High School Boys Basketball

Morton Ranch trio leaves distinct legacy

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 3/9/20

Thirty-two minutes of game time left a temporary stink on what had been accomplished and built in four years at Morton Ranch.

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High School Boys Basketball

Morton Ranch trio leaves distinct legacy

Posted

Thirty-two minutes of game time left a temporary stink on what had been accomplished and built in four years at Morton Ranch.

The Mavericks saw their program-best season end with a thud in an 83-69 Class 6A Region III semifinal loss to Dickinson at the Berry Center in Cypress on March 6. The Mavs made just 5 of 22 3-pointers, while the Gators made 11 of 24, and were outscored 25-16 in a crucial third quarter that essentially awarded Dickinson the game.

It marked a disappointing and unceremonious end to the incredible careers of Morton Ranch seniors L.J. Cryer, Eddie Lampkin and Westley Sellers.

“It’s hard to win when we’re not at the top of our game against a team like Dickinson,” coach Khris Turner said. “We started the season 0-4 and a lot of people doubted us. We started playing well and proving people wrong and we felt we were ready for the moment. Had we played better, we felt we would’ve been able to advance.”

It hurt. The Mavs’ tempers flared in the waning seconds of the game. Cryer walked dejectedly off the court after the buzzer sounded, wearing No. 4 for the last time as a Mav, an abrupt end to a historic career.

But not all was lost. That is often how it goes with legacies.

One game did not take away from the best season in program history. One loss did not take away from two consecutive undefeated district championships. One setback did not take away from what Cryer, Lampkin and Sellers were able to achieve.

“I’m just proud of what we accomplished,” Lampkin said. “We made history for the program. It means a lot to me. When we lost, I was really hurt, because I felt like we let the community down. When we got here, nobody really was coming to our games. And now the culture of basketball has really come to Katy.”

Cryer and Sellers were four-year varsity lettermen. They guided the Mavericks to a 97-39 overall record, a winning percentage of 71.3.

Lampkin joined the varsity as a sophomore. With Cryer, Sellers and Lampkin, the Mavericks were 78-26, a winning percentage of 75.0. As a trio, they won two district titles, six playoff games and earned the first regional tournament berth in the program’s history.

They are marquee names. Cryer, ranked No. 60 in ESPN’s Class of 2020 rankings, is headed off to play at Baylor. Lampkin, affectionally nicknamed “Baby Shaq,” is going to TCU. Sellers’ next destination is unknown, but he made a significant impact as one of the most versatile, stat-stuffing talents in the Houston area.

“I feel like there never will be another trio like them,” Turner said of their impact on his program. “Not just because we went further, but because of the talent level. People talk about Eddie’s size, but he was also vocal, he gave us everything he had, and it was amazing to watch him play. Wes was our dog. He was consistent in doing anything and everything we asked, and then even more. And, of course, L.J. is L.J.

“The three of them have the highest basketball IQ I’ve ever seen. You can have all the talent in the world, but their basketball IQ is what set them apart.”

The trio departs winning 30 consecutive district games, believed to be the best ever streak in Katy ISD boys basketball.

“It shows that we play hard and we play for each other,” Cryer said. “You don’t win 30 straight games without being a team. Everyone has to be on the same page every night. It’s a big accomplishment.”

Cryer wrapped up his mesmerizing senior campaign with 1,164 points for an average of 34.2 per game. His career point total of 3,488 ranks fifth all-time in Texas high school boys basketball history, and No. 1 all-time in the Greater Houston area.

The 6-foot-1 scoring dynamo shot 55 percent overall, including 44 percent from 3-point range. His 145 3-pointers made rank 17th all-time for a single season.

The Greater Houston area had not seen a scorer like Cryer since Houston Jones’ Daniel Gibson in the early 2000s.

“The confidence, the impact he has on people. That’s what I will remember,” Turner said of his star guard. “I go to the store sometimes and people talk to me about L.J. Cryer. You should see him around little kids. The impact.”

Lampkin averaged 12.6 points and eight rebounds in his three seasons of varsity. He admits he was never serious about basketball as a freshman. His first love was football.

But he started getting serious about the game as a sophomore, when he, perhaps not coincidentally, made the varsity. Since then, his scoring ability from either block and with either hand improved impressively over his career, and he averaged a career-best 10.9 rebounds this season.

“Morton Ranch made me become a man,” Lampkin said. “I didn’t take anything serious, especially academically. But once I took basketball seriously, I had to take academics seriously. I had to grow up. Academically, I really became a man.”

Sellers averaged a career-best 12.8 points per game his freshman year, but settled into a more defensive-oriented role once Lampkin came on board as a sophomore. Sellers’ unselfishness and leadership is held in high regard in the Mavs’ locker room and coaching offices.

He averaged 10 points, 6.2 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.7 steals over his junior and senior seasons.

“I care more about the team than I do about myself,” Sellers said. “Whatever it takes to win.”

As it is with star-laden teams, it was the little things that made a difference.

Lampkin was more engaged as a vocal leader this season, giving his teammates pep talks when necessary and high-fiving them after every good play. Sellers, always a captain, was more demonstrative in asserting his voice and coaching younger players.

Cryer, the ultimate leader by example, took the team under his wing during any and all adverse situations.

“As they’ve gotten older, they matured,” Turner said. “Before, it was about getting numbers and proving themselves. They learned how to incorporate everyone else into it, too. That’s a big deal.”

Turner likes to tell a story about a couple of young Morton Ranch junior high basketball players he runs into from time to time.

“One younger kid, every time he sees me, he says, ‘Coach, I’m the next L.J.,’” Turner said. “Then we have a bigger kid at the junior high, and he says, ‘Coach, I don’t know if I’m going to be the next Eddie, but we’re going to get it done.’”

That eagerness and excitement from the junior high ranks was never the case before Cryer, Lampkin or Sellers stepped onto the Morton Ranch campus. The Mavericks are no longer a basketball afterthought. They are one of the premier names in Region III basketball. They are a program to be reckoned with.

“Before those three got here, no one knew anything about Morton Ranch,” Turner said. “Now you’ve got to respect the name. Now people looking to move to the Katy area knows that Morton is a good place to be. Kids who want to be a part of something now know that Morton is a good place.

“The bar is so much higher now. The standard has been shattered. And without those three, we would not have the name we have.”

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