Timeout Boys Basketball: Lowell’s Zach Van Hook balancing points, the point
By Brian Hedger Post-Tribune correspondent December 13, 2012 11:06PM
Lowell's Zach VanHook maneuvers around Morton's Darius Coty during a game on Friday, December 7, 2012, in Lowell. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 15, 2013 11:43AM
Heading into a game against Lowell back in November, the little amount that West Side coach Murray Richards knew about Zach Van Hook came straight from his own players.
“That was really my first time (coaching) against him,” said Murray, the Cougars’ first-year coach. “The kids knew, though. They knew all about him, and they were telling everybody that we really had to watch out for him.”
It didn’t matter.
Despite winning the game 53-49, the Cougars did plenty of watching Van Hook, a 6-foot-4 junior guard who scored a career-high 39 points in that game. Murray wasn’t pleased with his own team’s defense, but was impressed by Van Hook.
“He can really fill it up,” Richards said. “There’s no doubt about it. He comes off that pick very well. He catches it and lets it go really quick. In that game, their whole team was picking for him all night, because all he needs is a little daylight. They’d run two or three screens for him every trip down the floor.”
Van Hook, however, isn’t just the Red Devils’ shooting guard. Not this year, anyway.
Unlike his sophomore season, when he averaged 17 points a game, Van Hook has been asked to take more of a controlling role in the offense. Van Hook played mostly shooting guard against West Side, but more often has the ball in his hands bringing it up the floor.
Although he’s scoring at clip of 28 points a game, Van Hook is also filling the stat sheet with secondary numbers. He’s averaging 5.5 rebounds a game, along with 2.5 steals and 2.0 assists.
“Zack’s one of those guys who can score in a variety of ways and he’s got to continue to be aggressive and kind of keep everybody active — not only by scoring, but drawing defenders and making offensive plays,” Lowell coach Nate Richie said. “We knew that we were probably going to have to use him quite a bit at (point guard), so over the summer we ran him there a lot. He’s embraced it and done a really good job. Not just anybody could take that role and progress, but that’s something he’s been able to do.”
It wasn’t easy.
Despite playing point guard in middle school, Van Hook had to re-program his one-track scoring mind on the fly during games last summer. Was it frustrating at times?
“Definitely,” Van Hook said. “Just getting back into playing the point was hard at first. It probably took six or seven games before it started to feel more natural. Now, it doesn’t bother me. Whatever the team needs, I’ll do.”
Usually, the Red Devils just need to get him the ball — regardless of the defenders chasing him.
“In our offense, we want the ball to go through Zack on basically every possession,” said Lowell junior guard Billy Barker, one of Lowell’s other scoring threats. “Usually he finds a way to score, so it helps us. But we also have to step up more.”
That’s what happened in Lowell’s first win of the season, which came last week and home against Morton. Barker made three clutch 3-pointers in the second quarter to go with Van Hook’s steady scoring and Lowell charged out to a comfortable lead.
Van Hook then took over in the second half. He poured in 17 of his game-high 30 points to pave the way to victory, which was sweet considering the Red Devils had blown a couple of late leads in earlier losses.
Lowell has just eight players listed on the varsity roster this year, including one senior (Spencer Kersey), so every win is special to Van Hook. He’s shouldering even more of a load than most top scorers.
“It just gives us a chip on our shoulder and makes us play harder every night,” said Van Hook, who’s drawn preliminary college interest from mid-majors Alabama-Hunstville, Cornell, Stetson and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “Playing with a chip on your shoulder just gives you a little something extra during the game.”
West Side experienced it firsthand in a nail-biter, all the way up until the end.
“His last shot of that game came from half court at the buzzer,” Richards said, chuckling. “Of course … he made it.”