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LOWELL — Most times you have to be careful when you hear a rumor.

It could be true. Or it could be a bold-faced lie.

Lowell boys basketball coach Joe Delgado heard a tale about his star junior Dustin Hudak, but Delgado wasn't 100 percent sure it was true.

"I've been told that Dustin has a basketball hoop in his living room at home," Delgado said.

What? No way. That notion is insane, right?

"Yep, it's been there for awhile," Hudak said before Wednesday's practice. "I shoot all the time, work on my game. Sometimes, my family's eating dinner while I'm shooting around a few feet away.

"We used to have a lamp nearby but it got broke."

Such a crazy approach to the game that you love would certainly have an immediate impact, correct?

"I think the most minutes I played on varsity last year was three," Hudak said.

Despite playing games in the house night and day, the 6-foot-4 guard was stuck on junior varsity the last two years. Playing behind Nick Mantis and John Cory, both 1,000 point career scorers, made bench time a lock.

The graduation of those point guards last June opened a door for Hudak and his living room.

In his second game this season against Gavit, Hudak scored 30 points. He's averaging 15.4 points per game for the Red Devils, who started the season 1-3 with a lot of inexperience on the roster, but has won three straight heading into Thursday's game at Hebron.

"A lot of people don't know about him because he played JV last season," Delgado said. "But we knew he could do some good things for us. I'd always heard he would put up shots anywhere, any time. He's always working on his game.

"We lacked varsity experience coming into this year and we knew we would take some bumps early. We've finally turned the corner and they're finding ways to win now."

Hudak is a 4.3 honor roll student, another solid aspect to this student athlete.

He was a key contributor to Lowell's cross country team, which finished 11th at the state meet in the fall. He was also a member of the Red Devils' 3,200-meter relay team that advanced to state last June.

But he didn't put a running lane in his kitchen.

"I love basketball, I really do," Hudak said. "It's my No. 1 love. My dad and I have always played basketball together. We've had some battles through the years.

"I am sure he will tell you he's better than me."

Justin's father is Adam Hudak, the football coach at Wheeler. That brought another issue to Justin, whose friends and classmates played on Lowell's Class 4A state runner-up team last fall.

With early cross country meets in the morning, Hudak didn't see as much football as he would've liked. But he was able to watch his dad's team a couple of times.

"It was frustrating last year but I was able to learn a lot from the older guys," Hudak said of Mantis and Cory. "Nick was always giving me pointers, clues on how to get better. As bad as I wanted to be out there I worked hard and tried to learn everything I could to get ready for this year."

Is it possible that Mantis told Hudak to put a basketball court inside his house?


Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.