ST. JOHN | As nerves and excitement filled the hallways of Lake Central on Tuesday, senior guard Tye Wilburn seemed almost nonchalant about tonight's state championship game in Indianapolis.
"We've been on the big stage before," said Wilburn, sitting next to lifelong friend and teammate, Tyler Wideman.
Yes, when both were lads they played together on the MeanStreets AAU team, where his father, Terrence Wilburn, is a coach. In middle school they made several national Final Four statements.
But high school basketball is much different than summer ball.
When Wideman moved in from Merrillville to join Wilburn in L.C.'s freshman class four years ago, there was a buzz around the region. This was going to be the group to take the Indians over the top.
And when it didn't happen immediately, the critics started to chirp.
"People are going to talk, they always do," Wilburn said. "You can't listen to them. You just play your game."
Playing with Glenn Robinson III didn't hurt. The spotlight was firmly on the star at Michigan now. It gave both youngsters a chance to grow while much of the attention was on the kid nicknamed "Trey."
"He helped me out a lot," Wideman said of Robinson. "He showed me the ropes. He led by example."
Michigan is playing its Sweet 16 tournament in Indianapolis this weekend. Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic said that Robinson was texting congratulations after the Indians beat Homestead in last Saturday's semistate.
It is not clear whether Michigan's schedule will allow Robinson to come and watch his former team play. But if he can, Robinson will be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse when L.C. takes on Indianapolis Tech for the Class 4A crown.
Most say the Indians are the underdog. Wilburn's father sat down with John Boyd in March of 2002 before West Side played heavy favorite Indianapolis Pike in the same game.
The Cougars won 58-55.
Tech, with its three Division I stars, beat L.C. 80-61 on Jan. 3. Wideman and Wilburn each scored 16 in that game, but it wasn't enough to slow down All-American Trey Lyles.
"We have to play the whole game, every play matters," said Wideman, who will play at Butler next season. "I don't feel any pressure. The past is the past. We're going to play together as a team."
Wilburn scored 12 second-half points against Homestead, finishing with 15 and eight rebounds. Wideman scored 14 in the game. It was another double-double for L.C.'s big two.
"They were 15," Milausnic said of his T.W.'s when they were freshman. "There is a learning curve. It took them some time to get where they are now."
Wilburn was injured early which also slowed his development. But now, after all those games together in all those many gyms, the two are ready for one last game together.
"We have to box out and take care of the ball," Wideman said. "If we do that we'll be fine."
"This is the last time we'll wear the Lake Central uniform," Wilburn said. "Pressure? There's no pressure at all. It's our senior year. All we're going to do is leave everything on the floor."