Mekhi Lowery felt comfortable with a target on his back on Sunday.
The Oswego East senior guard was talking about the attention his team was causing this summer. The Wolves garnered the attention of the Chicago area prep scene during the past school year by shattering the school record for wins in a season. They advanced to the Class 4A sectional championship game for the second time and won 33 of their 35 games.
“I’m definitely excited about the high expectations and am ready for the season and to play the top teams,” Lowery said.
But the 6-foot-6 Lowery had another bull’s-eye on his back that had nothing to do with his team during the three-day Ridgewood Shootout, which culminated the month long team session. Lowery was a highly watched recruit by college coaches, in part because of his strong and consistent play to go with next-level athleticism and a solid inside-outside game. Less than 24 hours later, Lowery added offers from Valparaiso and Southern Indiana to pad his list to seven offers.
“I feel I did pretty good, and am only going to get better during the season,” Lowery said.
Lowery capped a strong month of June with a dazzling display of his ballhandling skills and physical inside play against Libertyville. The Wildcats had a strong team filled with height and talent in the frontcourt. But they had no answer for Lowery.
Oswego East coach Ryan Velasquez said Lowery is ready to assume the main leadership role on the team following the graduation of standouts Patrick Robinson and Darren and DeVon Oregon.
As a junior, Lowery averaged 11.5 points, third on Wolves, with team-high 7.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.1 blocks.
“Mekhi grew about two inches inches to 6-6 or 6-7, which made things easier around the rim for him, defensively and offensively,” Velasquez said. “He’s a fantastic young man, so versatile. He can guard one through five on the defensive end and is nasty and tenacious on the glass. He plays unselfish, so everyone loves playing with him. He brings so much to the table, including his athleticism. He’s kind of like a Swiss army knife – can do it all. He’s a really nice player.”
Lowery said he’s been focusing on helping the team in all aspects to continue the program’s recent run, which ended with a double overtime loss to Bolingbrook in a sectional final last season.
“Summer has gone great, and my recruiting has boasted up,” Lowery said. “Our team looked more and more solid. We played hard each weekend, built our chemistry.
“I’ve been in the gym working on my strength and game. I’m going to keep working hard.”
Senior forward Ryan Johnson is gearing up for a big leap in minutes this winter by adding new elements to his game. The 6-foot-6 Johnson said he benefited from learning under the seniors last season.
“I’ve learned I can be more the guy,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t the guy last year and took a backseat to Patrick and Mekhi. I learned a lot from last year. This year, I’m more of the guy, and am trying to be more aggressive. I put in more work in the gym and weight room and shots up to get my confidence.
I think my mindset is better and my shooting and dribbling. I’m working on being more aggressive. Our team has a lot of challenges. Everyone wants to come out and beat us.”
Velasquez closed out the final day of the June session by talking to his players – in the corner of a hallway – about handling the pressure of expectations. Velasquez added Johnson, Mason Blanco, Bryce Shoto and Jehvion Starwood all played well in June. Shoto, a senior guard, is a transfer from Plainfield Central. Starwood, a 6-foot-3 junior, is a transfer from Yorkville Christian.
“They’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Velasquez said. “But they’re a hungry team. I tell them they can’t be complacent. It’s a good group of guys that are coachable. We lost some key seniors, a lot of leadership. I’ve seen these past four weeks some other guys step up. These guys worked
“We have two nice players in Bryce and Jehvion being great contributors. Bryce showed his best basketball this summer, as a little floor general and that he knows how to play basketball right way. Jehvion is smart and has a fire about him. He knows how to win and competes every single day.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle