Jack of all basketball skills: Lesure looks to lead LR to golden finish

JACK LESURE, Lake Region's leading scorer

JACK LESURE, Lake Region's leading scorer...

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Ask John Mayo how best to describe his senior point guard Jackson Lesure, one word comes to the Lake Region basketball coach’s mind.

Special.

“Jack is the leader of this team and he leads by example. He brings a toughness, a confidence and a desire to win that is infectious to the rest of the team,” the first-year varsity coach said. “Jack is a special player in the fact that he has the skills to be a point guard and bring the ball up; the toughness and moves to be a post player; and the quickness and ability to shoot and to play out on the wing. He brings the same toughness to the defensive end of the floor. He can guard a point guard, a post player or a forward on the wing.”

He can and has done it all for the top-seeded Lakers.

He is first on the team in scoring, averaging 15.9 points per game. He has shot 59% from the field and converted 60 of 88 chances from the foul line, the most opportunities from the charity stripe for this Laker squad.

He is first in assists with 3.6 dishes per contest.

He is first in rebounds, 186 boards on the season.

And, he is second in steals, averaging 1.6 thefts.

“Jack’s greatest strength — from a team perspective — has been his rebounding. He averages over 10 rebounds a game for us,” Coach Mayo said. “From an individual perspective, Jack’s greatest strength is his knowledge of the game and his ability to anticipate what is going to happen. He is always around the ball, whether it is anticipating a drive by another player and stepping over and taking a charge, getting in a passing lane to steal a ball, or seeing a teammate cutting to the basket and giving him the ball.”

...and The Floor Leader. Here, Jack encourages backcourt mate Tyler Walker. (Rivet Photos)

...and The Floor Leader. Here, Jack encourages backcourt mate Tyler Walker. (Rivet Photos)

Last February, Jack and his fellow Lakers experienced the extreme high and low of tournament basketball. After being shellacked by Yarmouth in the regular season, the Lakers shocked the high-flying Clippers in the semis. But, the magic carpet ride came to a screeching halt when the Lakers saw Cape Elizabeth take control late in the West Finals.

Jack had a tough time getting over the hurt of that crushing loss. He and his Laker teammates renewed their commitment to their quest to challenge for a Gold Ball in 2016.

“Jack’s biggest improvement has been to get open without the basketball. He is playing more in the high post, low post area this year. Until this year, he has always been the point guard and a perimeter drive to the basket player. This year, he still brings the ball up but looks to distribute and move without the basketball and allow other players to get him the ball in a scoring area when he gets open, and allow other players to make plays,” Coach Mayo said. “It took awhile for him to give the basketball up and move. The last several years, he has always had the ball in his hands. Once he and the rest of the team bought into pass the ball ahead early in transition and cut and get it back with success, it was easy for them to change. What also helped was we have seen so much zone defense it has allowed Jack and the rest of the team to work together and move without the ball. Jack has become comfortable cutting to the high and low post and scoring in those areas.”

Expected to be a major contender in a revamped Class B division, Jack and his Laker teammates lived up to their billing as a “team to beat.” They rolled to 16 wins, including avenging an early season road loss to Yarmouth with a convincing victory over the Clippers in Game 17 — nailing down the #1 seed in the upcoming tournament.

One of the team’s major cogs has been #25.

“Jack means a great deal to this team. His defensive toughness and rebounding has lead to much of our success. He is a leader on the floor, he pumps up his teammates, encourages them and gets on them when needed,” Coach Mayo said. “Jack will take on any role given to him, whether it is to get people motivated, get someone else the ball, or defend the best player. He unselfishly does whatever he is asked. He does this with a confidence that is not arrogant.”

Fans see a composed, competitive, driven player on the floor, but what is Jack like off the hardwood?

