To the Editor:
This is my initial reaction to the letter to the editor from Mr. Bontrager regarding the History of Lakeland High School Basketball and his take on WAWK Sports Talk with Fred Inniger.
First and foremost, the 1968 Regional Finals Team with Lauver, Miller, Malone, and the other key players overachieved more than any other team in Lakeland history. Perhaps more than any other team, they had balanced scoring, took care of the basketball, converted free throws, and were an outstanding defensive team.
The 1965 team led by Vanderview and Kohlheim and company probably would have won three sectional titles and maybe had a regional championship. However, they obviously only played one season together, as consolidation took place in 1965. We can speculate and play the “if” game as Mr. Bontrager did, all day. The facts are the facts.
There are so many teams (and not just the ones who won sectionals) who had outstanding players and played team basketball. I guess the purpose of the show that evening was to talk about the sectional championship teams.
Mr. Bontrager also points out that Jeff King would have had a hard time playing college basketball. Well, you can say that about not only players who are 5’7”, but all players. Bill Bender struggled at Indiana State on a mediocre team. I attended several of his games and he simply lacked quickness and strength. Bill was a joy to watch in high school, but everyone is All-Conference, All-State, and then you have players from the Junior College ranks or inner city who have play much better competition. That is why college recruiters now evaluate players on the AAU circuit so they can see their weaknesses.
Jon Workman was the best player to come out of Lakeland and the all-time leading scorer in points scored in a career and in one game. He was probably more versatile than Bill Bender as well as more athletic and just as good a shooter. AAU benefited Jon as he was able to play against some of the best competition in the summer. My understanding is he had numerous scholarships available to him.
That comes to my other point – players pick the wrong schools. They need guidance from someone who has their best interest in mind. You shouldn’t choose a program because it is close to home if they recruit numerous junior college players, for example. I saw Jon play in person at Western Michigan University three times and I felt he didn’t get a fair chance. Then an injury ended his career during his sophomore year.
Another pet peeve of mine is Mr. Bontrager talking about the 1973-1974 and the 1974-1975 teams and not mentioning other players like Dave Piper, Mike James, Bryce Heller, Joe Ulrey, Myron Noward, Steve McDonald, Dave Kaufman, Tim Miller, and so many others that were a big part of those two seasons.