Boys’ basketball success in the south of Lyon-Est Lakes Valley Conference
Defending a counterattack, Drake Willenborg knows what to do.
When an opponent rolls along the end line, the South Lyon East senior striker rallies to defend the ball carrier, knowing that one of his teammates will step back and remove the post and avoid the wide open layup. .
It takes confidence, which the Cougars’ five three-year-old college players have plenty of.
For them, it is easy. These players learned basketball together, starting with teams of young travelers in their fourth year, then playing together for the southern Lyon East freshman team who went 19-1.
As seniors, Willenborg, Zander Desentz, Christian Dimitriou, Adam Trent and Bryce Bird take comfort, in their knowledge of the game, in the brotherhood forged through countless competitions while reshaping the culture of a program once overshadowed by its rival school five miles and a half away.
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Ron Levin, having scored 26 wins in his first six seasons as a head coach, now runs a well-oiled machine, filled with a group of seniors who were the first to embrace southern Lyon East as its own entity.
“When the school first opened, there was no real identity for East,” Levin recalls. “It was still South Lyon, South Lyon, South Lyon.
“This group of old people was really the first group of little kids to say the East is theirs, dreamed of ‘I want to be in the East someday. I want to do special things on this ground.
Develop the game
When Trent was in his fourth grade and started playing basketball, he remembers that the terminal class in the south of Lyon-Est was always together, always together.
“We were pretty much a fourth year team,” he said.
Having experience playing and winning with other players their age, Willenborg said he was extremely comfortable going into high school with this group.
But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been an adjustment period.
Trent recalls one of his first games as a college basketball player from South Lyon East against Waterford Mott, being fascinated by the speed of the game, the athleticism of his players came true for him after almost got drenched in transition.
“Believe me, it woke me up really quickly to what college basketball was like,” Trent said.
It was a new experience for Bryce Bird, learning what he could do in the field and how that could apply to the overall success of the team, something each of the five sophomores, who played a role. major in the 2018-19 squad, have come through together: winning just six games in their debut season.
But even through this ignorance, the trust remained.
“We knew we could do something special if we all worked and stayed together,” Bird said.
For Levin, that clear change started in the weight room.
“For the past few years, I’ve had to beg the kids to go to the weight room,” Levin said. “Now it’s’ Oh, hey coach, can you open up the weight room after your workout? Can we get an extra lift? ”
“You can see in their bodies, they are just physically different from what they were a few years ago.”
On the field, the basketball teams from the south of Lyon-Est have also taken a spectacular turn.
During the 2019-20 season, the Cougars won 15 games, the most in school history, but saw their season cut short in the final round of the district playoffs due to the COVID-19. In two seasons as the team’s playmaker, Bird stepped up his efforts, holding the school record for assists.
And while the team waited to see if they would get the chance to play in 2021, that was the only uncertainty ahead of the season, with Levin leading an eight senior squad and only having to catch up with a few players promoted from college. junior. team, leading practices to the effect of “Remember, this is how we play”.
So far in 2021, the Cougars have lived up to expectations, using their mix of basketball players and multi-sport athletes to win six of seven games in conference, losing to Walled Lake Northern in an overtime of a point. loss.
Levin doesn’t want to think too far, but he knows it will be weird not to see these five three-year-old college players in the training gym once the 2021 season is over. But he knows the connection they bring to the basketball court.
“They just have this really unique bond where they really love each other,” Levin said. “You can really do a lot of special things when guys really care about each other.”
Trent had known the potential of this group since picking up a ball for the first time in fourth grade. He knew, with the right work, what this final year class can do together.
The top guard knows it’s going to end, but that doesn’t mean the chemistry, trust, and love have to end, too.
“It will definitely be difficult,” Trent said. “We all know we are family. We have brought good culture here in the south of Lyon Est. This last game for us seniors will be tough, but we know we’re all together.
“It will be tough, but we know we’ll still be together when basketball is over.”