“Jack is a genuine person. He always has a smile on his face and truly gets excited when his classmates or teammates have success. His quiet demeanor and confidence makes him a well-respected member of our school community. Jack is the kind person who gets along with everyone and is respected by his peers and teachers,” Coach Mayo said. “This respect comes from his hard work and success in the classroom, his leadership on the basketball floor, and from his great personality. In addition to playing varsity basketball, Jack finds the time to be the National Honor Society treasurer and an active member of the Math Team and Varsity Club. Over the past two years Jack has volunteered to read to students at the local elementary school. All of these great qualities have been recognized by the staff and they have chosen him to be a Lions Club Student of the Month and a Dirigo Boy’s State delegate. He was also chosen to be a Maine Youth Leadership Ambassador as a sophomore and has also been selected to be a National Society of High School Scholar. Jack is the type of role model that any parent or school community would want their student-athletes to emulate.”

HOPING TO GO OUT IN STYLE — Jack is pictured here with his parents, Whit and Marybeth Lesure. SP w6 lr boys basketball preview SP w6 lr boys hoop preview #1 LAKE REGION (16-2)  vs. #8 POLAND (9-10)   Class B South Quarterfinal Saturday, Feb. 13, 4 p.m. Portland Expo Previous meetings • GM 12, 1/18/16, LR 82-POL 61 LR: Nate Smith, 24 points POL: Nathaniel Choiunard, 20 points • The Lakers did not play Oak Hill Lakers Points For: 1233, 68.5 ppg Points Against: 893, 49.6 ppg Leading scorers: Jack Lesure 15.9 ppg, Nate Smith 12.9, Marcus DeVoe 12.3, Brandon Palmer 5.7, Alex Langadas 5.4, Nick Wandishin 4.7 Longest win streak: 12 Road record: 8-1 (Poland 3-6, Oak Hill 2-7) Last game: The Lakers hammered Freeport 83-45; Poland thumped Oak Hill 72-48 in the preliminary game Coach’s Corner The News posed the following questions to Lake Region Head Coach John Mayo: Q. A couple of keys to playoff success? Coach Mayo: We need to continue to play good defense, rebound and set our tempo. Q. Two areas your team has improved the most? Coach Mayo: I think our half-court defense has improved over the course of the season. Toward the end of the season against tournament teams, we have been able to make it hard for teams to get the shots they are used to. We are playing better as a team. We are willing to share the ball with each other and trust each other on defense. Q. What are you most proud of regarding your team? Coach Mayo: This group has a common goal and they are willing to work together as a group to accomplish it. They push each other to be ready for the next opponent. They are a great group of guys that get along with each other.  Class B South Bracket Quarterfinals At Portland Expo #1 Lake Region (16-2) vs. #8 Poland (9-10), 4 p.m. #2 Maranacook (16-2) vs. #7 Lisbon (10-8), noon #3 Yarmouth (13-5) vs. #6 Spruce Mountain (11-7), 10:30 a.m. #4 Lincoln Academy (8-10) vs. #5 Wells (9-9), 2:30 p.m. Semifinals At Cross Insurance Arena, Portland Thursday, Feb. 18 Maranacook-Lisbon winner vs. Yarmouth-Spruce winner, 7 p.m. Lake Region-Poland winner vs. Lincoln Academy-Wells winner, 8:30 p.m. Finals At Cross Insurance Arena, Portland Saturday, Feb. 20, 3:45 p.m. State Championship Friday, Feb. 26 Cross Insurance Arena, Bangor, 8:45 p.m.

HOPING TO GO OUT IN STYLE — Jack is pictured here with his parents, Whit and Marybeth Lesure.

