The coming months will bring plenty of change for Lakewood High Athletics. The new field and track complex is already underway, with planned renovations in the weight room and gymnasium to follow. The Lancers will look to pair those facility upgrades with improvements on the court, and sixth-year boys’ basketball head coach Duane Cooper is happy with the group he has this season. After having a senior-heavy squad in the spring of 2020, Lakewood has a core of talent to build with for the next few seasons.
“When push comes to shove, I like my group,” said Cooper. “We’re not big, we’re not overly talented. If we had a whole summer it would’ve been great, but as it stands now I think we’re going to be competitive against anybody. One thing about this group is we have a lot of really good kids.”
With a number of players to replace from last year’s team, limited offseason practices, and a shortened preseason, the challenge is on for the inexperienced Lancers. However, Cooper is looking forward to how the team will come together.
“That’s our goal everyday is we want to get better,” Cooper said. “Of course we also want to win, and be able to compete with all the teams on our schedule.”
Lakewood should have just one senior in the rotation–transfer guard Jalen Shores–but even he will need to overcome some inexperience in his first year playing under Cooper. Shores comes to Lakewood from Ribet Academy in Los Angeles, a local powerhouse that posted a 57-6 record over the last two seasons. Cooper likes Shores’ ability on the defensive end and his ability to shoot the basketball.
Among the returners for the Lancers will be junior Corali’i Mila (pictured), who is the most experienced player on the roster. Mila was a second team All-Moore League selection last season, and can play a number of positions on the floor. He’ll be a valuable facilitator for the Lancers on offense and has a strong body on the interior.
Sophomore point guard Chris Willis is another second team All-Moore League selection for Lakewood and he’ll be trusted to have the ball in his hands often.
“Chris is a really smart player with a high basketball IQ,” Cooper said. “He’s just a solid player. He can pass the ball and run the team. He doesn’t care about scoring as much, but he can score when he needs to.”
Willis leads a deep sophomore class for Lakewood, which also features much-improved forwards Alex Obi and Mark Van Gessell. Sophomore Mason Robinson Pacheco will see playing time on the perimeter for Lakewood and junior Bernard Dickerson is described as a “swiss army knife” who can do a little bit of everything for the Lancers.
Cooper wants his team to get out and run this year and play at a high tempo, and is working on increasing their defensive tenacity.
Lakewood opened the 2021 season with a 65-53 road loss at Downey. The Lancers will host Compton this Friday at 7 p.m. for their home opener in Moore League play.