Boys basketball: Lake Central’s Tyler Wideman stepping up as a leader this season
By Dave Melton Post-Tribune correspondent February 14, 2013 11:10PM
Merrillville's Jamard Owens tries to stop Lake Central's Tyler Wideman in the fourth quarter Friday night at Merrillville High School. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 17, 2013 6:36PM
ST. JOHN — The years spent in high school have brought plenty of changes for Lake Central junior center Tyler Wideman.
Perhaps the most noticeable change happened to Wideman’s physical appearance.
“He came in at 285 pounds and got it down to 240,” said Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic. “Now, he’s able to play harder, longer. As a freshman, he could only play for a few minutes. His condition is vastly improved.”
Wideman has always stood out in the crowd, thanks to his 6-foot-7 frame. But entering high school, the Indians’ big man wasn’t drawing any extra attention.
“I was kind of a quiet kid. I’ve always been that,” he said. “I’d usually just talk to a few people. When you get to high school, though, it’s a different story because of sports. It becomes one big family. In my freshman year, we had guys in a lot of different sports, so I went to a lot of games.”
Added Milausnic: “He’s a very well-rounded kid; he doesn’t talk to just the basketball players. He supports all of the programs at Lake Central. It’s not unusual to see him at soccer, baseball or football games.”
As a sophomore on last year’s 21-3 Lake Central team that advanced to regionals, though, Wideman found himself among a senior-laden team led by Glenn Robinson III, now playing at Michigan.
“Last year, we had a team that already had a lot of chemistry. They had a lot of varsity experience,” Wideman said.
But that changed as the Indians entered the 2012-13 season, which meant that Wideman, too, had to change.
“This year, we have a lot of younger guys; ones that just moved up from JV. A lot more of the guys look for me to step up and be a leader in tough situations.”
With only two seniors on the roster, Wideman has helped provide veteran experience.
“He’s been a vocal guy, alongside (senior) Mike Miklusak,” said Milausnic. “Tyler’s been a kid to speak up in practice if we’re not very sharp or during a game if we need to settle down.”
Improving on his intangibles is just part of the story of Wideman’s evolution, though. He’s also spent ample time in the gym to develop his basketball skills, such as free throws.
“Early in the season he hovered around 56 percent,” said Milausnic. “In the last 10 games, he’s up over 75 percent, since he’s been getting in extra reps on the side. He’s taking accountability for the things he needs to work on to help the team and himself.”
Wideman’s free-throw percentage is now up to 67 percent, to go along with his 64 percent shooting on field goals. Overall, Wideman averages 16.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game this year, leading the Indians to an 11-7 (8-4 DAC) record.
Aside from Wideman’s ability to generate points from inside the paint, Milausnic also said that Wideman has an underrated game from the outside.
“I think his ability to score from mid-range and take people off the dribble has really progressed,” Milausnic explained. “Not many people know this but he can knock down the outside shots. He also does a good job of finding other open people. He’s very unselfish.”
Two more games fill out the rest of the regular season schedule for Wideman and the Indians before postseason play begins: Feb. 15 at Michigan City and Feb. 22 against LaPorte.