#1 LAKE REGION (16-2)
vs. #8 POLAND (9-10)
Class B South Quarterfinal
Saturday, Feb. 13, 4 p.m.
Portland Expo
Previous meetings
• GM 12, 1/18/16, LR 82-POL 61
LR: Nate Smith, 24 points
POL: Nathaniel Choiunard, 20 points
• The Lakers did not play Oak Hill
Lakers
Points For: 1233, 68.5 ppg
Points Against: 893, 49.6 ppg
Leading scorers: Jack Lesure 15.9 ppg, Nate Smith 12.9, Marcus DeVoe 12.3, Brandon Palmer 5.7, Alex Langadas 5.4, Nick Wandishin 4.7
Longest win streak: 12
Road record: 8-1
(Poland 3-6, Oak Hill 2-7)
Last game: The Lakers hammered Freeport 83-45; Poland thumped Oak Hill 72-48 in the preliminary game
Coach’s Corner
The News posed the following questions to Lake Region Head Coach John Mayo:
Q. A couple of keys to playoff success?
Coach Mayo: We need to continue to play good defense, rebound and set our tempo.
Q. Two areas your team has improved the most?
Coach Mayo: I think our half-court defense has improved over the course of the season. Toward the end of the season against tournament teams, we have been able to make it hard for teams to get the shots they are used to. We are playing better as a team. We are willing to share the ball with each other and trust each other on defense.
Q. What are you most proud of regarding your team?
Coach Mayo: This group has a common goal and they are willing to work together as a group to accomplish it. They push each other to be ready for the next opponent. They are a great group of guys that get along with each other.
Class B South Bracket
Quarterfinals
At Portland Expo
#1 Lake Region (16-2) vs. #8 Poland (9-10), 4 p.m.
#2 Maranacook (16-2) vs. #7 Lisbon (10-8), noon
#3 Yarmouth (13-5) vs. #6 Spruce Mountain (11-7), 10:30 a.m.
#4 Lincoln Academy (8-10) vs. #5 Wells (9-9), 2:30 p.m.
Semifinals
At Cross Insurance Arena, Portland
Thursday, Feb. 18
Maranacook-Lisbon winner vs. Yarmouth-Spruce winner, 7 p.m.
Lake Region-Poland winner vs. Lincoln Academy-Wells winner, 8:30 p.m.
Finals
At Cross Insurance Arena, Portland
Saturday, Feb. 20, 3:45 p.m.
State Championship
Friday, Feb. 26
Cross Insurance Arena, Bangor, 8:45 p.m.

As the Lakers run through their final preparations prior to Saturday’s quarterfinal match-up with Poland, The News posed the following questions to the senior point guard:

BN: Recall when you first started to play basketball, did you really like it or was it something you grew to like (especially since your dad was likely coaching then). What is it about basketball you like, dislike?

JL: I actually played both basketball and hockey in the winter as a kid. Don’t tell my dad this, but I preferred both hockey and soccer over basketball. As I started to become more familiar with the game and surrounded myself with my dad’s Bridgton Academy teams each year, I fell in love with it gradually. I love winning, plain and simple. There is nothing better than being huddled in a circle with my best friends ringing the bell after home wins. As much as I love winning, I hate losing even more. I still haven’t gotten over the loss to Maranacook this year, not many of us have. There is nothing fun about working hard all week in practice and then losing the game.

BN: Your dad being a coach (Whit Lesure is the basketball coach at Bridgton Academy), what would you say were his biggest influences upon you? And, what are the difficulties or challenges being the son of a coach (especially a high level coach like your dad)?

JL: He didn’t pressure me into playing basketball as much as some people might think. He just provided me with the opportunity to play if I wanted to. It wasn’t until one day we were sitting in the car in the driveway when I told him, “Dad, I want you to push me to be good. I don’t care if I say I lied when the time comes, please push me,” that he started to become extremely hard on me. It’s difficult playing for him because he always told me he had to be harder on me to make people see that he didn’t favor me. We have been known to butt heads before and those have provided the LR team with some great “Whit stories” that we always share after practices.

BN: How have you improved as a player, especially over the past few seasons, and what did you do to reach the levels you are at?

JL: I think the best thing I’ve improved on is my mental game. Being able to focus in the middle of pressure situations and think of what needs to be done while fans are going nuts is something I’m extremely grateful to have developed. It came with putting in hours in the gym and gaining confidence in my abilities, which is something I struggled with as a younger player.

BN: Looking back over the past three to four seasons, what are the main reasons the Laker program has emerged as a top contender in Class B?

JL: Our Class of 2016 has been playing together/against each other since before sixth grade. We’ve been fortunate to not have too many kids quit and I think that is because of the relationships we developed with each other. Because of that, we’ve been able to work with the same pieces for so long, which built our chemistry and talent to an extremely high level.

