Seven Lakes High School, Spartans, Texas high school basketball, Katy ISD

Spartans eager to get back to playoffs

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 12/21/19

Johnny Miller knows the history of Seven Lakes’ boys basketball, so the senior wing grits his teeth when reminded that last year’s team was the first in 11 years to not make the playoffs.

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Seven Lakes High School, Spartans, Texas high school basketball, Katy ISD

Spartans eager to get back to playoffs

Posted

Johnny Miller knows the history of Seven Lakes’ boys basketball, so the senior wing grits his teeth when reminded that last year’s team was the first in 11 years to not make the playoffs.

Tahaad Davis is just a sophomore, so he likes to go into the Spartans’ coaches offices and look at the basketballs engraved with the scoring marks of some of the top players to come through the program.

Seven Lakes players and coaches are eager, and bordering on desperate, to get back to where this program was not too long ago.

So far, it’s going well.

The Spartans are 12-7, already tying last season’s win total. Through veteran experience and some injection of athletic youth, Seven Lakes has fought through the 10-game injury absence of senior leader Johnny Miller, and other injuries to key contributors like Wylie Holden and Stennett Prior, with one primary motivation as fuel: get back to the playoffs and re-right the ship of what is still a proud program.

“We’re such a program that focuses on our history and being a tradition-rich program,” coach Shannon Heston said. “We want stuff to mean things to these kids. Johnny and those guys on last year’s team did take it personally. As the head coach, I took it personally. I felt I let down a lot of kids. We didn’t get to this point to let down the guys who blazed that path for us.”

Last season, Miller was the only returning varsity player from the previous year. This year, there are five returners from last year’s varsity.

Players like Isiah Lewis, Morris White and Momen Elgamiel are no longer wide-eyed junior talents. They are senior leaders, poised and confident after a 12-19 season of difficult, but significant, growing pains.

It was on display in a 77-57 win over Pearland Dawson on Dec. 16. While Holden remains out, Miller returned from a month-plus stint due to a back injury to post 13 points and seven rebounds.

“He’s our leader, our go-to guy,” Heston said of Miller, who was diving for loose balls with a 15-point lead late in the fourth quarter. “Having him out there brings the energy level and confidence level up of everybody else, including his head coach.”

Elgamiel has emerged as a post threat on the block. White is a knockdown shooter. Lewis is a heady floor leader who rebounds well and takes advantage of his open shots.

“I heard from a lot of people we were the first ones in a long time to not make the playoffs,” Miller said. “It was very frustrating. We pushed each other during offseason and told each other we had to come back strong. We’re making the playoffs for sure this year.”

The Spartans’ roster is not only littered with quality senior stewardship. A pair of sophomores are making a difference as well.

Grant Van Hoozer is a stable backup point guard who can knock in 3s and run the offense well, but the game-changer is the jumping-jack Davis, who has been given the nickname “The Madness” during the Spartans’ home public address announcements.

Davis was spectacular against Dawson, finishing with 14 points and five rebounds and a pair of steals. One of his highlights was an aggressive challenge of a Dawson defender at the rim. Davis outjumped him and almost dunked, but the ball hit the back of the rim and fell in for a layup.

“So athletic,” Miller said of Davis. “It’s so fun to play with an athlete like that. He brings so much to the table.”

As an offensive player, Heston said Davis “is one of the most talented kids we’ve had come through this program as a sophomore.” Heston added that Davis plays like a sophomore on the other end of the floor, however, but his willingness to be coached is impressive.

“He has allowed us to coach him, and a kid with that talent and ability who allows you to coach him hard and teach him … the sky’s the limit,” Heston said.

Davis said the varsity game is tough in that it demands a lot of responsibility. In the same breath, though, he said he lives for those moments.

“My dad and I are in the gym 24/7,” said Davis, who has played basketball since he was 3 years old and started playing competitively when he was in fifth grade. “After practice, we’re still in the gym. Before school, after school … he’s always pushed me since a young age.”

Heston is encouraged. His players have learned they can compete and win games, even without a full healthy roster. The ball is moving on offense, indicative of the trust players have in each other. The defense is finishing possessions with rebounds, something that was not the case last year. Miller is back healthy, Davis will only get better, and the seniors are holding each other accountable with competitive, intense practices.

The playoffs certainly seem like a reasonable goal.

“We feel responsible for carrying on that flag,” Heston said. “I followed a great head coach in Dan Miller. These kids are following great players, year in and year out. Just having that pride about being a Seven Lakes basketball player, it means something to these kids. They’re hungry to get back to the playoffs and start the next streak. They felt they let down some guys, and they want to get back and earn that respect again.”

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