“Energetic,” he said. “Very energetic.”
That’s not a new adjective for Wilmont, the former Indiana University and Fort Wayne Mad Ants guard. He’s forever moving, talking, working and shooting – from the hip and otherwise. He also found a way to lead Lakewood Park to its first sectional championship in boys basketball.
“I’d say our change in culture is because of Coach Wilmont coming in,” Fetters said. “It was because of how we prepared for games and how much we had to work to play for him.”
Lakewood Park beat local Class A powerhouse Blackhawk Christian 77-75 on Saturday to win the title at Bethany Christian. Lakewood Park (17-8) will play Oregon-Davis (20-6) at noon Saturday in the second game of the Triton Regional. If the Panthers win, they’ll play in the 7:30 p.m. title game against either Tri-County or Gary 21st Century.
“I’m happy for those kids, for Keegan Fetters and Quinten Lazano and Trevor Day as seniors, knowing they’re the first team to put a banner in that gym,” Wilmont said. “My main thing, I’m looking for the bigger picture. I want to win a state championship. I’m making sure going into practice this week to tell them, ‘You accomplished one goal. But don’t sell yourself short. There’s a great opportunity to do something very special.' ”
Wilmont’s energy and drive has propelled the Panthers to an intensity they didn’t always have in the past, Fetters said, particularly on the defensive end.
“The practices would be the first thing, how energetic they are, and they’re definitely defensive-based,” Fetters said. “A lot of defensive drills. He insists we play hard-nosed defense.”
Wilmont wanted a defensively tenacious team, and one that can roll at full speed at all times.
Again, it’s energy.
“Conditioning was ridiculous,” Fetters said. “It was ridiculous.”
Wilmont pushed the Panthers with a college-level conditioning program. He instructed them to put up 1,000 shots a week during the offseason. He required work, and lots of it, to make sure everyone was ready come game night.
“Under coach (Kelvin) Sampson, I had one of my best years as a senior, and it was the work I put in,” Wilmont said. “The guys leading our team in field-goal percentage, here they are, the guys who put up the most shots (weekly) on the shot chart. Is that magic? No. They put in the work.”
Fetters, who hit the game-winning shot against Blackhawk, leads the way, averaging 21.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. He’s the only player averaging in double figures in points, but four others average between 6.5 and 7.9 points per game.
“Keegan Fetters is our best player so my offense surrounds my best player,” Wilmont said. “I put the rest of the guys in position for them to be successful. Everyone has to know his role.”
Wilmont’s all-energy approach is matched by his no-bull approach, too.
“He’s very vocal,” Fetters said. “He’s not afraid to get on anyone on the team.”
Wilmont believes he has perspective on players’ roles that helps him to relate to each member of his team.
“I’ve been in every situation these kids are in,” Wilmont said. “I’ve been the guy who starts. I’ve been the guy who comes off the bench who has to work hard to get playing time. I’ve been in every situation, at the highest level. You have to work. Nobody’s going to give it to you.”
As Wilmont has obviously taught his players, success takes energy.
“We’re definitely playing our best basketball at the best time,” Fetter said. “Arguably, our best game of the year was our last game. We have a lot of confidence.”