BN: Consistently, you have been the team’s leading rebounder. Even though you often have to battle taller players, you still manage to control many of the rebounds. What does it take to be a top rebounder and why are you so successful?

JL: It takes physicality and the ability to predict where the ball will go off of the rim. I play club basketball when our high school season isn’t going and I am usually having to guard guys who are at least 5 inches and 75 plus pounds more than I am. Getting used to that has helped, but not as much as one of my teammates, Alex Langadas. I have no doubt that if it weren’t for him I would not be the player/rebounder I am. I love him, but on the court during practice, we hate each other, which has lead to multiple fights. It’s hard to box him out and get the rebound because of his effort, so every game I pretend I’m rebounding against Alex and it puts me in the position to go get the ball.

BN: Many fans have commented how much they enjoy watching the team because of the uptempo style on offense and the aggressive defense you guys play. From a player’s perspective, why has the offense been so good and what makes the defense go?

JL: Coach Mayo has preached three things to us all year: Push the ball, play aggressive defense, and know your role. Often times before the ball is even inbounded, coach is yelling, “Push! Push! Let’s go!” We are able to get a decent amount of good and open shots because each person does what they do best. Coach brought us to the baseline before a practice this year and told every single person on the team what their role is. Everyone has accepted that and it allows us to fire on all cylinders. Defense is coach’s bread and butter. Even when he was the varsity assistant, he would take over practice to work on our defense, something that made us go, “Oh no.” None of us have ever worked as hard at defense in our whole lives, leaving us gasping for breath. So, the defense is all because of him.

BN: Last year, it had to be very disappointing seeing the season end the way it did. What was the feeling of returning players as they approached this year and what lessons did you learn that you think will help this time around?

JL: It definitely was heartbreaking. We still feel it should’ve been us at States. Nobody likes to feel how we did, watching Cape cut the nets down. It fueled us to be better and it became everyone’s focus to work extremely hard so that hopefully it never happens to us again. We learned that nothing is given to you for free, that if there is anything you want, you have to work harder than anyone else to get it.

BN: Talk about entering the tournament as the Number 1 seed? Is there more pressure?

JL: The only pressure that we feel is the pressure we place on ourselves. We busted our butts to get to the place we are now. It’s just a display of our hard work. We’ll have a target on our heads of course, but it’s our duty to be ready for that.

BN: How do you feel the team is playing entering the tournament, and what does the team need to do to reach its goals?

JL: As all my teammates know, I’m a perfectionist. Meaning, I don’t care who we play or whatever the circumstance may be. I want everything done perfectly. I’m fortunate the guys haven’t let my harsh criticisms affect our relationships and I love them for it. That being said, there’s not many games I feel completely satisfied with afterwards. I know we’re playing very well, perhaps the best we have all year, which showed against Yarmouth recently, but I also know we can play a lot better. We need to continue to work hard in practice. For 11 of us, we are only guaranteed to wear those Lake Region jerseys one more time for the rest of our lives so we’re also trying to enjoy it for as long as possible.

BN: When this all ends, what do you think you will remember most, what will truly be the most important things you take with you?

JL: I’ll remember the great stories I’ve experienced with my teammates, who have become my brothers. The types of stories that we’ll remember when we’re 85 in wheelchairs with oxygen tanks that’ll cause us to lose control of our bladders. Basketball is just a game. I’ll always be thankful I was able to play the game I love, but most of all with the people I love even more. I would just like to say ‘thank you’ to all of our fans that have continued to support us throughout the years. Most importantly, to the guys on our team, 6:45 baby.

BN: What’s next?

JL: I plan on playing for my dad next year at Bridgton Academy. We’ve always talked about it and I’m happy to have the opportunity to play for him. I also know it will be the hardest thing that I will have ever experienced in my life, so far. After that, I’m still trying to figure out. I hope to play basketball in college and going to BA will give me another year’s worth of time to get a better sense of what I want for my future and where I want that to take place.

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