Springs, youngsters lead way for WaukeganWaukegan's Devonte Taylor goes in for the dunk during their basketball game against Grayslake Central at Waukegan.
Updated: July 1, 2011 11:31AM
For the past four seasons, much of the focus of high-school basketball in Lake County has been on the Waukegan Bulldogs.
Thanks to stars like Jereme Richmond, Colin Nickerson and Mike Springs, the Dogs became the first school in the county to bring home trophies from the IHSA state tournament in back-to-back years.
Last season, the Bulldogs just couldn’t overcome injuries and finished a disappointing 12-13, passing the symbolic baton of hoops excellence over to Warren in the process.
Now, Warren again is highly touted, and veteran Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw is glad to see his team not getting all the hype.
“It’s nice to be a little under the radar for change,” he said. “Expectations are always high here at Waukegan, and we want that challenge because I think it motivates us.”
The Bulldogs lost a lot to graduation, with the likes of A aron Johnson, Matt Wozniak and Nochi Pierce moving on. But the one player back is a key one — senior Akeem Springs.
A four-year varsity player, Springs knows what it takes to be playing in Peoria in March, and now he’s adding a leadership role to his physical ability on the court.
“Akeem leads by example on and off the court, but he can’t do it all,” said Ashlaw. “We’re going to have to have other guys step it up if we’re going to be successful.”
This summer has been a busy one for Waukegan, and Ashlaw likes some things he’s seen so far.
Jordan Johnson, a junior who saw some valuable varsity minutes last season, has shown the ability to play the point-guard spot.
“Jordan has really shown some leadership on the court in games when Akeem was missing (AAU and camp commitments),” said Ashlaw. “In one tournament game, he called a timeout on his own after just two minutes because he didn’t like what he saw on the court. I like to see that.”
Another junior opening up some eyes is returning 6-4 forward Devonte Taylor.
“Devonte is having a great, great summer,” he said. “He’s shooting and rebounding well ,so that’s been real nice to see.”
Waukegan will once again be guard-dominated, including seniors Kyle Williams, Demetrius Bankhead, Daquan Sylvester, Dijon Ross and Javier Tellez.
But underclassmen like sophomore Jerome Davis and juniors Keith Lee, Cornell Fort, Quintin Davis, Emmanuel January and Tyrone Scaife are battling for starting spots.
“We’re very encouraged about our play this summer,” said Ashlaw.
“We should be a little deeper then in recent years. We have a lot of depth at the guard position, but we have some guys who can play multiple positions so that should help.”
The summer has been an integral part for the Waukegan program and Ashlaw is proud of where the program has come and continues to progress.
“Our summer program has improved every year that I’ve been here, “ he said. “We’ve really tried to introduce the weight-room idea a lot more this season, and get kids more involved in weight training.”