CLEAR LAKE — Clear Lake athletics and Zach Lester. You can’t mention one without the other these days.
But, here we are in another season, and Lester is the focal point for a Clear Lake team with big goals this season on the basketball court.
“I think we can be conference champs this year, that’s our goal, and then to make it to The Well (Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines),” Lester said of the Lions’ potential.
Behind those couple of goals will be the play of Lester, who did just about everything for the Lions last season.
Lester led the North Central Conference in scoring at 20.6 points per game, and had team-highs in assists (110) and steals (79). He and sharpshooter Thomas Storbeck, who has since graduated, were the perfect pair.
Now, with Lester being the main focus for opposing teams, he’s still ready to step up and help the Lions achieve their goals, this time up a class to Class 3A.
“It’s just relax and focus on not having any pressure that’s needed,” Lester said.
The all-state football and all-conference baseball player is pulled in a lot of directions during his offseason. There’s the baseball games that happen pretty much every night in the summer as well as various football camps.
Still, Lester found a way to work in basketball.
“He continued to work on his shooting and he played a lot this summer, so obviously his confidence is high coming off last year,” Clear Lake coach Jeremey Ainley said. “He’s shooting it pretty well right now, but his athleticism – now he’s playing above the rim. He’s really confident in his game right now.”
Building around Lester is the trick for the Lions, but they feel they have enough athleticism this year to get production from everywhere.
Whether it be from junior Drew Enke, who averaged 9.2 points per game a year ago and had his moments as a leading scorer in a few games, to big man Jared Penning under the hoop, or from some talented underclassmen such as sophomores Nick Danielson and Jaylen DeVries, Ainley likes the way the lineup is shaping up.
Everything plays off of Lester, though.
“We expect him to be our leader, we expect him to continue on what he did last year, continue to get better, and even better, get everybody else involved a little bit more,” the coach said. “We know he can score and he’ll score when he needs to. It’s just a matter of getting the ball distributed and getting everybody else going.”
Having back so many from last year’s team is a bonus, too.
The Lions bring back four of their top six scorers from a year ago, and had plenty of young players work themselves into the lineup last season who look even better this year, according to Ainley.
The season, which saw the Lions win eight of their final 10 games, only helped those young guys get ready for this year.
“They’re definitely more experienced this year so I think they’ll do a lot better than last year for sure,” Lester said. “It’s just experience playing on the varsity team. Some of the freshmen got in on varsity last year so they’re definitely going to have an edge on some people.”
Over the past five-plus season, the Lions have never really had an issue scoring the ball and they expect to be strong in that part of their game again this season.
It’ll come down to put together an all-around game.
“Just a matter of keep defending. When we defended last year we gave ourselves a chance,” Ainley said. “We’ve had a good run of being able to score the basketball so it’s just a matter of defending.”