The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.
A slow start and key injuries derailed the Lakewood boy’s basketball season last year, so the Lancers are ready to shake things up with some new faces in a unique rotation in 2023-24.
“We’re small, pretty athletic, and we’re going to have about seven players who are going to be really tough to beat,” Lakewood ninth-year head coach Duane Cooper said. “I don’t have a starting five, I have a starting seven. It’s always fluid. If you’re not producing, you don’t play.”
Lakewood lost five seniors who were named All-Moore League last season, and will now look to junior guards Anthony Williams (pictured) and Keaton Lewis to step up as leaders.
“Leadership comes naturally for me, especially with the team we have this year,” Williams said. “Last year my role was totally different. I was the next guy up coming in. This year I have to be that guy to tell my team when to go.”
Lewis is a good shooter and stingy perimeter defender, while Williams is a versatile scorer who’s been working on his perimeter shooting range. The 6’1” Williams thinks the other side of the floor will decide if these Lancers can win games.
“We’ve been working a lot on our defense,” Williams said. “We lost in the first round and we shouldn’t have, but we weren’t really looking at defense. So we’re going to lock in on defense this year. We’re doing the shell drill, work on our help side, taking charges and communicating, we talk a lot in practice. No one is getting beat back door, we’re all talking, communicating and working as a team and not individuals.”
Cooper said good spring and summer seasons have given his team some positive momentum while they grow together.
“Last year things didn’t go our way… We’re starting over,” Cooper said. “But we’re still always trying to get the ball up and down the floor.”
Williams and the 6’2” Lewis will be joined by 6’3” senior Micah Lee, 5’10” junior Kecedric Dockery, 6’1” junior Raphael Johnson, 6’4” senior Devin Butler and 6’2” senior Deven Smith in the starting rotation. Senior Adam Bermudez will also be in the mix.
“I think we have the physical abilities and skill sets, it will be about if we’re mentally strong enough, and we talk about it all the time,” said Cooper, who also thinks the early season Rosecrans Tournament at Sunny Hills High School this week will be a good test.
“When you play in a tournament you get to see how mentally tough your team is over the course of five days because everybody is going to be tired,” he added.
Lakewood hasn’t won a Moore League title since 2005, and the Lancers start their league schedule on Dec. 13 against Cabrillo.
“The Moore League is just a different animal, and you never know what to expect,” Cooper said. “It’s always kind of a crap shoot. We know who the favorite is most of the time. But the favorite last year didn’t win.”
The Lancers are in Division 2A and haven’t missed the playoffs since 2018.