LAKE STATION | American sports fans seem to be stat nuts. Fantasy this and that has surely amped up the eyeballs staring at box scores.
But this is not absolute mathematics. Numbers do lie at times.
Last season, Lake Station point guard Dwayne Haden averaged 12.1 points and 5.2 assists. Heading into tonight's home game against rival River Forest, Haden is averaging 12 points a game with 5.8 assists.
Some might put an equal sign next to those numbers. Eagles coach Bob Burke will not.
"Dwayne is playing the best basketball of his career," Burke said. "He has really stepped it up. I think he realized that this is his last season, so he wanted to give it everything he had."
This crystallized Jan. 25 when Lake Station battled Bishop Noll in the Greater South Shore Conference tournament championship game. The Eagles were down four with three minutes left when the Warriors started hitting a bunch of 3s.
"We weren't getting out on their shooters," Haden said of Noll's 64-48 win. "We were fighting. We only have six guys. That game showed us that we can beat 'em. We were right with them the whole way."
Haden bounced around between Gary and East Chicago for much of his youth. He didn't arrive at Lake Station until the eighth grade. He got some varsity time as a freshman, but it didn't go so well.
"I was too scared to be out there," he said.
The first breakout began when he was a sophomore. He played well on a 16-6 season, but coach Bryon Clouse left for Hanover Central, and Burke arrived.
It didn't go well at first.
"There were some issues," Burke said. "So at the end of last year, we sat down with Dwayne and had a talk. We told him he had to take ownership of the team."
Over the summer, Haden was the only player to attend every workout session. Burke said Haden's numbers last year were because of his athletic ability. This year's numbers are coming in a team concept.
"He's understood that giving his teammates better opportunities makes us better," Burke said. "He has really done a great job leading us this year."
Haden has a strange hobby. He is sort of the Imelda Marcos of Lake Station. He loves Air Jordan shoes by Nike. He has four pairs that he wears for games and another 11 he just collects.
"I like the retro kind," he said.
He is a retro player in some regards, standing at only 5-foot-8. He reminds some of Spud Webb. He reminds Burke of a winner, no matter what the numbers say.
"Last year he did not always give 100 percent in practice," Burke said. "But he's a leader now. There are a lot of kids who look up to him, and he's doing a great job with it."