The off-season and actual season have been anything but usual for the Oak Lawn Community High School boys basketball team—it hasn’t been normal for any team. And when the added difficulty of overcoming the loss of the entire starting lineup from the best Oak Lawn team in the last 30 years, the challenge is even greater.
However, head coach Jason Rhodes and the Spartans have certainly done everything in their power to prepare for the season, which is slated to start Saturday at Chicago Christian.
“We stole Doc Rivers’ theme during the NBA shutdown last season and told our guys to ‘Win the Wait’” Rhodes said. “The school and the athletic department have been terrific in allowing us in the gym to work with players in whatever way we were safely allowed, both last summer and in the fall, and now with the Illinois High School Association boys basketball restart.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun one, we’ve got to embrace it. We all missed basketball so much, to be able to be in the gym, around the guys, working together on getting better every day—I had a smile on my face all last week.
Having graduated the entire starting five from last year including the school’s all-time leading scorer in Sami Osmani and Top 5 scorer in school history Trey Ward, there are big shoes to fill on the court. Returning this year will be senior Rodney Washington (6-foot-2), junior guard John McGowan (6-2), senior big man Ryan Kennelly (6-5), and junior guard Nicco Reyes (5-9). Six-foot guard Rafael Bou transferred to Oak Lawn last year from Glenbard East mid-season and is now eligible to play as well.
“Rodney and John in particular have made nice jumps in their games,” Rhodes said. “Seniors Hussam Sharfi and Chris Jones have made some strides as well. The other guys all had some significant moments for us last year as well.”
Underclassmen to watch include the 6-5 junior Davion Lawrence in the paint, 5-10 sophomore Ayham Salah, 5-10 junior Gavin Butler (transfer from Simeon), and 6-1 guard Isaiah Thompson.
“Considering everything since last March, we are blessed to be able to have the opportunity to play again, in whatever form, and will try to take full advantage and have some fun,” Rhodes said. “It will be hard to match the success of the best team Oak Lawn has had in 30 years, but even in an accelerated and abbreviated season, I think we could sneak up on some teams.”