The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.
There are plenty of reasons for Lakewood boys’ basketball to be excited and have high expectations headed into this season.
The Lancers went 10-2 in the Moore League last year and was one win over Long Beach Poly away from sharing the league title with the Jackrabbits. They return their entire starting lineup this season and hope they can take the next step as a program in league and in the CIF postseason.
“This is probably one of the best teams Lakewood has had in a very long time,” senior guard Chris Willis said. “We were good last year and I feel we’re even better this year.”
Willis (pictured) is just one of a handful of returning All-Moore League starters, and he will be running the point this season. He said he worked on his shot and his range in the offseason just by getting as many shots up as possible everyday.
Lewis & Clark commit Macarhy Morris and fellow senior Mason Pacheco will be the top offensive options, while seniors Elijah Nelson and Alex Obi will lead the defense.
Lakewood coach Duane Cooper said Nelson gets his hands on a lot of balls, is their best help guy and is the loudest communicator as a 3/4 swing guy. He added that Obi erases a lot of mistakes with his length.
“We’re all man defense, I’ve never run a zone,” Cooper said. “We’re smart enough team where we talk and communicate well enough that it suits us.”
Knowing that he would be returning an accomplished starting lineup, Cooper put together a very challenging schedule for his Lancers. They will be in top tournaments at Marina and Sonora at the end of this month and in December before opening league play against Long Beach Poly on Dec. 14.
“The kids wanted it,” Cooper said of the schedule. “They want to test themselves. With the success we’ve had recently people are looking to do well against us when in the past we were looking to do well against others. It’s easy when you’re the hunter. Now that we’re the hunted it becomes difficult to sustain and achieve more. We have to pay attention to the small details and keep the big picture in perspective.”
Cooper has been around the league for years, and now his top players have a very good idea of what it will take to break through and dethrone Poly.
“The key to success in the ML is to stay calm and not turn the ball over because the environment can be hectic quickly, so as long as we stay patient we should be good,” Willis said.
“You’re not going to have an easy game in the ML, so you can’t take anything for granted,” Cooper added. “Every year you have some crazy nights. You have to just take care of what you can.”
Lakewood hasn’t won a league championship since sharing it with Jordan since 2005. The Lancers have never won an outright league title in school history.