Creating a signature/Player profile: Konner McQuillan

 Lansing High boys’ basketball didn’t go in the direction it had hoped for in 2016-17.

A program only a few years removed from a Class 5A state unbeaten title had seen its fortunes reversed as they could only scrape up a 5-16 record and saw the season end with more questions than answers.

Now, second-year head coach Mark McQuillan hopes to keep the pendulum swung back toward the positive as the new season makes its way a little bit closer.

One thing they need to have happen, is see the community focus on these boys in the present and not dwell on where they match up with a 25-0 state title team.

“We are coming into the season hoping to learn from last year where we had a lot of lows that overpowered our highs,” senior Marcus Sutton said. “We are building on that every day in practice. We aren’t looking for the same (officiating) calls like we did last year, because we realized it doesn’t help us win at all. This year, we are going to be more mentally tough and use what we’ve learned from last year and put it to the test.

“We use the negative examples as a positive outlook. We see how everyone reacted on the court when something bad would happen and we use it positively. A lot of us, even me, when the foul was called, I’d look to the ref and ask what the problem was and fight with the ref. We are just playing with what we can and focusing on playing the game.”

McQuillan is now hoping to clean out the memories of last year, but build on the lessons learned.

“We now have the program,” he said. “Last year we were hired late and it was tough to get in things we wanted. Now we have a weight program, a schedule, workout times are better. We are putting in more time in the gym and focusing on making each one of these guys better.

“We want them to be competitive every time they step out on floor. Last year? It is what it is. We didn’t finish well. All of us learn from it and everyone makes mistakes and there were more mistakes on all ends, from players to coaches. We are more detailed on what we do and how we prepare.”

McQuillan is hoping to make sure his message gets across better, especially on the defensive side of things.

“I am just making sure that these guys understand what we want them to do: Our philosophy of defense, how we play offense together and share the ball and how it’s about ‘we’ and not ‘me,’” McQuillan said. “You have to be able to play offense and defense. We have guys who can shoot the ball and score, but if you can’t stop anyone it’s not going to work. We are going to get after it this year. That’s what we are going to stress: playing defense.”

The idea is about changing the narrative and giving these Lions something to hold on to.

“We just want to win some games,” junior Jadan Remmington said. “I wasn’t there for most of last season, but we didn’t play well together while I was there. We all tried to do our individual things. We all wanted to be the all-star and we have to play more as a team, share the ball more and get down on defense.

“You get tired of losing every game and I want to start winning, so I hope to help the team more.”

One thing that doesn’t help these boys is the constant albatross hanging around their necks: the 2014 Lansing championship team. That team was then and these boys would thrive off the support of the now.

“There is a rich history of Lansing basketball and there have been a lot of good teams, but not one that went unbeaten and won a state championship obviously, so that stands out in everybody’s mind,” McQuillan said. “We are young and we will make mistakes, but we are going to build a program where they can make a name for themselves. That’s done playing the way we teach them. We are going to play hard, but play clean. We are going to get after it all the time and be competitive.

“We want them to be good citizens and players. We have a whole new crew that will set its own goals and standards. Can you win your league? Can you win sub-state? Those are steps we have to cross and the way we can do it is by being here in the gym.”

This current crop just wants the support for their play and focus on that as that is needed more than anything.

“There are people who bring it up and use it against us,” Sutton said. “I knew some of those players and looking up to them is very good, because it helps me with things I can use every day. But it does get frustrating. They were an unbeaten team and have their own legacy, but we want to create our own. We want to look to the future and not the past.

“We know how good they were, now we want to see how good we are.”

“It was frustrating,” Remmington said. “If we just get our heads in the game and not think about the past, we will do better.”

Player profile: Konner McQuillan - All in the family

Junior Konner McQuillan admits he may be his family’s coolest character.

Playing for father Mark McQuillan and his brother, assistant Kaleb McQuillan, and seeing another brother – Quinton McQuillan – graduate last spring, this is the youngest’s chance to shine and stamp his own mark on a decades’ long imprint the family has left with Lansing High basketball.

“It’s very interesting because I am still getting used to my dad and brother coaching me,” Konner said. “I am used to calling them dad and Kaleb and not coach. I wouldn’t say last year I wasn’t sharing the spotlight with Q – we were just doing the best we could for the team. I will do that again this year. It’s not about me or the legacy, it’s about the team as a whole, winning together.”

The youngest McQuillan didn’t expect to contribute as much as he did, becoming one of the team’s leading scorers and doing a little bit of a lot of things to try to help Lansing navigate some choppy waters.

“Coming into my sophomore year, I expected to play a little bit of varsity, I didn’t expect to start,” Konner said. “Later in the season, I thought I could get a chance, but I didn’t expect to start that quick. I thought mentally and physically I was ready. I just listened to my dad and Quinton because they’ve been through all this. I made my place and stayed in my own lane and tried to fit in really.

“You have to stay positive, you can’t get negative in this game. If you mope your head and get down on yourself, you are done. You have to build up your teammates, you can’t just tear them down.”

His father says Konner has handled growing up a McQuillan perfectly fine.

“He’s been able to watch his older brothers and pick and choose different things he likes,” Mark said. “He was competing with them all the time and they pushed him all the time and that’s only going to help him not only as a basketball player, but in life. He’s not going to get knocked down, he’s going to get up and keep fighting and keep working. That’s in everything.”

Oh, and there is still one last boy – seventh-grader Koen – still set to join the ranks.

Having grown up around so many Lansing McQuillans has been a lesson in itself, but Konner knows where his bread is buttered.

“Q was more of a post player … I feel like I can guard any position and I can shoot, out of all us, the best,” Konner said. “I can handle it and all-around I can do just about anything.

“I am the most outgoing and most talkative (of all four). I talk a lot and just try to have fun. You never know when it could end.”

Konner is driven by the idea of last year’s struggles and hopes to see a change while he is there to do something about it.

“I loved the seniors personally and off the court I’ll be your friend, but on the court, it’s about the game and getting better,” he said. “Last year, I cared a lot and I tried to control people and make people work hard. All I can do is encourage you and help your through things and be a good example. I can’t make you do things, you have to do it yourself.”

An intense competitor, Konner McQuillan does find a way to enjoy life’s little things.

“I like to hang out with (teammates) so we can have better chemistry off the court,” Konner said. “I try to have fun and not try to take everything so seriously. I like to draw a lot, but I am not the best at it. I like to do it because my imagination goes free and I can do what I want. I am not the best, but it’s still fun anyway.”