a Sixers defender. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
Story Image

When Akeem Springs graduated from Waukegan High School last June (he’s going to play at NIU), that meant no Bulldog remained from the glory days that produced back-to-back Final Four appearances at state in the 2009 & 2010.

That said, there’s a core group of a half-dozen Bulldogs who are committed to beginning a new era of hoop excellence and restoring the barking at the Dog Pound.

Each Sunday this fall, they’re playing in the Fall Sunday League at the Joy of the Game basketball facility in Deerfield.

Last weekend, the Bulldogs routed a team of players from Palatine 80-57 to improve to 4-1 on the season.

Junior center Jerome Davis wasn’t on hand for the game.

But the other five core players showed they’ve got some serious game and are serious about ruling Lake County hoops this winter.

In the win, point guard Jordan Johnson had 10 points, high-flyer Devonte Taylor had 23, Quintin Davis 20, Cornell Fort 17, and Jalen Allen 10.

The Bulldogs showed a lot of unselfish play and defensive intensity during the first half, when the game was still competitive.

“We’ve been working on running, gunning, and pushing the ball,” said Johnson, a three-year varsity starter. “We run at school during the week. All of that is going to help us once the season comes around.”

Taylor, who on some nights is the most exciting player in the county, appears ready for a breakout season.

“A lot of it is about conditioning. If you run every day, your legs get used to it,” he said. “That’s the same thing we’re trying to do here. We come out here and try to apply those aspects that coach (Ron Ashlaw) talks about.

“We want to be able to keep pushing when other teams are getting tired in the third and four quarters. With the team we have, we’re not tall, but I think with that kind of approach we’ll be fine.”

Davis, maybe the strongest player of the group, said the team is committed to doing whatever it takes to win.

“Myself, Jordan, Cornell, and Devonte work out together on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It’s not just about the physical side. We’re also hanging out together, along with (junior forward) Jerome Davis,” he said.

“We know that how well we’re working together is going to determine a lot about how our season goes.”

New to the group os Fort, who was primarily a role-player last year, and is going to be expected to be a bigger contributor this season

“I’ve been working on staying focused and improving my shot,” Fort said. “I didn’t get a lot of shots up last year, but over the summer, I spent a lot of time on my jump shot and getting my handles back.

“The other thing is just learning ... learning from the coaches and the seniors, and being more mature on the court.

“Hanging around with these guys, it’s hard to believe how hard they work. They’ll get into arguments sometimes, but it’s because everybody is pushing each other to grow up. Like coach says, it’s not a game of individuals. Everybody in this group understands that it’s important we come together as a team.”

So far this fall, that team concept has worked. Included in the four wins, is a solid victory over Warren.

On Nov. 19, Waukegan will open its 2012-2013 season against the Blue Devils.

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